The best mare you never heard of, Kincsem

December 9, 2020

She might not be the best mare you never heard of, she could just be the best mare period.

Undefeated horses are special. It is tough to go unbeaten in a racing career that spans more than just one or two races. The best of the best go undefeated. Even Secretariat couldn’t do it. Ruffian likely would have if not for the tragic breakdown. Personal Ensign managed it. Zenyatta came close .

Black Cavier was impressive. She went 25 for 25. I don’t care who you are running against, if you’re running in professionally sanctioned races it is hard to go 25 for 25. Peppers Pride went 19 for 19. Sure against lesser company but 19 for 19 shows heart. Heart is that thing you either have or you don’t. No bloodstock agent in the world can spot it nor can any vetting system or scientific studies. It can come from bloodlines, but there is no guarantee of that and you can also find it at the lowest claiming levels. That will to win. That extra push. That ability to say no to the mind and the muscles when they say you have had enough. Any athlete knows what it is and they all wish they had it, or had more of it. Heart, it is as priceless as piece of mind. There is no substitute for it and you can’t train for it. ❤️

Eclipse, who was born way back in 1764, and who the now somewhat meaningless and diluted Eclipse Awards are named for, went 18 for 18. No slouch. To go unbeaten takes a different level of heart. Grit, determination. Even great horses can lack that extra something it is almost impossible to quantify. Upset beat the mighty Man O War. Seattle Slew got beat. Justify went undefeated but his career was short, too short to really put him on “the list.” I’d say 10. 10 for 10 makes the list. That is subjective obviously and just my opinion.

People often ask who was the best horse ever? Who was the fastest? Dr. Fager is often called the fastest and with good reason. Ruffian broke or equaled the track or stakes record in every race she finished going gate to wire from 5 furlongs to a mile and a half. You can make a case for them and also others. Like so much else in racing it is subjective. What is not subjective is who has the most wins of any undefeated horse in history?

That distinction belongs to Kincsem, which means My Precious in Hungarian. Kincsem was a filly born in Hungary way back in 1874. She made her racing debut as a two-year old and won. She raced 54 times, winning all 54 races. Now don’t tell me it was Hungary. She raced all across Europe and beat both males and females. She won the prestigious Goodwood Cup in England at Glorious Goodwood and later that year won the Prix de Deauville in France. She took down the Grosser Preis von Baden in Germany three times and those German races have always been tougher than they are credited with being. 54 for 54 against the best of her times. Kincsem can also mean My Treasure, and whether you go with that or My Precious they both fit.

There are obviously no replays available, but there was a movie made about this astonishing racehorse. I have not yet seen it but I will.

Here is the trailer for it:

Unfortunately Kincsem only produced 5 foals two of which became Classic winners. Her family remained strong however and both Polygamy and Camelot are both descendents.

Kincsem raced from two to six years old. We know she did not run on the litany of the therapeutic medications available today. A few years ago I wrote an article about the greatest streaks in horse racing. I left out Kincsem who might just take the cake. I had never heard of her. Kincsem Park, a racetrack in Budapest is named for this great mare and has a life-sized statue of her at the grandstand entrance.

Her pedigree looked like this:

Kincsem, By Cambuscan (GB) out of Water Nymph by Cotswold. Who would have known?

She carried weight, spotted weight, raced at various distances. She won a few walkovers, and even a few compromises. Back then they were match races where the owners agreed to let the horses canter around in an order agreed on. It is not as bad as it sounds. It was like alright, nobody else showed up and I know I can’t beat you, but we will put on the show just the same. Sure we would all rather let em run, but it was Hungary back in the 1800’s and they didn’t care what we want or think.

I don’t care what barometer you use. Kincsem deserves to be in the conversation of the best that ever ran. 54 for 54 under these conditions speaks for itself. As a student of the game I am embarrassed I never knew who she even was when I wrote what I thought were the best streaks in the Sport of Kings, and obviously Queens as well. Her sire Cambuscan was bred by Queen Victoria. I know now. So do you.

Kincsem died of colic on March 16th, 1887 the day before her 13th birthday.

You can read about Horse Racing’s Greatest Streaks here, but I left out Kincsem…..

Photo Kincsem Park

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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@jonathanstettin @bbopjz Fantastic writing, thoroughly enjoyable read.

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