Who’s your favourite racehorse of all time?
PUBLISHED: 17:23 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 07:07 07 September 2018
From Red Rum to Frankel, there’s no shortage of contenders when it comes to the title of greatest race horse of all time. Sheena Grant looks at the line-up...
Who’s the greatest racehorse of all time?
There’s no way of giving a definitive answer on something that can be measured in so many ways.
For me, factors other than earnings and the number and type of races won have to come into it. What would racing be, after all, without the power of a story, a dash of romance and a dream come true, especially against the odds?
As the flat winds down and the jumps season gets into full swing, we look at a few of the contenders for the crown.
Flat race horses
‘Eclipse first, the rest nowhere’ goes the famous saying. Eclipse, who was apparently born and named after the Solar Eclipse of April 1 1764, won 18 races in his career and walked 1,400 miles to race meetings across England. Studies show that 95% of today’s thoroughbreds trace their descent to him in the male line and the remaining 5% have him in their pedigrees.
Nijinsky (1967– 1992)
This horse with a balletic name made history in 1970 with Lester Piggott in the saddle by becoming the first colt in 35 years to win the English Triple Crown (the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger) - a feat that no horse has achieved since. Nijinsky is regarded by many experts as the greatest flat racehorse in Europe during the 20th century.
Mill Reef (1968–1986)
Mill Reef won 12 of his 14 races and finished second in the other two. After being successfully operated on for a broken leg he had a long and successful career as a stallion at Newmarket’s National Stud, where he is also buried and commemorated by a statue with an inscription that reads: “Remember me, all men who love the Horse, if hearts and spirits flag in after days; though small, I gave my all. I gave my heart.”
Dancing Brave (1983-1999)
Dancing Brave was the outstanding European racehorse of 1986, winning the 2000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In total, he won eight of his 10 starts between 1985 and 1986, and went on to become a prolific sire.
Nashwan was a powerfully built, impressive looking horse. His name means ‘joy’ in Arabic, something he brought to trainer Maj Dick Hern, (who said he was the best horse he’d ever trained), jockey Willie Carson and legions of racing fans. He won both his starts as a two-year-old and in the spring and summer of 1989 took the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Frankel (foaled 2008)
Frankel was unbeaten in his 14-race career and was the highest-rated racehorse in the world from May 2011. He was trained in Newmarket by Sir Henry Cecil, by then dying of cancer. He is now standing at Banstead Manor Stud at Cheveley, where he was born.
Irish-bred Arkle won a hat-trick of Cheltenham Gold Cups as well as the Irish Grand National but his fame stretched far beyond the racecourse. Stamps and tea towels bore his image and songs were written in his honour.
Red Rum (1965-1995)
Perhaps the most famous racehorse of all time, Red Rum won the Grand National three times (1973, ‘74 and ‘77). In retirement, his celebrity continued to grow and he opened supermarkets, switched on the Blackpool Illuminations and even appeared on BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Desert Orchid (1979-2006)
The flying grey won the hearts of the public with his front-running style and extravagant leaps over jumps. His 34 victories included the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup and four King George VI Chases.
Aldaniti’s only win of note was the 1981 Grand National but his story is so incredible he surely deserves a place on any list of great racehorses. Both Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion had been written off before that famous win - the horse had recovered from career-threatening injury and Champion from cancer. Their story was made into the film Champions, starring John Hurt. Aldaniti retired from racing in 1982 and spent the rest of his life at his owner’s farm in Sussex. He died of old age in March 1997.
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