It’s a contentious topic amongst racing enthusiasts. Which British horses rank among the true greats of the sport?
We’ve put together our list of British-bred racehorses who stand head and shoulder above their rivals based on a number of factors, ranging from their performances in the top tiers of thoroughbred racing, to their fighting character and number of races won.
Without further ado, here’s our pick from the most famous British racehorses of all time.
Frankel is easily the greatest British racehorse of the modern era. Not only was he unbeaten over three seasons of racing, but he won 10 Group 1 races in the process. Unquestionably the finest miler ever produced by Britain, he also showed staying prowess as he matured, winning the International Stakes and the Champion Stakes over 1 mile 2 furlongs. By the end of his career the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings had assigned Frankel their highest ever rating for a racehorse.
Every country with a passion for racing has produced at least one racehorse that was renowned for its strength, character, size and power. In the United Kingdom, it is Eclipse who wears this mantle. Despite being raced over 200 years ago, his power and speed were so formidable that he is remembered to this day. Unbeaten in 18 starts during the late 1700s, Eclipse was reportedly never tested to his fullest and won every race with ease. He went on to become sire some of the UK’s most talented thoroughbred bloodlines.
Ribot did not achieve renown in his native Britain during his career, spending the majority of his time competing in Italian racing. However, he is the most prolific unbeaten racehorse to emerge from the United Kingdom in the modern era, winning all 16 races he competed in. Despite doing most of his racing in Italy, Ribot was a genuine world beater, achieving victories in the UK’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes as well as two wins in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Desert Orchid is one of the most prolific winners in the history of National Hunt racing. During his career he won a host of the most prestigious races in the sport, and is one of the few racehorses in history to win the unlikely treble of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Irish Grand National and King George VI Chase. He is also the second most successful competitor in the history of the latter race, taking four titles in the King George VI Chase.
Brigadier Gerard was the undisputed star of British racing during the early 1970s, beaten just once in a career spanning 18 races and three seasons. Initially competing as a miler, Brigadier Gerard won several of the UK’s most prestigious mile events, including the 2,000 Guineas. He then took the step up to middle distance races to take a clutch of Group 1 wins over longer distances, including the Eclipse Stakes and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
As is the case with many great National Hunt racehorses, Badsworth Boy’s career was defined by his exploits in one high profile race. This was the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, which Badsworth Boy won three times from 1983 to 1985. In so doing he became the most successful racehorse in the history of that event, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he suffered from navicular diseases and arthritis throughout his life.
This nomination is likely to raise a few eyebrows down under, but one of the horses credited as an all time Australian great was, in fact, foaled in the United Kingdom. Sired by, Desert King, winner of the Irish Derby and Irish 2,000 Guineas, Makybe Diva was foaled in Somerset before being shipped to Australia as a 1-year-old. Her feats on Australian turf were prodigious, and included becoming the first and only horse to win the Melbourne Cup three times between 2003 and 2005.