Three of History’s Greatest Racehorses

Humans have been racing horses for literally thousands of years. In fact, there are records of the practice among Central Asian nomadic peoples dating all the way back to 4500 BC. As you can imagine, scores of iconic racehorses have pounded the turf over the course of the sport’s long history. Here’s our list of three of the greatest racecourses of all time.


Ah, Seabiscuit. Unlikely American Flat champion immortalised in numerous books and films. This famous horse’s story is as remarkable as his career on the track. Born on 23 May 1933, in the wake of the Great Depression, Seabiscuit was certainly not the picture of a prime thoroughbred. Though he was the grandson of the celebrated Man O’War, he was small and lumbering, with stubby legs, a short tail, a hilariously awkward gait, and (as a foal) rarely in any hurry.

So he sent shockwaves through the American horseracing fraternity when, after a slow start, he went on to become the top-winning racehorse of the 1940s, making several comebacks after various major injuries. Among many others, he beat 1937 Triple Crown winner, War Admiral by four lengths at Pimlico and was named 1938 American Horse of the Year. Sadly, Seabiscuit died of a heart attack on 19 May 1947, just shy of his fourteenth birthday.


Some thirty years after Seabiscuit’s heyday, the legend of another iconic racehorse was made, this time on the steeplechase track. Born in 1957 at Ballymacoll Stud in Ireland, Arkle was a bay gelding descended from Champion racers on both sides.

So epic was Arkle’s short but illustrious steeplechase career, the sport’s handicapping weight regulations had to be updated to accommodate his superior ability. He was ridden most often by legendary Irish National Hunt jockey, Pat Taaffe, who steered Arkle to victory at three successive Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966. His 212 Timeform rating is the highest ever awarded to a steeplechaser. By the time of his early retirement due to a broken hoof, Arkle had become a celebrity, continuing to receive fan mail until his death at the age of 13.


Secretariat is another name you are likely to have heard, even if you know nothing about horse racing and prefer spending time at an online casino in Dubai. This champion American Flat horse, born on 30 March 1970, more than earned his far-reaching fame, with some of his records remaining unbroken to this day.

Widely regarded as the greatest racehorse of the second half of the 20th Century, “Big Red”, as he was affectionately known, had a fairly short but exceptional career on the track. In 1973 alone, he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Man O’War Stakes, Canadian International Championship, and the Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap.

In winning the latter race, he became only the 13th millionaire thoroughbred in history. Unsurprisingly, Secretariat was named Horse of the Year in both 1972 and 1973 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1974, shortly after his retirement. Secretariat died in Kentucky at the age of 19.

About Doreen Cohen