Horse racing is more than mere sport. As racing enthusiasts know, it’s a marriage between man and steed; a feat of breathtaking sportsmanship and a showcase of the world’s premier equine athletes. To watch it is to witness poetry in motion. The ultimate feat of courage and endurance, its stars have a way of capturing our hearts and taking us along for the most exhilarating ride.
While every horse who has ever charged their way down the turf is an exquisite athlete in their own right, some have captured the popular imagination more than others. Delivering stellar performances and shows of supreme athleticism, they have cemented their roles as some of the greatest racehorses who ever lived.
Here are three horses who have earned a place in the ultimate equine hall of fame.
The late great Arkle was described by commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan as a ‘freak of nature’, and he really was. So impressive were his performances on track that a second weighting system had to be developed for when he was running.
Winning three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup titles between 1964 and 1966, Arkle also claimed victory in the Irish Grand National. His eventual fame was so great that his image was featured on everything from stamps to tea towels, while a number of songs were dedicated to him too. Foaled in 1957, the unparalleled bay gelding and pride of Ireland was by Nearco son Archive out of Bright Cherry.
Trained by the legendary Ginger McCain, Red Rum was foaled on the 3rd May 1965. By Quorum out of Mared, the bay gelding would go on to win the Grand National on three separate occasions – in 1973, 1974, and 1977 – and finish in second twice. This was a feat made all the more astonishing by the horse’s incredibly poor feet. It was perhaps the unlikeliness of his many victories that helped to cement Rummy’s place in the public heart and mind, so that even now, he remains the best-known horse in the world.
The only horse threatening to match Red Rum’s prolific string of Grand National victories is Tiger Roll, who will be closely watched throughout the year’s horse racing betting and news. Regardless of whether Tiger Roll matches and exceeds Red Rum’s incredible record, it cannot be doubted that Red Rum was in a class of his own.
A more recent racing star was flat horse Frankel. Foaled in 2008, Frankel had a pedigree that marked him out as racing royalty early on. By Sadler’s Wells stallion Galileo out of Danehill mare Kind, he was bred with speed and stamina in mind.
Widely considered to be the Thoroughbred to rival all Thoroughbreds, Frankel was unbeaten in 14 races. Trained by the unforgettable Sir Henry Cecil, his performances were exquisite, with his victories marking him out as one of the best of all time. The one that will go down in history, however, is his run in the 2,000 Guineas in 2011, when he stormed home with the win in the most spectacular fashion.
The question that every racing enthusiast has to ask themselves is this: will we ever see their like again? The answer, perhaps, is only if we’re very, very lucky.