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The 7 Most Famous Horses in UK Horse Racing History

ASCOT - England - The 7 most famous horses in UK horse racing history made an indelible impact on the sport lasting forever.

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world. It is still massively popular, particularly with punters and racegoers who look forward to big meetings such as the Ebor Festival, the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot.

The attention that the Grand National pulls in even among the most casual of punters continues to showcase one of the biggest sports events of the calendar. Land at an online betting site, and you will see a dedicated racing section, insights, weekly horse racing tips, live streams and more.

The popularity of racing has led to jockeys and trainers becoming household names, as have some of the stars of the show themselves — the horses. Here, we have a look at some of the superstars of racing that have graced the UK racing scene.

Red Rum

Arguably the most famous horse of all time, the Irish champion thoroughbred became famed for his exploits in the Grand National. Trained by Ginger McCain, Red Rum became the first horse ever to win the Aintree feature three times.

The spectacular 1973 Grand National, his first, remains one of the highlights of British racing history. He was 30 lengths back, but still delivered the win by three-quarters of a length from Crisp, setting a new record in the process.

After winning again in 1974, it wasn’t until he was a 12-year-old in 1977 that Red Rum claimed his third Grand National title. The winning distance was a staggering 25 lengths. In more than 100 races during his career, Red Rum never fell.


One of the most famous horses of all, Shergar’s racing career only spanned two seasons. It was as a three-year-old in 1981 that he stormed onto the scene, sweeping all before him.

Shergar racked up the likes of the Chester Vase, the Epsom Derby, the Irish Sweeps Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in a stunning season. He was put to stud in Ireland in October 1981 and was a national hero.

The story of Shergar took a strange turn, as in February 1983, he was stolen from Ballymany Stud. His remains have never been recovered.


The great Irish thoroughbred gelding Arkle was dominant through the early 1960s. He was a stellar horse, winning three Cheltenham Gold Cups, and no other steeplechaser has ever achieved a higher rating than Arkle.

The list of honours that he took under the guidance of trainer Tom Dreaper was astonishing, including the likes of the King George VI Chase, the Irish Grand National, The Hennessy Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup.

When he landed the 1966 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Arkle was the shortest-priced ever winner of the Blue Riband race, at 1/10 odds-on.


The Canadian-bred and Irish-trained Nijinsky is a popular name from the history of UK racing. The son of the great Northern Dancer, the versatile Nijinsky’s biggest claim to fame was landing the Triple Crown in 1969.

At the time, Nijinsky became the first horse to do so in more than three decades, and no horse has done it since. The staggering thing about Nijinsky’s brilliant career was that he delivered the goods in everything from six-furlong sprints to 14-furlong mid-distance races.

Desert Orchid

The famous great grey Desert Orchid was a real crowd pleaser. He was a prolific chaser in his day and loved a spin around Cheltenham and Kempton. Dessie was popular, not only because of his striking appearance but because he was always game.

He loved to attack, and racked up major titles in his career, including the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Desert Orchid was a four-time winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton and landed the Irish Grand National, among other huge successes.


Digging right back to the 18th century, you will find the brilliant record of the British thoroughbred Eclipse. Just to put this time frame into context, he was strutting his stuff before the classics of horse racing were introduced.

Granted, it’s hard to put his brilliant winning career into context because of the races not being around any longer, but Eclipse was highly influential and has had races around the world named after him.


A sparkling, unbelievable miler, Frankel was in a class of his own. He dominated the category for three straight seasons, racking up 10 Group 1 victories. But he proved that he wasn’t just a one-trick pony.

Later in his career, Frankel, who was foaled in 2008, also took the Champion Stakes and the International Stakes at a couple of furlongs more than a mile. If you narrow things down to just the modern era of British and Irish racing, Frankel is arguably top of the list.

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