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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 09:44 GMT
Racing's firm favourites
The search for Britain and Ireland's all-time favourite racehorse is over.


Arkle has taken the accolade with 21.9% of the vote, leaving Desert Orchid (19.1%) and Red Rum (13.6%) to fill the places for a change.

A shortlist of 10, based on a poll of readers, was drawn up by the Racing Post newspaper, and fans were then asked to nominate their favourite.

We look at the top 10 in horse racing's popularity stakes.

1. Arkle
Legendary Irish chaser

Arkle's success in the 1960s - which has stood the test of time - led to him becoming a national institution in Ireland, where he was known as simply "Himself".

Tales abounded of the horse swigging Guinness twice a day and allowing noisy children to sit on him in perfect safety.

Arkle won 22 of his 26 races, including three consecutive Gold Cups, and his battles with Mill House in the mid-1960s became one of the most exciting ever racing rivalries.

Big-race wins: Gold Cup (three times), King George VI Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup, Whitbread Gold Cup, Irish National.

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Desert Orchid
2. Desert Orchid
Gutsy grey who made King George his own

Because greys are much less common in racing than horses of a darker hue, they have always been popular - and few have more fans than "Dessie".


Desert Orchid was a bold front-runner who always gave punters a run for their money - although his racecourse appearances these days are restricted to special parades, he is still sprightly and enthusiastic at the age of 25.

He is the only horse to have won the King George four times yet his win against all the odds in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup is the memory of him that many especially cherish.

Big-race wins: King George (four times), Cheltenham Gold Cup, Irish Grand National, Whitbread Gold Cup, Racing Post Chase, Victor Chandler Chase, Tingle Creek.

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Red Rum
3. Red Rum
Record-breaking Grand National hero

The Grand National is the most famous horse race in the world - and for many, Red Rum is the National.

Trained by Ginger McCain, Red Rum dominated the race in the 1970s, winning the Aintree marathon at the grand old age of 12 for a record third time in 1977.

But it was his first win in the race, when he came from 15 lengths adrift at the last to overhaul top-weight Crisp, that will go down as one of the most memorable races of all-time.

Big-race wins: Grand National (three times, plus twice runner-up), Scottish Grand National.

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4. Istabraq
Triple Champion Hurdle star

Arguably Ireland's biggest equine hero since Arkle, Istabraq won three Champion Hurdles - and would have been hot favourite for a fourth, but for foot-and-mouth disease causing the 2001 meeting to be abandoned.

Running in the green and gold hoops of JP McManus, Istabraq formed a remarkable partnership with jockey Charlie Swan, who rode him on all of his 29 races over jumps.

Istabraq was first spotted by John Durkan and was to have been his first charge as a trainer but Durkan was cruelly struck down by leukaemia and did not live to see the horse embark on his Champion Hurdle-winning streak.

Big-race wins: Champion Hurdle (three times), Irish Champion Hurdle (four times), Hatton's Grace Hurdle (twice).

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Brigadier Gerard
5. Brigadier Gerard
Group One champion

Colt was defeated just once in an 18-race career, and beat Mill Reef to win the 2,000 Guineas in 1971.

Ridden by Joe Mercer, and trained by Dick Hern, the horse won a series of Group One races.

The Brigadier Gerard Stakes still takes place at Sandown in his honour.

Big-race wins: St James' Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Goodwood Mile, King George VI Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Champion Stakes, Prince of Wales' Stakes, Eclipse Stakes.

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One Man
6. One Man
Gallant grey

A pleasure to watch, One Man built up a big following after a resounding victory in the 1994 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup.

He went on to win the King George VI Chase twice, and overcame a supposed Cheltenham hoodoo by bouncing back from two Gold Cup flops to claim the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

He died just weeks after that Festival win, when falling at Aintree.

Big-race wins: Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, King George VI Chase, Queen Mother Champion Chase

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Persian Punch
7. Persian Punch
Front-running veteran

At 11, Persian Punch is a Methuselah figure in Flat racing, which is dominated by horses aged two and three.

He has delighted racegoers with his brave front-running style and his refusal to be beaten in a tight finish.

He has already won 21 races and few would bet against that number increasing in the season to come.

Big-race wins: Goodwood Cup (twice), Doncaster Cup, Jockey Club Cup (twice), Prix Kegorlay

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Dancing Brave
8. Dancing Brave
Dashing Arc hero

Jockey Greville Starkey was slated when favourite Dancing Brave could only manage a fast-finishing second behind Shahrastani in the 1986 Epsom Derby.

But the horse showed his true colours when reversing the form in the King George at Ascot, and scoring a gracefully easy victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Big-race wins: 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI Stakes, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

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Sea Pigeon
9. Sea Pigeon
Admirable all-rounder

Boasted the rare ability to excel on the Flat and over jumps.

Trained by Peter Easterby, he progressed to hurdles following big handicap wins at York and Chester.

His Cheltenham duels with Monksfield are part of racing folklore, and Sea Pigeon was twice runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, before winning the race in 1980 and 1981.

Big-race wins: Ebor Handicap, Chester Cup (twice), Champion Hurdle (twice).

10. Nijinsky
Triple Crown winner

Nijinsky was famed for being the first horse in 35 years to land the English Triple Crown.

The Vincent O'Brien horse claimed the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger in 1970.

Even in retirement, he continued in winning form with a successful stud career producing three more Derby winners.

Big-race wins: 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, St Leger

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Mate misses out in poll
29 Jan 04  |  Horse Racing
Racing's all-time favourite
14 Feb 03  |  Horse Racing

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