The Ten Most Famous Racehorses In The History Of Horse Racing

August 15, 2022

Horse racing has been a show that has gained popularity over the years, and here you will meet the ten most famous racehorses in the history of horse racing. These horses have been known for their brave exploits in the race department, making horse race lovers and bettors speak highly of them.

We will briefly discuss these extraordinary horses, from Phar Lap to the War Admiral, but before we move forward, you might want to check this horse betting calculator for your next horse race bet. With that said, we present the most famous racehorses in history.

  1. Phar Lap

Phar Lap was a New Zealand-born, Australian-bred Thoroughbred horse. They called him the “Big Red” to allude to his powerful physical qualities: endurance, strength, great height, and speed. All this added to his chestnut fur.

In his beginnings, he was underestimated by the public after he finished last in his first race and failed to qualify in the three following competitions. But his performance improved considerably, and he became one of the favorites.

His importance was such that he faced assassination attempts by people involved in gambling. But the end of his story came on April 5, 1932, when he had a strange death while participating in the American continent competitions.

Today, his remains rest scattered as exhibits in three of the most important museums in Australia and New Zealand.

  1. John Henry

John Henry is a thoroughbred who marked an era with his notable achievements in the eighties.

He was pronounced Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1985 and was also proclaimed Major Champion in the United States five times.

John Henry stood out for an impressive total of 39 wins of the 83 he played. He is one of three horses to win the Santa Anita Race in a row, earning $6,591,860 in bounty and winning 7 Eclipse Horse of the Year awards.

His retirement came on June 21, 1985, caused by a fortuitous injury to one of his tendons that prevented him from continuing to compete in horse racing.

  1. Barbarian

Barbaro is a thoroughbred who has been one of the biggest sensations on American racetracks in the early 2000s. His value was $25 million.

After winning the Kentucky Derby title in 2006, Bárbaro was brought on to compete in the Preakness Stakes to add to his record.

However, he suffered a serious fracture in his right leg that prevented him from participating in the race. Later, he underwent several operations to avoid being sacrificed, but the interventions were unsuccessful.

  1. Secretariat

In his early days, Secretariat won seven of the nine races he competed in and was nominated Horse of the Year and inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

He was proclaimed the winner of the Triple Crown of the United States in 1973, a historical fact since he established a record 25 years after the last time such a feat was performed. He broke records at Belmont, having triumphed in six of the nine tests in which he participated. He later retired to become a stud.

As a curious fact, Secretariat had a heart twice the size of any normal horse. He was also voted one of America’s Greatest Athletes, ranking 35th on the list.

  1. Smarty Jones

In 2004, Smarty Jones became the unbeaten winner of the Kentucky Derby. In his entire career, he had eight wins in 9 competitions and raised 7.5 million dollars, being one of the favorite specimens of horse racing.

  1. Frankel

Frankel is a thoroughbred who has won every race he entered. This specimen reached a fantastic speed of 64 km/h and was one of the most expensive horses in the world, with a value of 130 million euros. He retired undefeated in 2012.

  1. Ruffian

The Ruffian mare won 10 races and was awarded the Triple Tiara. However, her story ended tragically in 1975, when she competed with great anticipation against the men’s champion Foolish Pleasure.

In that race, she was leading when she fell and was seriously injured—causing her death. It led to a general outcry from the public, calling for better conditions for racing animals.

  1. War Admiral

War Admiral, son of the legendary Man O’ War, was named Horse of the Year in 1937 after establishing himself as the fourth winner in Triple Crown history. This Thoroughbred from the United States obtained 20 victories in the 26 competitions he fought.

  1. Man O’ War

The Man O’ War Thoroughbred is one of the best-known racehorses in the world and is considered the greatest horse of the 20th century. After World War I, this example won 20 of 21 races between 1919 and 1920.

  1. Seabiscuit

The heroic Seabiscuit is a horse that became a symbol of hope for the American people during the Great American Depression.

Due to his spirit of improvement, this Thoroughbred, despite starting his career in an uncertain and unpromising way, became a great champion, honoring the legacy of his grandfather Man O’ War.

In 1938 he was named Horse of the Year after winning the so-called “Race of the Century,” in which he faced War Admiral, defeating him in the final stretch with a difference of four lengths.

After sustaining a serious injury (as did his jockey, Red Pollard), Seabiscuit returned to racing on the tracks, reclaiming his place as champion.


Many racehorses in history are famous for some reasons, but we can’t list all of them. The horses we mentioned in this brief content are the most famous for their great exploits. Did we miss any of the celebrated horses? We will be glad to hear from you.  

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