The horse racing sport has seen its fair share of thrilling and unforgettable events throughout its history. Most of these races have taken place in the most prestigious venues, have the best horses and jockeys, and have even garnered the most prestigious awards. Like the 2023 Pegasus contenders, the horses and jockeys in these races had a considerable following.
In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the greatest horse races worth knowing about.
Arkle (Pat Taaffe) Against Mill House (Willie Robinson) in the Cheltenham Gold Cup
On March 7, 1964, the Cheltenham Gold Cup hosted one of the most legendary races in horse racing history. This race drew a lot of attention, resulting in its commemoration with a song – the famous ballad “Arkle ” – created by Irish musician Dominic Benham.
Jockey Pat Taaffe, his horse Arkle, Willie Robinson, and his steed Mill House were considered unbeatable. Robinson had won the previous year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup while Pat competed for England, which made the confrontation between them even more dramatic.
The two raced side by side for a good part of the race, but a strong attack from Pat Taaffe towards the end put Arkle in the lead. After this impressive victory, Arkle would eventually become one of the most important horses in the history of this sport, winning more than 30 races in different disciplines, including two more consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups.
Frankie Dettori (Several Horses) and “The Magnificent Seven”
Winning just one race in a day as a jockey is no easy feat. And winning seven seems like an almost impossible task. But the Italian jockey Frankie Dettori achieved this during the Ascot series in 1996.
He achieved this unprecedented number of victories accompanied by seven different horses – Wall Street, Diffident, Mark of Esteem, Decorated Hero, Fatefully, Lochangel, and Fujiyama Crest. During this race, he faced several renowned opponents, such as Henry Cecil and Ray Cochrane.
The historic nature of this event is not only attributed to the jockey and his horse but also likened to the story of John “Bet a Million” Gates, a famous horse racing bettor. After this impressive sequence of unexpected victories, the story of punter Darren Yeats became almost as renowned as the previous one, and he became one of the legends among horse racing fans. Yeats correctly picked all seven of Dettori’s winning horses, claiming a staggering £550,000 for a single £59 stake.
Although John often played high-stakes poker and baccarat and was among the most famous individuals in the horse racing world, Darren’s lucky win made him another unforgettable legend in this sport.
Brian Fletcher (Red Rum) versus Richard Pitman (Crisp) at The Grand National
The Grand National, held at Aintree since 1839, is one of the most important horse racing events worldwide and in the UK. It is one of the most lucrative events in the multi-million sport.
Currently, over 500 million people around the globe watch this race, and the event is even popular among those who don’t usually watch or bet on horse racing.
Like other courses in the sport, this race has a reputation for being one of the greatest tests of competitors’ lives, with most failing to complete the required two circuits. To get an idea of the race’s difficulty, in 1928, only two completed the course. And the maximum number of runners who managed to finish the race (23) was achieved in 1984.
Considering how challenging this race is, it is no surprise that Red Rum’s first victory (driven by jockey Brian Fletcher) in 1973 goes down in history as a momentous race. The steed managed to snatch the first position from Crisp in the last few seconds of the race when it reduced the enormous distance that separated it from its rival.
Red Rum would still win The Grand National twice more, making him one of the best horses ever seen on the tracks. He also rightfully earned a statue commemorating his achievements at Aintree.