Sunday, December 5, 2021

Top 10 Best Flat Race Horses Of All Time

The British Flat racing season made its return this weekend with the Lincoln taking place over a mile of Doncaster turf.

To get us in the mood for the months ahead, we thought we would take a look at the finest flat racers in British horseracing history.

Starting with a modern day hero.

Frankel

Such a joy to watch was Frankel that those that got to witness this majestic legend will tell his tales for years to come.

Frankel was a thoroughbred racing machine that could have been hand crafted by the gods.

During his time, there simply wasn’t a horse like him up to 10 yards.

Others on this list may have won over a mile and a half, something Frankel never did, but over his shorter distance his invincibility was total.

Like an equine Usain Bolt, his superiority was incredible and such impressive wins shouldn’t have been possible over such short distances, yet this horse managed it with ease and was only ever really tested one time.

Perhaps the pinnacle of his career came in the 2011 2,000 Guineas where he destroyed Canford Cliffs.

In his time, Frankel was ranked as the highest rated racehorse in the world and was unbeaten in 14 races and, on top his Newmarket classic, collected wins in the Dewhurst Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Queen Elizabeth IIs, Locking Stakes, Champion Stakes, the Queen Anne as well as two Sussex Stakes.

Brigadier Gerard

Between 1970 and 1972, Brigadier Gerard enjoyed a 17 race career that took in wins in some of English racing’s biggest events.

Along with a duo of Queen Elizabeth IIs, he also took down the 2,000 Guineas, Champion Stakes, St James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes and a King George to name a few.

Forming part of an iconic rivalry with Mill Reef, Brigadier beat his rival in the 2,000 Guineas in one of the all-time memorable performances in horsey history, let alone that particular Newmarket classic.

Unlike Frankel, this legendary runner did run over a mile regularly, but achieving great things over middle distances as well.

In his17 race career, he put together a record breaking 12 race long winning streak.

By retirement, he was rated to be the joint second highest flat horse of his era.

Today, Sandown Park’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes is named after this legend of the turf.

Galileo

A winner on and off the track.

In a one year racing career, Galileo enjoyed wins in the Epsom Derby as well as its Irish equivalent and also took down the King George.

In all, he won 6 of his 8 races including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2001, the same year he was named the European Champion three year old colt before he was put out to stud.

The thing is, when Galileo was put out to stud to get busy, he has been extremely successful there too.

The first horse listed here, Frankel, is part of his progeny.

Others in his bloodline include New Approach, Gleneagles, Anthony Van Dyke, Australia, Japan and Serpentine to name but a few.

In all, it is believed he has provided more than over 85 Group or Grade One winners worldwide and is far from done yet.

Mill Reef

The other half of one of racing’s greatest rivalries, Mill Reef spent 1971 hoovering up the biggest prizes in the sport, becoming the only ever horse to win the Derby, the Eclipse, the King George and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in one year.

His Epsom win in particular was impressive enough, winning as he did by two whole lengths, but he saved his epic best for the King George where he ate up the track to win by six whole lengths.

No one else around could win by such a margin at middle distance.

“This is the best horse you’ve ever had and the best you ever will have. He’ll go by them so fast at Epsom they’ll catch pneumonia.”

Jockey Geoff Lewis

In that first year, there can be no doubt that Mill Reef overshadowed, if not outclassed, Brigadier Gerard a lot of which was because could adapt to either heavy or firm going conditions.

Mill Reef raced from 1970 to 1972 and won twelve of 14 races, finishing runner-up in the other two, one of which was the 2,000 Guineas to the Brigadier.

Just like his great rival, this all-time great has a race named in his honour, the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury.

Dubai Millennium

Godolphin owned, Frankie Dettori ridden Dubai Millennium was another horse who won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but he also added in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, winning by a margin of 8 lengths over Sendawar at Royal Ascot for good measure.

Winning in Dubai in the year 2000, Dubai Millennium took down the then world’s richest thoroughbred race, the Dubai World Cup, beating Behrens by six lengths in record time.

Over ten furlongs he was near unbeatable. Not so over a mile and a half which saw him beaten in his bid for a Derby win.

In the end, he should have enjoyed a long and successful stallion career but was taken by a grass sickness very early into his career as a champion stud.

Eclipse

The most historical winner in the list in that this horse went undefeated in his 18 races and these races all took place between 1769 and 1770.

While his name may have been forgotten by some, they may not realise that July’s Eclipse at Sandown Park, one of the highlights of the flat season, is named after this very horse.

This chestnut colt was foaled at the Cranborne Lodge Stud during the great solar eclipse that occurred in 1764 and he was subsequently named after the event.

During his undefeated reign, he won an incredible 11 King’s Plates.

Eclipse retired to stud in 1771 at O’Kelly’s Clay Hill Stud, near Epsom.

After retiring, he went on to become a very profitable stud and it is thought that today his bloodline lives on in the pedigree of most modern Thoroughbreds, making him one of the most successful sires of all time.

Enable

Recently retired, Enable ran nineteen times, winning on fifteen occasions eleven of which were at Group One level.

In a career which ran from November 2016 to October 2020 she established herself as Europe’s dominant middle-distance horse.

During that spell, very often with Frankie Dettori on board, she collected wins in the Cheshire Oaks, Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks, September Stakes plus two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes.

“I love horses, but I love Enable more than the rest”

Frankie Dettori

In 2018, the year of her second triumph at Longchamp, she also won the Breeders’ Cup Turf becoming the only horse to win both the Arc and the Breeders Turf in the same year.

A year later she picked up the Eclipse Stakes – named after the horse above – and scored repeat victories in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes plus another Yorkshire Oaks before finally losing in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to bring an end to her long lasting unbeaten run.

Before retirement, she would win a third King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, becoming the first horse to do so.

Shergar

You probably know Shergar more for getting kidnapped by masked gunmen in Ireland than for his racing achievements.

But that would be a real shame because he was a proper champion in his day.

His 1981 Epsom Derby win alone was one of the finest performances race goers have ever witnessed as he romped home to a record ten length win.

He would also go on to claim wins in the Irish Derby, the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes before losing in the St Leger and retiring to stud in County Kildare.

Then came the missing horse headlines.

The horse, valued at £10million in 1983, was stolen from his stables and held for ransom, likely by the IRA, thinking that the extremely wealthy Aga Khan who would pay up.

He didn’t and sadly the horse was never seen again.

These days, the Aga Khan’s horse has been honoured with the Shergar Cup at Ascot each August where teams battle it out over one great day of summer racing.

Dancing Brave

There are not many, if any, colts that could have achieved a 2,000 Guineas win as impressively as Dancing Brave managed in 1986.

His Eclipse win that same year was another, as was his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe performance, also in 1986.

He was simply unrivalled for finishing speed, which was pure, 100% thoroughbred acceleration, claiming wins off pace unlike any other before or arguably since.

Only the Derby at Epsom evaded him and even then he was devastatingly unlucky, setting a fastest ever finishing speed off 22.7 seconds over the final two furlongs.

He also set another time record at Longchamp when he took down the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe, in what is considered by some to be the strongest Arc field in history.

One of the things that makes Dancing Brave such a fantastic winner was the company he competed, and won, against.

He left rivals such as Bering, Shahrastani, Tripytich, Shardari, Green Desert, Arcehnango and Darara behind in his wake.

In all, he won eight times in 10 starts.

Nijinsky

The last horse to win the English Triple Crown, which he did in 1970, Nijinsky remains the most versatile flat horse for the past half a century.

The Triple Crown, for those that don’t know, takes in the 2,000 Guineas, which is run over a distance of a mile, the Derby, one and a half miles, and the St Leger which goes off over 1 and ¾ miles.

Such versatility is further evidenced when you consider that he spent his juvenile career as a sprinter, winning over distances of six furlongs.

Back to 1970, a year in which on top of his historical achievement, he also landed the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot as well as the Irish Derby, the Dewhurst, with Lester Piggott on board.

In all, he raced 13 times, winning eleven of them and finishing second on the other two occasions, his final two appearances.

This son of Northern Dancer line was arguably the greatest horse of the last 100 years.

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