From steeplechasers to flat racers, the Irish have bred, raced, and owned some of the greatest horses in the sport of racing. We look at the ten greatest Irish racehorses of all time.
Horse racing has a long history on the island of Ireland. Ingrained in the culture, it ranks among the most popular spectator sports in the country. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Ireland has a great history of breeding and producing some of the best racehorses in history.
With the Cheltenham Festival underway and the flagship race of the sport’s jump season, The Aintree Grand National, just around the corner, we look back at the ten best Irish racehorses of all time.
10. Tiger Roll – a back-to-back Grand National winner
Number ten on our list is Tiger Roll, who was bred in Ireland by Gerry O’Brien. He is an Irish thoroughbred racehorse who competes in National Hunt racing.
His crowning achievement was winning back-to-back Grand National steeplechases at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England, in 2018 and 2019. He is trained by Gordon Elliott and is known for his strong jumping ability and tenacity on the racecourse.
9. Synchronised – the star of the 2011-12 season
Synchronised became hugely popular after his performances in the 2011-12 National Hunt season as he partnered with the legendary jockey Sir A.P. McCoy.
He won the Lexus Chase that season before registering the biggest victory of his career by winning the most prestigious steeplechase in Britain – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Jonjo O’Neill trained him and he was owned by the Irish businessman J.P. McManus.
8. Hurricane Fly – won the Irish Champion Hurdle 22 times
The horse they nicknamed ‘The Fly’ was an Irish-trained, thoroughbred racehorse active between 2005 and 2018.
He was best known for winning the Irish Champion Hurdle a record-breaking 22 times and was one of the top hurdlers of his generation. Hurricane Fly won 26 of his 68 starts, including 17 Grade 1 races.
7. Sea The Stars – one of the greatest Irish racehorses ever
The Irish thoroughbred racehorse Sea The Stars, which was foaled in 2006, is cited by many as one of the greatest racehorses ever.
Amongst his many achievements, he is most well known for winning the Derby, the 2000 Guineas, and the Eclipse Stakes in his three-year-old season. Sea The Stars also won the Irish Champion Stakes, the International Stakes, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
6. Zarkava – unbeaten across seven years
Although Zarkava was born in Ireland in 2005, she did not attain her accomplishments until she swapped the Emerald Isle for France. Zakava soon became one of the most outstanding horses to ever participate in French flat racing. During her seven-year career, she was unbeaten.
5. Kauto Star – French-bred, Irish-trained
Kauto Star was a French-bred, Irish-trained thoroughbred racehorse active between 2000 and 2012. He was best known for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup five times and was the first horse to do so.
Kauto Star was considered one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time and had an impressive record of 20 wins from 43 starts.
4. Yeats – four Ascot Gold Cups in a row
Yeats was an Irish-bred, Irish-trained thoroughbred who was active between 2002 and 2014.
He was best known for winning the Ascot Gold Cup four times in a row, a feat only previously achieved by three other horses. Yeats was a stayer, excelling at races over longer distances, and had an impressive record of eight wins from 25 starts.
3. Shergar – kidnapped in 1983
Shergar’s status as an Irish racing legend was forged not just by his success on the track but by the events which followed his retirement.
As a racehorse, he won both the Irish Derby and Epsom Derby. However, Shergar would later be kidnapped from his stud farm and held for ransom. It is believed that his kidnappers (speculated to be members of the IRA) killed him shortly after his disappearance.
2. Red Rum – a Grand National hat-trick
Red Rum is a legendary racehorse best known for his victories in the Grand National at Aintree. On 3 May 1965, Red Rum was born in Kilkenny and went on to become the greatest Grand National winner ever with an incredible hat-trick of successes. His wins came in 1973, 1974, and 1977.
1. Arkle – one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time
Number 1 on our list and undoubtedly the greatest Irish racehorse of all time is the late, great Arkle. He is also widely considered one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time.
Trained by Tom Dreaper and ridden by Pat Taaffe, he won three Cheltenham Gold Cups and two Hennessy Gold Cups in the 1960s. He was owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster.
In conclusion, Ireland has produced some of the world’s most exceptional racehorses, with a legacy that continues today. From the legendary Tiger Roll to the mysterious case of Shergar, these horses have captured the hearts of racing fans worldwide and left an indelible mark on the sport.
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