People have raced horses since ancient times. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were part of the Greek Olympics by 648 BC. The sport has come on in leaps and bounds since those days, and the sport has enjoyed some incredible beasts who have written themselves into horse racing’s history books.
What makes a racehorse great? Being undefeated for long periods of time, career earnings, plus outstanding achievements and longevity are just three metrics. The following trio of horses is widely considered as the greatest of all time by the racing fraternity.
Secretariat was foaled in 1970 and lived until 1989, and enjoyed one of the most remarkable careers of any racehorse. He was almost untouchable between 1972 and 1974, winning 16 of his 21 races while finishing second three times and third once. There is no doubt Secretariat was the first name down when making horse racing bets for major races while he was active.
Known affectionately as Big Red, Secretariat was the ninth winner of the American Triple Crown. Amazingly, he set the fastest time record in all three races and still holds the record to this day. His record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes saw him romp home 31 lengths clear, another record Secretariat still has.
At the age of two, he finished fourth in his maiden race in 1972 but went on to win seven of his remaining eight starts, which included five victories in stakes races. A year later, Secretariat won the Triple Crown, setting time records in all three races.
Secretariat was syndicated at the beginning of his three-year-old year for a then-record $6.08 million, the equivalent of $35.4 million in today’s money. However, there was a condition that he be retired by the end of the year.
Man o’ War
Man o’ War is widely regarded as being one of the greatest thoroughbred horses to have ever taken to the track. During his 21 race career, Man o’ War won 20 of them and won $249,465. That does not sound like a remarkable sum of money, but you need to consider Man o’War was active shortly after World War I. His prize money is the equivalent of $3,223,000 today/
The stallion was foaled on March 29, 1917; Fair Play was his Sire and Mahubah the Dam. In 1919, Man o’ War won nine of his first ten races. The only defeat came at the Saratoga Race Course, where he lost by a neck to a colt named Upset.
Man o’ War got his revenge on Upset by beating him by 1 ½ lengths in the 1920 Preakness Stakes.
Owner Samuel D. Riddle planned to race Man o’ War in 1921 but opted not to because of the massive weight he would have been forced to carry in the handicap format employed in races for older horses. Instead, Riddle retired him to stud.
Man o’ War was a leading sire. Triple Crown-winning War Admiral was just one epic horse he sired, while he was the grandsire of the legendary Seabiscuit.
He died on November 1, 1947, aged 30.
Kelso was a champion thoroughbred gelding who defeated more champions and Hall of Fame horses than any other racehorse in history. Kelso, named after a town in Scotland that has a racetrack, has Man o’ War in his bloodline, which may go some way to explaining his incredible talent.
Kelso won an unprecedented five Horse of the Year titles thanks, in part, to winning eight of his nine races in 1960 and 11 consecutive races from late 1960 through to early 1961. Amazingly, Kelso won 62% of his starts and finished in the money 84% of the time from 63 races, which is nothing short of phenomenal.
He earned $1,977,896 in lifetime winnings, a record that stood for 14 years after his retirement. Being a gelding, Kelso could not retire to stud and became a hunter and a showjumper instead.
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