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Famous racehorses

Updated on November 23, 2011


MAN O’WAR by Mahubah — Fair Play. Foaled 1917. For many, the greatest racehorse to race on the American Turf was Man O'War.

This incredible steed lost only one of his 21 races and that was by only half a length. A fine-looking chestnut with a strong character, Big Red, as the American racegoers called him, was born in 1917 and bought for $5000.

He was owned and raced by Samuel D. Riddle. In a 30-year career he earned more than one million dollars from prize money, stud fees and the sales of his foals.

Among his off-spring were American Flag and Crusader, Belmont Stakes winners, and the brave little Battleship that won the English Grand National in 1938. Man O’War died of a heart attack in 1947.

Man O'War, who broke seven American or World track records as a three-year-old, brought the American thoroughbred to the front rank of international racing, His blood is in the pedigrees of such great European winners as Never Say Die, Relko and Sir Ivor besides home-base champions Buckpasser and Arts and Letters.

Man o' War exercising at Saratoga, Clarence Kummer on board.
Man o' War exercising at Saratoga, Clarence Kummer on board.


Nearly 90 per cent of all thoroughbred horses are descended froma seventeenth century stallion named Eclipse


BOLD RULER by Nasrullah – Miss Disco. Foaled 1954, The 1957 winner, Bold Ruler, was voted Horse of the Year at three, and after winning 23 races from 33 starts, went on to prove himself a great stallion.

The American classic programmes preoccupation with speed certainly served its purpose through Bold Ruler, for he became one of the world's greatest sires of speedy horses. He was top of the list of winning sires from 1963 to 1970.


RIBOT by Tenerani — Romanella. Foaled 1952. Ribot was unbeaten in 16 races. He won the Prix de 'Arc de Triomphe' twice, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, the Premio del jockey Club and Gran Premio di Milano.

Ribot later became known as the most famous sire of his time, his progeny including Ragusa, winner of the Irish Sweeps, Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes; Prince Royal, winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe; Tom Rolfe (Preak- ness, 1965) Arts and Letters (1969, Belmont); Ribero and Ribocco, who won the St. Leger and Irish Sweeps Derby.


VAGUELY NOBLE by Vienna — Noble Lassie. Foaled 1965. Bred by the late Major Lionel Holliday. He showed considerable promise as a juvenile winning the Sandwich Stakes at Ascot by 12 lengths and the Observer Gold Cup at Doncaster from a good—class field by an easy seven lengths.

The colt was not entered for any of the 1968 British classics and to help pay for his father’s death duties, Mr. Brook Holliday put the two-year-old up for sale at Tattersalls December Sales, The colt fetched 136,000 guineas, a record then for a horse in training, and was bought by American bloodstock agent Al Yank on behalf of Dr. Robert Franklyn, a surgeon from California.

Dr. Franklyn later sold a half—share to the under-bidder at the sale, Mr. Nelson Bunker Hunt, the Texas oil millionaire. The horse was transferred to Etienne Pollet’s stable at Chantilly, France, with the object of winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He won his preliminary outing, the Prix du Lys at Chantilly and also at Longchamp. Bill Williamson, who had ridden the colt as a two-year-old, was asked to ride him in the 'Arc’.

Vaguely Noble drew right away in the Longchamp straight to beat English Derby winner Sir Ivor by three lengths and take the 1968 Arc de Triomphe. That was the last time he raced in public and he was syndicated for a then world-record price of 5,000,000 dollars to stand at the Gainesway Farm, Lexington, Kentucky. Since then he proved an outstanding stallion with most of his sons and daughters coming back to race in Europe. Among his progeny is Dahlia.


BRIGADIER GERARD by Queen's Hussar — La Paiva. Foaled March, 1968. Bred by his owners, John and jean Hislop, who own the East Woodhay House Stud. Trained by Dick Hem at West Ilsley,

Berkshire, and ridden throughout his career by Joe Mercer. This talented colt won 17 of his 18 races and was the only British classic winner of the present century to have been unbeaten in I0 or more starts in his first two seasons. The Brigadier, as he was affectionately known, won a grand total of £253,024 in prize money before retiring to stand at the Egerton Stud where he was born. The Brigadier won all four of his races in 1970 as a juvenile including the Middle Park Stakes, Newmarket.

Without the benefit of a previous outing he convincingly beat Mill Reef for the 1971 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the only occasion these two great contemporaries raced against each other. He then went on to win four valuable mile events, including the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, before ending his three-year-old career with a short-head victory over the Irish colt Rarity in the Champion Stakesin really heavy going. The following season Brigadier Gerard won the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and Prince of Wales Stakes, Ascot and the Eclipse Stakes.

It was then decided to race him for the first time over a mile and a half, a distance suggested beyond him because of his pedigree, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot. The gamble paid off and The Brigadier was now unbeaten in 15 starts. The Brigadier ended his great racing winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and with a second victory in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.


NIJINSKY by Northern Dancer - Flaming Page. Foaled 1967 at the stud Canadian millionaire Mr. Eddie or in Ontario. Purchased by the Charles Engelhard for 84,000 dollars and trained by Vincent O’Brien

at Ballydoyle, County Tipperary, Ireland. One of the top horses of this century this colt became in 1970 the first British Triple Crovm winner since Bahram. Nijinsky won four races as a two-year-old in Ireland before coming toBritain to run in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket when he was ridden by Lester Piggott, who was to be associated with most of his later triumphs.

Nijinsky poses close to his paddock after retiring
Nijinsky poses close to his paddock after retiring

The following year he won the Gladness Stakes and went on to justify hot favouritism in the first of the British classics, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. This high class, but temperamental colt went on to win the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby at The Curragh. A superb performance landed him the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot where he beat the previous Derby winner Blakeney by an effortless two lengths.

After this race Mr. Charles Engelhard sold his magnificent colt to an American syndicate for 5,440,000 dollars and it was decided that he would go to Bull Hancock’s Claiborne Farm, Kentucky, as a stallion at the end of the season.

During August, 1970, Nijinsky contracted an attack of the skin disease, ringworm, but recovered in time to win his third classic, the St. Leger. He suffered the first defeat of his career when in a sensational finish he was beaten by French Derby winner Sassafras in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.


MILL REEF by Never Bend - Milan Mill. Foaled 1968. Bred at Mr.Paul Mellon's Rokeby Farm, Virginia, and trained by Ian Balding. This colt became one of the most popular performers in British racing.

Ridden by Geoff Lewis he won his first five races as a juvenile before being short-headed by My Swallow in the Prix Robert Papin. Early in his three-year-old career he was beaten three lengths by Brigadier Gerard in the first classic of the season, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

But this grand colt, who at the height of his career only stood 15 hands three inches tall, never looked back that season and indeed was never beaten again. He went on to triumph in the

Epsom Derby, the valuable Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot before ending the season with an impressive victory over Pistol Packer in the Prix de 1’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

The following year, 1972, started out well again for this perfectly proportioned bay with victories in the Prix Ganay and the Coronation Cup at the Epsom Derby meeting. He was now being trained with a second ’Arc' attempt in mind when disaster struck.

In August, while exercising on the downs above Kingsclere, he fractured his near foreleg and his racing career had come to a dramatic end. He had won 12 of his 14 races and a total of £314,210 in prize money.

Man O' War video


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      atraxus 4 years ago

      Initially I was impressed with Rickrideshorses' website until I went through his list of so called Famous Horses and found no mention of one of the greatest racehorses of all time, Sea Bird II. This titan of the turf is universally accepted as one the all time great thoroughbred racehorses and none other than Timeform has rated Sea Bird their top European horse of the 20th century. Sorry, Rickrideshorses, you have gone down considerably in my estimation and, I suspect, in the estimation of many, many knowledgeable racing enthusiasts.

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      Rickrideshorses 5 years ago from England

      I hadn't heard of John Henry. Do you want to give a few more details about who he is and when he rode?

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      John henry 5 years ago

      What are ur thoughts if the likes of a john henry ran today?