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Most Popular Race Horses
Among the thousands of horses that have ideally bred for races around the world, only a few endured remarkable feats to become the most popular racehorses in history.
These horses have achieved remarkable feats, securing their spot in the race horses’ hall of fame. How about your horses? Would they be able to top these? Well, as a punter, your best bet is by looking at the odds in our online sportsbooks.
Take a look at some of the most popular horses for races around the world from centuries past until the present.
1) Eclipse (1764-1789)
During the 18th century, Eclipse was undeniably popular and many even considered him the greatest racehorse of an era when the sport had little resemblance to the horse races we know of today. Throughout his 18-race career, Eclipse won every meet he competed in. running distances of between two and four miles. He was so dominant during his time that the phrase “the rest were nowhere” after his decisive victories. His feats are still remembered to this day after France’s Prix Eclipse, the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes and the US Eclipse Horse Racing Awards were named in his honour.
2) West Australian (1850-1870)
West Australian was not lucky at the start of his career – he even lost his first race. Despite being an unremarkable horse, he quickly turned into a champion, performing his greatest feats when he was three years old. In 1853, West Australian made a mark in history by becoming the first racehorse to win the UK Triple Crown. He won 2,000 Guineas, St. Leger and Epsom Derby stakes. When he was four years old, West Australian claimed the Ascot Gold Cup.
3) Flying Fox (1896-1911)
During the Victorian era, Flying Fox was one of the most notable horses in the racing industry. He wasn't really a favourite among popular jockey's at that time because was infamous for having a poor temperament. Consequently, he was only raced for two years. Despite his short-lived career, he still dominated his opponents. When he was three years old, he remained unbeaten by claiming the Triple crown as well as the Princess of Wales’s Stakes and the Eclipse Stakes. Flying Fox went on to become a significant sire, with notable descendants such as US Triple Crown champion, Coaltown.
4) Man O’ War (1917-1947)
Man O’War made a mark in horse racing history through his powerful performances throughout his career. As a juvenile, Man O’ War won nine of his ten races. He continued on to attract national attention by emerging as the victor in some of the popular races in America. His great performances include winning the Belmont Stakes by 20 lengths as well as the Kenilworth Park Gold Club by a remarkable 100 lengths. Near the end of his career, it became very difficult to find popular race horse owners and trainers who were willing to pit their horses against him. In 1920, Man O’ War was retired after receiving the Horse of the Year Award. A lot of racing experts still consider Man O’ War to be the greatest racehorse of all time.
5) Phar Lap (1926-1932)
Phar Lap is notable for being the first Australasian racehorse to become a notable worldwide. He was foaled in New Zealand, but he spent the majority of his career racing in Australia. There, he won some of the most prestigious races of the country, including the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Victoria Derby. He was notable for his domineering physique. Standing 17 hands tall, Phar Lap was powered by a heart that weighed almost twice heavier than that of an average racehorse. However, his career ended tragically. After beating some of America’s top-rated racehorses in the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico, Phar Lap died from a suspected arsenic poisoning.
6) Seabiscuit (1933-1947)
Seabiscuit’s incredible rags to riches story were so remarkable that it was written into a biography and picked up by one of the biggest film studios in Hollywood. Despite being the descendant of the famous Man O’ War, Seabiscuit did not seem to inherit his grandsire’s passion or fire during the beginning of his career. As a matter of fact, he lost his first 17 races and he mostly finished at the back of the field. Eventually, he was sold off to trainer Tom Smith. Smith saw Seabiscuit’s potential and he used his innovative training techniques to turn the latter into one of the most notable handicap race horses in America. The defining moment in Seabiscuit’s career came when he was set against Triple Crown winner, War Admiral. During their fight, about 40,000 people watched Seabiscuit defeat War Admiral by four lengths. After the remarkable feat, he was given the US Horse of the Year Award.
7) Arkle (1957-1970)
Arkle was notable for his versatility, winning races over different distances and ground conditions. He claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup for three successive years, the Hennessy Gold Cup twice, The King George V Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup. His remarkable stamina was best exhibited at the Irish Grand National. He won the most difficult and challenging handicap chase in Ireland despite carrying two and a half stone heavier than any other horse in the event. At his peak, Arkle had a 212 Timeform rating – the highest that any steeplechaser had received.
8) Sea-Bird (1962-1972)
Recently, some French Group 1 races have become vital in proving the talents of the top rated British Thoroughbreds. Before the 1960s, races across the pond did not capture the attention of the British public that much. Things came to a turn when in 1965, Sea-Bird won two successive French Group 1 races and then crossed the Channel to become the victor of the Epsom Derby. Later that season, Sea-Bird won two more Group 1 races, including a famous victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He won against winners of the French Derby, the Irish Derby and the Preakness Stakes by six lengths.
9) Red Rum (1965-1995)
While Seabiscuit’s incredible story stole the hearts of many Americans during the Great Depression, Red Rum did the same in the 1970s during the darkest days of the recession in the UK. This horse was born with a debilitating and incurable bone disease and he was bred to compete just over a mile. Hence, it was very unlikely that he would win the Grand National three times in five years. On the two occasions that he failed to win the said race, he still finished as a runner-up in the four-mile, four-furlong handicap. Red Rum’s most notable win was during the 1977 Grand National. He was the only horse in history to win back the Grand National title. Throughout his national hunt career, he did not sustain a single fall. He even got to live until the ripe old age of 30.
10) Nijinsky (1967-1992)
Between 1953 and 1900, there were nine horses who won the English Triple Crown. Over the next four decades, another five managed to do the same feat. In 1969, another horse managed to exhibit the same talent and versatility needed in winning the Triple Crown. In his two-year-old season, Nijinsky remained unbeaten. He won four successive races at the Curragh and then moved to England where he won the Dewhurst Stakes. The season after that, he put a series of powerful performances by winning the 2,000 Guineas and both the Irish and Epsom Derby. Moreover, he won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the St. Leger Stakes by a length. He was the first and last winner of the Triple Crown since 1935.
11) Secretariat (1970-1989)
It was already apparent in his season as a juvenile that Secretariat was destined to achieve great things and popular bets were in favour of him during that time. Early in his career, he was able to dominate his rival two-year-olds. He even became the first juvenile in history to receive the Horse of the Year Award. However, he was able to make a mark in horse racing history through his performances in the US Triple Crown races. He started from the last place, but he still became the first horse in history to win the Kentucky Derby in less than two minutes. He showed a powerful performance at the Preakness Stakes as well. He did not simply win the race, he also set an unbeaten track record. After that, he topped his performances by winning the Belmont Stakes along with the Triple Crown. In a field with only four racehorses, Secretariat raced and won by 31 lengths. His feat set the record of the fastest time for a one-mile, four-furlong race on a dirt track.
12) Makybe Diva (1999-present)
Affectionately referred to as the “race that stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup is indeed the most difficult and most prestigious horse race. It is also the race where one of the greatest mares in horseracing history performed his sensational achievements. Most champion mares achieved their victories in all-female fields. On the other hand, Makybe Diva outranked some of the leading colts in the world. She is notable for winning a record-breaking three Melbourne Cup titles. Aside from that, she won a host of other major horse races, including the Sydney Cup and the Cox Plate. Makybe retired to have the record of the highest earning racehorse in the history of Australian horse racing.
13) Sea the Stars (2006-present)
Not many believed that Sea the Stars would become a significant player in the horse racing industry, especially when he finished fourth in his first race back in 2008. Little did everyone know that his loss was the last he would experience in his career. As a juvenile, Sea the Stars won the two races following his defeat. He followed that up with his finest season at three years old. In 2009, Sea the Stars won the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. He followed that up with victories in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes, International Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes. Before he retired, Seat the Stars claimed his spot in history by being the first horse to win the Guineas, Derby and the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe treble.
14) Zenyatta (2006-present)
It can be quite difficult for any race horse at present to match the feats of American mare, Zenyatta. In a span of 20 races and four seasons, she was only defeated once. Her notable achievement was at the 2009 Breeders’ Cup meeting. At the said event, Zenyatta was able to defeat her opponents, including that year’s Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby winners, as well as two horses that won the European Group 1. She was also the first mare to claim the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as the first to win two separate races at the Breeders’ Cup. The only defeat she encountered in her career was in the same race the following year. She failed to keep the Breeders’ Cup Classic title by a margin of a few inches.
15) Frankel (2008-present)
A lot of punters consider Frankel as the most remarkable racehorse in the history of thoroughbred racing in Britain. His career spanned for fourteen races, and not even once was he beaten. His achievements included the 2,000 Guineas along with eleven Group 1 wins. The only thing that limited Frankel’s accomplishments was his miler specialisation. This prevented him from attempting to snatch a Triple Crown, by competing in either the St. Leger Stakes or the Epsom Derby. Nonetheless, he proved to be efficient in longer distances later in his career. As a four-year-old, he dominated the one-mile, two-furlong Champion Stakes and International Stakes.
16) American Pharoah (2012-present)
After 37 years since a racehorse won the American Triple Crown, American Pharaoh won the 2015 Kentucky Derby. It was obvious in the results that the horses in the field fought hard in hopes of winning the race. The meet was so nail-biting – the eventual winner was victorious by just a length. When American Pharaoh won the 2015 Preakness Stakes by five lengths on a wet track, it was evident that the horse would make history. He was the only horse in the Belmont Stakes to have competed in all three Triple Crown races. He comprehensively won the field by five and a half lengths. Unfortunately, his record was stained with an unexpected defeat in the Travers Stakes. However, he still proved to be one of the most remarkable horses in history. American Pharaoh competed at the 2015 Breeders Cup and became the first ‘Grand Slam’ winner in racing history. He was able to beat a world-class field, adding his Breeders’ Cup Classic title to his Triple Crown.