Monday 24 June 2024

The Best 5 Racehorses in History: A Legacy of Excellence

The Best 5 Racehorses in History: A Legacy of Excellence
The annals of horse racing are filled with legends whose speed, stamina, and sheer willpower have thrilled fans and shaped the sport's history. Among them, five stand out not just for their victories but for the indelible mark they left on racing. This article explores the careers of Frankel, Secretariat, Man o' War, Sea Biscuit, and Phar Lap, examining whether Frankel can be crowned the greatest of them all.

1. Frankel (2008- ) 

Named after the esteemed trainer Bobby Frankel, Frankel is widely regarded as one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time. Trained by Sir Henry Cecil and ridden primarily by jockey Tom Queally, Frankel's career was a tour de force in British flat racing. His unbeaten record of 14 wins from 14 starts includes victories in prestigious races such as the 2,000 Guineas, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the Champion Stakes. Frankel's performances were often characterized by his devastating turn of foot, winning by remarkable margins, and earning a career-high rating of 140, the highest ever awarded by Timeform. Frankel's dominance was so profound that he retired as the highest-rated racehorse in history according to the World Thoroughbred Rankings.

2. Secretariat (1970-1989) 

Secretariat, affectionately known as "Big Red," is perhaps the most famous racehorse in American history. His Triple Crown win in 1973 is legendary, particularly his breathtaking 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes, where he set a world record time for 1½ miles that still stands. Secretariat’s career was marked by his powerful stride, described as "like a freight train," and his extraordinary heart, which was found to be nearly twice the size of an average horse's. His influence extends beyond his racing days, with a significant impact on thoroughbred breeding.

3. Man o' War (1917-1947) 

Man o' War, often mentioned in the same breath as Secretariat, was a horse of unparalleled dominance. Racing in an era just after World War I, he won 20 of his 21 races, losing only once due to a bad start. His victories included the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Known for his imposing presence and powerful build, Man o' War set multiple track records and was often forced to carry heavier weights in handicap races due to his superiority. His legacy as a sire further cemented his status, producing champions like War Admiral.

4. Seabiscuit (1933-1947) 

Seabiscuit’s story is one of the most remarkable in racing history, capturing the American spirit during the Great Depression. Small and underappreciated early in his career, Seabiscuit blossomed under the care of trainer Tom Smith and owner Charles Howard. His rivalry with War Admiral culminated in a legendary match race in 1938, where Seabiscuit emerged victorious. His underdog story and rags-to-riches ascent made him a national hero, inspiring a best-selling book and a successful film.

5. Phar Lap (1926-1932) 

Phar Lap, a New Zealand-bred Australian-trained racehorse, became a symbol of hope during the economic hardships of the early 1930s. Known for his remarkable endurance and will to win, Phar Lap dominated Australian racing, winning 37 of his 51 starts, including the prestigious Melbourne Cup. His victory in the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico, under heavy weight, showcased his international prowess. Phar Lap's mysterious death in the U.S. remains a subject of intrigue and speculation..

Was Frankel the Best? Determining the "greatest" racehorse is a subjective endeavor, influenced by various factors such as the era, competition, and racing conditions. Frankel’s impeccable record and highest rating ever awarded certainly make a compelling case for his supremacy. His versatility across different distances and consistency against top-class competition underscore his excellence. However, comparing Frankel to legends like Secretariat, known for his Triple Crown dominance and world records, or Man o' War, with his near-perfect career and influence on breeding, is challenging. Each of these horses excelled in their unique contexts and left an indelible legacy in the racing world.

Frankel's career, defined by its flawless record and extraordinary performances, may indeed place him at the pinnacle of thoroughbred racing. Yet, the true measure of greatness often transcends statistics, encompassing the impact and legacy each horse has left on the sport and the hearts of racing enthusiasts worldwide. 

Photo: Freepik