The Most Famous Racehorses of All Time

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From American Pharaoh and Affirmed to Man O’War and Secretariat, numerous racehorses can claim to be the most famous in the world. But the following five are arguably the most famous of all.


Arkle managed to captivate the general public in a way that few other horses could. The legendary horse was loved for his versatility, as he won numerous races over varying distances and conditions. His finest moments came in the Cheltenham Festival. From 1964 to 1966, Arkle won three successive Gold Cups. But his greatest moment came in the 1964 Irish Grand National. Despite weighing two stone more than the other competing horses, Arkle came in first.

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Desert Orchid

Desert Orchid was loved by racing fans for his strong will, front-running attack style, and extensive versatility. He was undoubtedly one of the most successful jump horses of all time. Desert Orchid won the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and four King George Chases. From 1983 to 1991, five jump jockeys rode the grey horse. They were Colin Brown, Richard Linley, Simon Sherwood, Graham Bradley and Richard Dunwoody. And Brian Rouse rode Desert Orchid in his only flat race. So beloved was the horse by fans, Desert Orchid continued to make many public appearances after his retirement.

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Frankel’s career spanned 14 runs, and he was never beaten. The incredible racehorse is widely considered to be one of the greatest horses ever to compete. In his 2010 debut, Frankel defeated a field which included subsequent Group 1 winners Colour Vision and Nathaniel before going on to win the Royal Lodge Stakes by ten lengths, as well as the Dewhurst Stakes, where he beat the formidable Dream Ahead. At three-years-old, Frankel came first place in the Classic 2000 Guineas by six lengths. He went on to win Royal Ascot’s St. James’s Palace Stakes, Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. In 2012, Frankel continued his unbeaten record by winning the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes, as well as a second-time win at the Sussex Stakes. He then went on to win the International Stakes at York and the Champion Stakes at Ascot.


The champion thoroughbred racehorse Seabiscuit was one of the top winning racehorses of the 1930s. His story has been told in numerous books and movies over the years, including the hugely popular 2003 film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards. So, most people know the heart-warming story attached to this rather special horse. Despite only having one eye, and not being given a chance by racehorse experts, jockey Red Pollard partnered with the horse and went on to win eleven out of 15 runs. Seabiscuit’s most notable race was in 1938 against the 1937 Triple-Crown winner War Admiral. It was billed as the Match of the Century, as though it were a boxing match. Seabiscuit beat the formidable War Admiral by four lengths in the two-horse special event.

Red Rum

Even people who do not follow racing have heard of Red Rum. He far exceeded what other horses have been able to accomplish throughout their careers. Furthermore, it did not look likely that Red Rum would become a racehorse at all when he was born because he had an incurable bone disease. Despite that, Red Rum went on to win three Grand National competitions, including two-in-a-row, in 1973 and 1974. The only other horse to equal two consecutive Grand National wins is the current champion, Tiger Roll. The 1973 race is generally considered to be one of the all-time great Grand Nationals. Red Rum was 30 lengths behind, but he somehow came back to win. Red Rum’s last Grand National win was in 1977. The famous horse retired in 1978, having never fallen on a National Hunt course.

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