Dancing Brave

Dancing Brave Until early 2013, Dancing Brave was the highest rated horse in the history of World Thoroughbred Rankings, which were first published in 1977. At that stage, his rating was downgraded from 141 to 138, as the result of a highly controversial ‘historical recalibration’, leaving Frankel, with a rating of 140, as the ‘new benchmark of equine excellence’. Nevertheless, having suffered defeat just twice in his ten-race career – in the Derby at Epsom, when given too much to do, and in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, when badly dehydrated – Dancing Brave was, unquestionably, one of the finest racehorses in living memory.

Owned, like Frankel, by Khalid Abdullah and trained by Guy Harwood, Dancing Brave won both starts as a juvenile, in 1985, in convincing style and went into winter quarters as favourite for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket the following May. Indeed, immediately after his debut win in the Dorking Stakes at Sandown, stable jockey Greville Starkey declared – fatefully, as it turned out – that he would ride Dancing Brave in the Derby.

That he did, having already partnered the Lyphard colt to emphatic victories in the Craven Stakes and the 2,000 Guineas on the first two starts of his three-year-old campaign; nevertheless, his injudicious ride at Epsom was to dog Starkey for the rest of his career. Despite stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time, Dancing Brave was sent off 2/1 favourite for the Epsom Classic, but misjudged his waiting tactics and, while his mount made up ground hand-over-fist in the closing stages, failed by half a length to overhaul Dante Stakes winner Shahrastani.

Starkey retained the ride on Dancing Brave in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown the following month and resumed winning ways, easily beating by 4 lengths. However, in the

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot later in July – in which Dancing Brave took revenge on his erstwhile conqueror Shahrastani – Starkey was replaced by Pat Eddery. Indeed, Eddery kept the ride for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, in which Dancing Brave justified favouritism, swamping his rivals for pace in the closing stages to win by 1½ lengths. Dancing Brave was, justifiably, named European Horse of the Year for 1986.

Gun Runner

Gun Runner Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm and trained by Steven Asmussen, Gun Runner was a late-maturing type, who did not win his first Grade One race until the final start of his three-year-old campaign. However, the son of Candy Ride won five of his six starts as a four-year-old, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, and was named American Horse of the Year in 2017.

Gunner Runner raced just once as a five-year-old, but his convincing 2½-length victory over West Coast in the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park – the most valuable race in the world – earned him £5.19 million and made him the third highest-earning racehorse in history, behind only Arrogate and Winx. All told, Gun Runner won 11 of his 18 starts, including six at Grade One level, and retired from racing with total earnings of £12.2 million.

Gun Runner raced just twice as a juvenile, making an impressive winning debut in a maiden race at Churchill Downs in September, 2015 and finishing a close fourth in the Grade Two Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, on sloppy going, on the same course two months later. As a three-year-old, he won twice at Grade Two level and once at Grade Three level, but came up short in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita before his ‘breakthrough’ victory in the Grade One Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Following an impressive, 5¾-length win, at odds of 1/5, in the Grade Three Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on his four-year-old debut, Gun Runner proved no match for Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, but finished clear second and collected £1.63 million in prize money. Other notable performances that season included a 7-length win in the Grade One Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and a 10-length win in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga; the former came within a whisker of breaking the track record and the latter, achieved in a time of 1 minute 47.43 seconds, was the fastest recorded in a dozen renewals of the race at the New York venue.

 

Eclipse

Eclipse Remarkably, Eclipse, who died from colic at the age of 24 in 1789, features in the paternal line of 95% of modern thoroughbred racehorses including, albeit 19 generations later, Frankel. Like his illustrious descendant – who, in 2012, became the highest rated horse in the history of World Thoroughbred Rankings – Eclipse completely dominated his contemporaries and remained unbeaten throughout his career, which lasted 18 months and a total of 18 races. However, unlike Frankel – who topped the world rankings as a two, three and four-year-old – did not make his racecourse debut until he was five years old.

Bred by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Eclipse was acquired by Smithfield cattle salesman William Wildman at a dispersal sale following the death of the Duke, in 1765, and made his racecourse debut in the ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Plate’ at Epsom four years later. An effortless win in the first heat of that four-mile contest prompted Irish-born opportunist Denis O’Kelly to famously proclaim that the result of the second heat would be ‘Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere’. Eclipse did, as predicted, pass the post before any of his rivals had reached the distance marker and O’Kelly immediately parted with 650 guineas for a half-share in the horse.

Thereafter, Eclipse won a further seven races against the best horses of the day , without coming under even the slightest pressure, before O’Kelly bought him outright for 1,100 guineas and transferred him to his stables at Clay Hill, Epsom. Further success followed, with no fewer than eleven victories in versions of the ‘King’s Plate’, run as far afield as Canterbury, Lewes, Newmarket and Winchester. Indeed, Eclipse reportedly walked 1,000 miles or more between races during his career. By the end of his career, Eclipse had proved himself the best horse of his generation so convincingly that he regularly frightened off the opposition and ‘walked over’. In fact, the lack of viable competition hastened his retirement from racing. Notwithstanding his staggering influence on modern bloodstock, Eclipse is commemorated by the Group One Coral-Eclipse Stakes, which has been run annually, over a mile and a quarter, at Sandown Park since 1886.