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In 1999, The Blood-Horse magazine assembled a seven-person panel of distinguished horse racing people: Keeneland racing secretary Howard Battle, Maryland Jockey Club vice president Lenny Hale, Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey, Sports Illustrated senior writer William Nack, California senior steward Pete Pedersen, Louisville Courier-Journal racing writer Jennie Rees and Gulfstream Park steward Tommy Trotter. Each of the experts compiled a list of what they considered to be the top 100 thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th Century, which was then combined into a master list. The list was expanded into a book with complete biographies.
The small body of voters meant that any individual ballot had the potential to disproportionately influence the final tally, which ended up coming to pass. At the time of the list’s unveiling, Blood-Horse managing editor Evan Hammonds spoke to the Associated Press. Hammonds revealed that Secretariat and Man o’ War had both received three of the seven first-place votes. (Citation received the other first-place vote.) Man o' War was listed in first, second or third place on all seven ballots; six of the voters gave the same placement to Secretariat. However, Hammonds noted, a single voter kept Secretariat out of the top 10 “because he got beat a few times.”
Though Blood-Horse promotes its top two selections as a ranking that “will generate debate for years to come”, the magazine likely did not expect that debate to begin with one of its own experts. After the results became available, William Nack criticized the voting process as "skewered" because one of the seven voters had ranked Secretariat 14th, thus costing him the top slot. "That's an outrage," Nack told the New York Daily News. "You mean this one person thought Secretariat would finish last in a 14-horse race?"
The electoral friction was ultimately reflected in the introduction to the Blood-Horse's “Top 100 Racehorses” book, which conceded, “For all the work and dreaming that went into it... one approaches the list... with a nagging sense of its folly as a rational exercise and of the maddening arbitrariness of its outcome.”
A total of 192 horses were recommended by at least one voter.
Also in 1999, the Associated Press asked the same question of six voters; four chose Man O' War, one named Secretariat, and the sixth picked Tom Fool, who finished 11th on the Blood-Horse list. Additionally in 1992, Sports Illustrated conducted a poll of a panel of seven experts (Joe Hirsch, executive columnist, Daily Racing Form; Woody Stephens, thoroughbred trainer for more than 50 years; Jim McKay, broadcaster, ABC Sports; Jim Bolus, secretary-treasurer. National Turf Writers Association; Frank E. Kilroe, retired California racing official; Tommy Trotter, Arlington International Race Course steward; and William F. Reed, turf writer for 28 years) with Man O' War also voted No. 1 greatest horse (with Secretariat No. 2) in racing history.