Arkle

Arkle  If, like your correspondent, you were born too late to see Arkle in the flesh, it’s hard to grasp just how famous he was in his heyday. His extraordinary race record – he won 22 of his 26 steeplechases, against the best horses of his day – speaks for itself, but he had an aura about him, which transcended the world of horse racing and made him an icon of popular culture.

 

In fact, in 1966, Arkle was voted the most popular personality of the year, ahead of Bobby Moore and The Beatles, in a poll conducted by TV Times magazine. Notwithstanding his questionable Timeform rating of 212, which is 19lb superior to any other steeplechaser, bar his stable companion, Flybolt, since the mid-1960s, even today, the mere mention of his name inspires awe and admiration.

 

Bred by Mary Baker in Co. Meath, was sired by the classically bred, but moderate, Archive out of Bright Cherry, a top two-mile ‘chaser in Ireland. Bought as a three-year-old by local trainer Tom Dreaper on behalf of Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, the horse later revered simply as “Himself” made his racecourse debut in the Lough Ennel Plate at Mullingar, Co. Westmeath in December 1961.

 

Arkle won twice over hurdles in his novice season, including on his debut over the smaller obstacles at Navan in January, but between the start of the 1962/63 season and the end of his career, in December 1966, won 25 of his 29 races and over £95,000 in prize money. Ridden exclusively by Pat Taafe during that period, his notable victories included the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Irish Grand National in 1964, the Hennessy Gold Cup in 1964 and 1965, the Whitbread Gold Cup and the King George VI in 1965. His four defeats included his final start, in the King George VI Chase in 1966, in which he fractured his coffin, or pedal, bone, but still finished second.

Frankel

Frankel  You may or may not agree with the so-called “historical recalibration” of the World Thoroughbred Rankings, which downgraded Dancing Brave, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1986, by 3lb, to leave Frankel, officially, the best horse since international ranking began in 1977. However, on his retirement to stud following his fourteenth consecutive victory, in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, 2012, Frankel had won 10 Group 1 races between 7 furlongs and 1 mile 2½ furlongs and just £1,698 short of £3 million in prize money, so there is no doubt he was a extraordinary racehorse.

 

Bred by Juddmonte Farms and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel started favourite for all 14 starts and was sent off at odds-against just once, on his debut in a maiden race, over a mile, at Newmarket in August, 2010. Having readily beaten subsequent King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Nathaniel by half a length on that occasion, he won his next two starts by 13 lengths and 10 lengths, respectively.

 

Frankel recorded his first Group 1 win – a comfortable, 2¼-length victory over subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Roderic O’Connor – in the Dewhurst Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at Newmarket in October, 2010. His unblemished juvenile season led to him being named Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt. It was a similar story in 2011, too, when further Group 1 victories in the 2,000 Guineas, the St. James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes made him Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt and Cartier Horse of the Year.

 

In 2012, Frankel was untroubled to win all five starts – all in Group 1 company and all at long odds-on – which made him Cartier Champion Older Horse and Cartier Horse of the Year for the second year running. He became the most decorated horse since the Cartier Awards began in 1991.

Seattle Slew

Seattle Slew  Seattle Slew was voted American Horse of the Year in 1977, the year in which he became the tenth of thirteen horses to win the American Triple Crown. In fact, Until Justify, in 2018, Seattle Slew was the only undefeated American Triple Crown winner in history.

 

Seattle Slew was bred by Ben S. Castleman Sr., owned by Mickey and Karen Taylor and Jim and Sally Hill – who became known, collectively, as the “Slew Crew” – and trained, initially, by William H. “Billy” Turner Jr. He won all three starts as a juvenile, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, by 9¾ lengths, and was named American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse in 1976.

 

He also won the first three starts of his three-year-old campaign and, undefeated in six starts, was sent off 1/2 favourite for the Kentucky Derby. Ridden by Jean Cruguet, Seattle Slew pulled away at the top of the home straight, eventually beating Run Dusty Run by 1¾ lengths. He subsequently started 2/5 favourite for the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, beating Iron Constitution by 1½ lengths in the former and Run Dusty Run by 4 lengths in the latter, to take his career record to nine wins from nine starts.

 

Later that season, Seattle Slew was shipped, somewhat controversially, to California, with connections lured by the increased prize money, of over $300,000, offered for the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park Racetrack. Having been unable to dominate and boxed in for most of the way, Seattle Slew couldn’t land a blow behind the winner, J.O. Tobin, and eventually finished fourth, beaten 16 lengths. Subsequent recriminations led to the sacking of Turner and his replacement with Douglas R. Peterson.

 

As a four-year-old, in 1978, Seattle Slew was beaten, at odds of 1/5, in the Paterson Handicap at Meadowlands Racetrack, after which Jean Cruguet lost the ride. However, under new jockey, Angel Cordero Jr., he beat Triple Crown winner Affirmed by 3 lengths in the Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park, in a time just 0.40 seconds outside the world record set by Secretariat in the same race five years earlier. At the end of his career, Seattle Slew had won 14 of his 17 races and over $1.2 million in prize money.