Noor’s eventual greatness on the racetrack was anything but predictable, as he hardly seemed destined to become an elite racehorse while competing without distinction for the Aga Khan in England early in his career.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Noor was breaking records and defeating the best of the best in America. In 1950, as a 5-year-old, Noor set two world records, an American record, three other track records and defeated Triple Crown winner Citation in four consecutive meetings. In the process, Noor won the Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, San Juan Capistrano Handicap, Forty-Niners Handicap and American Handicap and was named Champion Handicap Horse.
An Irish-bred son of Nasrullah out of the Bahram mare Queen of Baghdad, Noor won four of 13 starts at ages 2 and 3 while racing in England. He finished third in both the Epsom Derby and Eclipse Stakes, but was considered an afterthought in a sale the Aga Khan made with California horseman Charles S. Howard, most prominently known in racing circles as the owner of Seabiscuit. At first, Howard considered Irish Derby winner Nathoo to be the prize of his deal with the Aga Khan, but Noor went on to prove otherwise … eventually.
Noor was shipped to Northern California in the fall of 1948, but he did not make his first start in America until late 1949. Noor made six starts that year as a 4-year-old, winning a $3,000 allowance race in his American debut before six straight defeats.
Noor, under the guidance of trainer Burley Parke, was a different horse in 1950. He began his campaign by finishing second in the San Pasqual Handicap then finished third behind the Calumet Farm duo of Ponder and Citation in the San Antonio Handicap. Noor then put together a remarkable five-race win streak. He defeated Citation by 1¼ lengths in the Santa Anita Handicap before setting an American record of 2:52⅘ for 1¾ miles in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (defeating Citation by a nose). Although he received weight both times, Noor became the first horse to win the Santa Anita and San Juan Capistrano handicaps in the same year and the first horse to defeat Citation twice.
Moving up to Northern California at Golden Gate Fields, Noor defeated Citation twice more, winning the Forty-Niners Handicap with a five-pound weight advantage then taking the Golden Gate Handicap, spotting Citation a pound in that contest. In both races, Noor set world records: 1:46⅘ for 1⅛ in the Forty-Niners and 1:58⅕ for 1¼ miles in the Golden Gate.
Noor then carried 132 pounds to victory in the American Handicap at Hollywood Park before being sent East. The trip was a frustrating one. Noor finished second to Greentree Stable’s One Hitter in both the Harmonicon and Manhattan handicaps at Belmont. One Hitter was in receipt of 21 pounds in the first meeting and 18 in the second. Noor then was four lengths back of Hill Prince in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Returning to California, Noor won a prep at Hollywood Park then set a track record of 1:59⅘ for 1¼ miles in his final career start in the Hollywood Gold Cup. On equal weight with Hill Prince in the Gold Cup (both carried 130 pounds), Noor won by a length over Palestinian with Hill Prince finishing third. Noor finished the year with a record of 7-4-1 from 12 starts and earnings of $346,940. He was retired after the season with a career mark of 12-6-6 from 31 starts and earnings of $383,968.
Noor stood at Loma Rica Ranch near San Ysidro, Calif., but he was not much of a success as a stallion, siring only 13 stakes winners. Suffering from heart problems and other infirmities of old age, Noor was euthanized on Nov. 16, 1974 at the age of 29. He was originally buried in California, but in 2011 his remains were moved to Old Friends near Georgetown, Ky., because of development on his original burial site.