Spectacular Bid died yesterday, after a magnificent racing career and (alas) a rather undistinguished two decades at stud. My father was always a horse racing fan, and I had been fascinated by Affirmed's three great wins over Alydar the previous year, so I was watching with interest as Spectacular Bid won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to fall short in the Belmont--victimized by a wounded hoof and an inexperienced jockey. It was 1979, and three horses in the previous six years had won Triple Crowns (Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed). Some thought that, of the legendary thoroughbreds of that era, Spectacular Bid would be the greatest of all (in point of fact, some still do think that). No one would have dreamed that Spectacular Bid would be the first in a long line of disappointments as far as the Triple Crown went (though he was far from a disappointment in the rest of his racing career), or that he would die after a long life just after the latest challenger to the jinx fell short. It is hard to say whether Spectacular Bid's death would have seemed even more timely if Funny Cide had pulled off the hat trick and landed his Cinderella-like owners that $5 million bonus, ending a quarter-century of famine that began so soon after the racing world had known feasts--and legends. In an era where athletes all too often disappoint us with their foibles, there is a special joy to be had in watching a great thoroughbred run. Whether they run to immortal glory or ignominious defeat, they are giving us their best--and we won't have to put up with the complaining afterwards on ESPN Classic or in the latest sports memoir.