Exceller (KY)

A successful international runner on both dirt and turf, Exceller won stakes races in the United States, Canada, England, and France and became the first horse to defeat two Triple Crown winners in the same race when he beat Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Exceller (Bill Shoemaker up) winning the 1978 Hollywood Invitational Handicap at Hollywood Park (Hollywood Park Photo/Museum Collection)
Inducted

1999

Foaled

1973

Sire

Vaguely Noble

Dam

Too Bald

Damsire

Bald Eagle

Breeder

Mrs. C. W. Engelhard

Owner

Nelson Bunker Hunt

Trainer

Francois Mathet, Maurice Zilber, Charlie Whittingham

Career

1975-1979

Earnings

$1,654,003

Racing Record

33

Starts

Year Starts First Second Third Earnings
Year Sts 1 2 3 $
1975 4 1 0 2 $13833 $13,833
1976 6 4 1 0 $299101 $299,101
1977 9 3 2 2 $376279 $376,279
1978 10 7 1 0 $879790 $879,790
1979 4 0 1 2 $85000 $85,000

Biography

A successful international runner on both dirt and turf, Exceller won stakes races in the United States, Canada, England, and France and became the first horse to defeat two Triple Crown winners in the same race when he beat Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

A bay son of Vaguely Noble out of the Bald Eagle mare Too Bald, Exceller was bred by Jane Englehard and campaigned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, who initially sent him to Europe. As a 3-year-old in France in 1976, Exceller won the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Royal-Oak, both at 1⅞ miles.

At age 4, Exceller won England’s Coronation Cup and France’s Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud before coming to North America to win the Canadian International at Woodbine.

In 1978, with Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham succeeding Francois Mathet and Maurice Zilber as his trainer, Exceller won on both dirt and turf in America. His wins that year included the Arcadia Handicap, Hollywood Turf Invitational Handicap, San Juan Capistrano Handicap, Sunset Handicap, and Oak Tree Invitational Stakes. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, with Hall of Famer Bill Shoemaker up, Exceller rallied from 22 lengths back to win the 1½-mile event by a nose over Seattle Slew.

Overall, Exceller posted a record of 15-5-6 from 33 starts and earnings of $1,654,003. Upon his retirement in 1979, Exceller was sent to stud at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He sired 19 stakes winners and his daughters produced 18 added-money winners.

Hunt eventually sold Exceller to breeding interests in Sweden and tragically Exceller was sent to slaughter in 1997 when he was no longer a viable stallion. He was 24 years old. Three months after news of Exceller’s death became public, a non-profit organization named The Exceller Fund was founded to help find retirement homes for ex-racehorses in an effort to help avoid similar fates to the one Exceller suffered. 

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