Top 10 UK horses of all time
Any list that compares form across different generations will be subjective and open to debate. This list of the best-ever runners in UK horse racing history has been compiled on performance on the track, but some of the horses are famous for different reasons. The top 10 UK horses on the Flat and over jumps are covered below with a brief history of their racing career.
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Red Rum is currently the only horse to win three Grand Nationals, but that will change if Tiger Roll wins the race in 2020. Red Rum won the National in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and was second in two other years. The horse was trained by Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, who did not have access to gallops. He prepared his horses for races on Southport beach and that’s how he got Red Rum in condition to run in the Grand National five times. Red Rum won the Scottish National in 1974 and is still the only horse to win that race and the Grand National in the same season.
Frankel is seen by some experts as the best racehorse ever and a perfect specimen for a thoroughbred. The horse was trained by Sir Henry Cecil, who was going through a slump in his career when Frankel arrived in his yard. The trainer was seriously ill and having Frankel in his care was a tonic, but sadly Cecil has now passed away. Frankel never lost once in 14 races over three seasons. He produced his best Racing Post Rating (RPR) in races at Ascot and York in 2012. The win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2011 is considered as one of the best runs for a Flat horse in history.
Sea The Stars
Sea The Stars won six Group 1 races in 2009. In the current era it is difficult for a horse to win more than one, so the Irish-born thoroughbred ranks comfortably among the best UK horses. The horse ran just nine times and only suffered defeat in his debut race at the Curragh in 2008 as a two-year-old. Sea The Stars began the stellar season by winning the 2,000 Guineas and six months later won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. The horse was taken on by all comers, but none could get past Sea The Stars when it mattered most. The horse was retired to stud at the end of that year and now commands a huge mating fee.
Desert Orchid’s win in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup has been voted one of the UK’s favourite races, over jumps and on the Flat. In appalling conditions the horse looked beaten by Yahoo but battled up the hill to prevail. Desert Orchid was a grey and a flamboyant jumper, which was exaggerated by the horse’s colouring. He won the King George VI Chase at Kempton four times and that was the track that suited him most. Desert Orchid ran in 23 chases, won 13 times and was unplaced four times. It was the manner of his racing style that captured the public’s imagination and made him one of the top 10 UK horses.
The Enable story is not over because the horse is staying in training as a five-year-old. She failed to win a third Arc in successive years in October 2009 but is being targeted at the race again. No horse has won three Arcs, so the connections are keen for their horse to make history. Enable’s regular rider is Frankie Dettori, who is one of the best race riders in the industry and a bonafide international celebrity. He famously does a flying dismount when he wins a Group 1 contest. He may have to perform at
Shergar was a hugely impressive winner of the Derby in 1981 and then disappeared. The horse was taken from his stable in Ireland and the chief suspects were the IRA, but the body was never found and it is still an unsolved crime. Shergar only ran eight times as a two- and three-year old and won six times. The horse is now commemorated by the Shergar Cup, which is the jockey’s team competition held at Ascot every year. Despite a record-breaking winning distance in the Derby, Shergar will go down in history as the horse that was kidnapped in a crime that has not been solved.
Tiger Roll is another of the top 10 UK horses that is going for a third win in a famous race. The horse won the Grand National in 2018 and 2019 and no runner has won three Nationals in successive years. Tiger Roll has won at the last four Cheltenham Festivals and is expected to run in the cross country race at the meeting in 2020. The owners are hinting that their animal will not run in the National if the handicapper allocates an excessive weight. However, if the horse was retired after Cheltenham, he would still go down in history as one of the most popular and successful runners over jumps.
Stradivarius was the champion stayer in 2018 and 2019 and is being kept in training for at least another year. The horse has won all the major staying Flat races over the last two years, including two Gold Cups at Ascot. The trainer has not ruled out a drop in distance, in which case the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a potential target. Stradivarius does not win by far but always stays and does enough to see off the opposition in the last furlong. The horse is young enough and in the right hands to win another Gold Cup or a Group 1 race over a shorter distance.
Big Buck’s held the record for most successive wins over jumps in the UK before Altior beat it. The horse unseated his rider in the race formerly known as the Hennessey Gold Cup in 2008. The trainer sent the horse hurdling and he went on to win four Stayers’ Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. Big Buck’s won 20 of his 33 races over hurdles and earned over £1,000,000 in win prize money. He won the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree four times from 2009 to 2012. That record at Cheltenham and Aintree means that Big Buck’s is the greatest staying hurdler in the history of racing in Britain and Ireland.
Dawn Run is the only horse to win the Champion Hurdle (1984) and Cheltenham Gold Cup (1986), so she is well and truly one of the all-time best UK horses. She was one of the most successful race mares in National Hunt racing. Only four mares have won the Champion Hurdle and only four have won the Gold Cup. Dawn Run’s feat in winning both championship races sets her apart in the history of the sport. She is also the only horse to win the Champion Hurdles of England, Ireland and France. Sadly, the horse was fatally injured in the French Champion Hurdle later in 1986.