Three of the greatest racehorses of all time

| April 16, 2019

Racehorses all have their own individual strengths. Some are known for their stamina and staying power, some for their speed, while others are renowned for their jumping prowess. But which horses were the greatest of all time? We look at three contenders with very different strengths.

The bravest – Red Rum

Ask any Brit to name the greatest racehorse of all time and most will utter Red Rum’s name without hesitation. The reason is simple: The Grand National. This annual race, held at the Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, is considered to be the ultimate test of courage and stamina for any horse. And Red Rum dominated the race like no other.

Forget short sprint races on flat surfaces, the Aintree Grand National steeplechase replicates a gruelling cross-country ride featuring some of the toughest obstacles imaginable. The race is run over 4 miles 514 yards and features 30 fences, many of which are lower on the landing side, making them difficult to navigate. The fences are also much larger than those found in a normal National Hunt race.

Every year, millions tune in to watch the race and it is the busiest weekend of the year for UK bookmakers, as punters indulge in a flurry of horse race betting, many for the one and only time of the year – in fact, it is estimated that as much as 70% of the UK’s added population will do so.

Between 1973 and 1977, Red Rum won the race three times and was second twice, a record that is unlikely to ever be matched. In 1974, he became the only horse to win the Grand National and Scottish National in the same season. In the process, he captured the hearts and minds of the nation and became a personality in his own right – he even had his own range of branded products. When he retired in 1978, it was the lead story on BBC primetime news.

The fastest – Secretariat

While Red Rum had the stamina and courage, Secretariat had the speed. He may not have reached the maximum speed over the very short distance achieved by the likes of Winning Brew, but Secretariat was remarkable for his ability to maintain a blistering pace over a longer distance. His record between five and 13 furlongs on dirt and turf tracks is unrivalled in thoroughbred horse racing’s long history – that’s saying something, given the breed’s nature as a highly energetic and athletic horse.

Secretariat was built for speed but also possessed the calm and intelligent mentality of an elite performer. He still holds records in each race of the USA’s prestigious Triple Crown races some 46 years after his final race. His world record time over 12 furlongs on a dirt track is more than 1.8s faster than any other horse – that’s the equivalent of a nine-length advantage.

When Secretariat won, it was always by a huge margin. And when he lost it was due to illness, contact with other horses or disqualification. His wins came over a range of distances in both wet and dry conditions and he was able to attack from anywhere in the field.

His performance at the world famous Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York in 1973 remains one of the greatest examples of thoroughbred horse racing in history. Although he never raced beyond the age of three, Secretariat is remembered as one of the greatest horse races of all time.

The most consistent – Black Caviar

More recently, Australia’s own Black Caviar entered the frame of all-time greats, remaining undefeated in 25 races of which 15 were Group Ones. Foaled in 2006, she was crowned World Champion Sprinter four years running between 2010 and 2013. She achieved a Timeform rating of 136 and was ranked No. 1 horse in the world in 2012 and 2013.

When she was flown to the UK in 2012 to compete at the Royal Ascot festival, the race was broadcast live in Australia and big screens were set up in her hometown of Melbourne to show the event. Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in wet conditions by a head from Moonlight Cloud. It was later revealed she had suffered muscle injuries during the race that likely hampered her performance.

She raced just three more times, winning them all, before retiring in 2013. Her record of 25 sprint victories in 25 races including 15 Group Ones is unlikely to be surpassed for some time.

Category: Special interest

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.