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Off to the Races

In the spirit of today's Kentucky Derby, here's several demonstrations of "horsepower"


The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world and, over the years, it has produced some truly legendary winners. Racing has done the same thing for automobiles in a similar fashion, not to mention special cars are celebrated for their timeless design and winning performance. If we were to list five famous Kentucky Derby winners, what would be their automotive alter-egos? Let’s observe these famous horse(power) winners.

Richard Attwood drives a Ford GT40 in the 1966 Archie Scott-Brown Memorial race at the the BRSCC Snetterton Meeting.| Snetterson photo
  • Secretariat – Ford GT40: Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest racehorse of all time, and his dominance on the track is reminiscent of the Ford GT40’s dominance in the 1960s. The GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969, and its sleek design and impressive outmaneuvering of Ferrari make it a legend that continues to resonate today.
Stirling Moss drives a W196 at Goodwood 2009. (Image courtesy of Dave Rook)
  • Citation – Mercedes-Benz W196: Citation was the eighth winner of the Triple Crown (1948) and was the first horse to win $1 million. Similarly, the Mercedes-Benz W196 was a force in Formula One racing several years later. Paired with legendary drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, the W196’s advanced engineering made it a game-changer in the racing world.
  • Seattle Slew – Porsche 917: Seattle Slew became the tenth winner the Triple Crown in 1977, despite being considered a runt of sorts in his youth. That’s a history not unlike the Porsche 917, which started out uncompetitive but, with marginal improvements, achieved wins at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Its powerful flat-12 and sleek design continue to elicit wide-eyed admiration.
  • American Pharoah – McLaren F1: American Pharoah, a horse of good conformation early in life, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Triple Crown in 2015, becoming the first horse to achieve the latter in 37 years. Similarly, the 1992-98 McLaren F1 had good bones and blood from its inception, with the naturally aspirated car achieving a top speed of 240 mph to make it the fastest car in the world at the time. Rarity and raising the bar is why the F1continues to be legendary.
  • War Admiral – Alfa Romeo 8C: In 1937, War Admiral became the fourth winner of the Triple Crown. His slightly smaller size contributed to his speed and agility, making him him a favorite among the thoroughbred crowd. The Alfa Romeo 8C comes off as his automotive compatriot, a 1930s race and road car that could outrace more substantial machinery. One 8C variant even became the first single-seat Grand Prix racer ever.   

Can you horse(power) fans come up with more pairings?

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


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