History's Most Famous Racehorses
History's Most Famous Racehorses
The arrival of three Arabian steeds in England in the early 1700s may not have made the news of the day but the legacy of these majestic animals continues to thrill and inspire millions of horse enthusiasts till today.
These three foundation sires were bred with larger English mares to create a breed of horses that was destined to launch modern horse racing. The ambitious breeding program has resulted in horses that have power, speed, stamina and a good temperament. Today, all thoroughbreds trace their bloodlines directly back to one of these three foundation sires. This is well-planned breeding...nothing left to luck like in a Vegas casino game.
Regardless of whether you're a horse fancier or a casual observer, you can't help but be captivated by these magnificent equines. There have been a few whose lives will be remembered for many years to come.
The foundation sires of the thoroughbred breed of horses came from the Oriental group -- Arabians, Barbs and Turks -- native to the Middle East. They were prized in their native lands as racing horses and as horses of war. For at least a thousand years peoples living in and around the Arabian Peninsula used these horses for their needs.
The first 3 foundation sires, the Byerly Turk, an Arabian, the Darley Barb, a Barb and the Godolphin Arabian, an Arabian, were brought to Europe, beginning in 1688. They were bred with English mares who already had some Arabian in their blood, thanks to horses that were brought back to Europe from the Crusades.
Breeders developed the thoroughbred for racing. Horse racing, in an organised fashion, had been on-going in England since the 12th century but it changed with the introduction of the thoroughbred which could be used for polo, hunting, dressage, combined training and show jumping. They are known for exerting maximum speed and agility and are prized as race horses.
History's Most Famous Horses
Over the years there have been some notable racehorses who stand out because for special attention. Some include:
Makybe Diva is one of the few mares to outclass the world's leading colts and win a record-breaking three Melbourne Cup titles. She also claimed the prize in other major races including the Sydney Cup and the Cox Plate. Makybe Diva is remembered for finishing her career as the highest earning racehorse in Australian history.
In the 1970s, even non-horse racing fans heard of Secretariat who gave the Vietnam War-weary, Watergate-fatigued Americans a touch of inspiration and hope. Secretariat was a winner from the start. He dominated his rival two-year-olds while still a juvenile and won the Horse of the Year Award – the first of his age group to do so. He is best remembered as the horse that took the US Triple Crown, winning the Kentucky Derby in under 2 minutes, the Preakness Stakes with a track record and the Belmont Stakes in a stunning 31 lengths. Secretariat set the fastest time in history for a 1 mile 4 furlong race on a dirt track.
After a long period when no horse succeeded in winning the English Triple Crown, Nijinsky captivated the British public as he demonstrated a high level of talent and versatility to win the title. In his two-year-old season, Nijinsky won four consecutive races at the Curragh to finish the season unbeaten. He then moved to England where he claimed the Dewhurst Stakes, the 2,000 Guineas and both the Irish Derby and the Epsom Derby. He also claimed the St. Leger Stakes and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes to become the first and last Triple Crown winner since 1935.
Red Rum stole the hearts of the British during the dark days of the 1970s UK recession. Red Rum was born with an incurable and debilitating bone disease so he was bred to compete over just a mile. Despite his handicaps Red Rum won the Grand National three times in five years and finished as runner-up in the 4 mile, 4 furlong handicap in the two races where he fails to win first place. The 1977 Grand National captivated the nation, showcasing Red Rum who came from behind to win back the Grand National title.
Arkle captured the imagination of the Irish public in the same way that Red Rum stole the hearts of the British. Arkle was known for his versatility. He won multiple races over a variety of ground conditions and distances and took the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years in a row and the Hennessy Gold Cup twice. He also won the King George V Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup. At the Irish Grand National his incredible stamina was highlighted -- despite carrying two and half stone more than any other horse in the field he won the grueling Irish handicap chase. Arkle carried a Timeform rating of 212 at his peak. This is the highest Timeform rating that has ever been awarded to a steeplechaser.
Seabiscuit's story is the kind of rag to riches story that legends are made of. Seabiscuit was a descendent of the famous Man O' War but he appeared to have inherited none of his grandsire's passion or fire when he began his racing career. He lost his first 17 races – badly. When he was sold to trainer Tom Smith the horse's potential began to be tapped. Smith used innovative training techniques to turn Seabiscuit into the most dominant handicap racehorse in the United States. Horse enthusiasts and movie goers will remember the defining moment of Seabiscuit's career when he competed against Triple Crown winner, War Admiral and won by four lengths. He received the US Horse of the Year Award for his performance in the race.
West Australian is another horse whose career didn't have an auspicious start. He lost the first race of his career but started to shine as a three-year-old. West Australian became the first racehorse in history to claim the UK Triple Crown, winning the 1853 St. Leger Stakes and the Epsom Derby as a 3-year-old and the Ascot Gold Cup the following year.
Many people regard Eclipse as the greatest racehorse of the 18th century, Eclipse won every 2-mile and 4-mile race of his 18-race career in a career that was marked by the phrase "the rest were nowhere." The Group 1 Eclipse Stakes commemorates his actions and the Prix Eclipse in France and the Eclipse Horse Racing Awards in the U.S. are named in his honour.