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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 13:21 GMT
Your all-time favourite racehorses

This page is for discussion of your favourite racehorses. We appreciate all the comments you send and try to publish as many as possible.

Contributions appear largely unedited so your views are more likely to be chosen if they are well-written, interesting, original and concise.


I shared one writer's opinion from Grenada on Tied Cottage. It was touching to read his comments as Tied Cottage was also my personal favourite. He could so easily have won 2 Gold Cups but for his unfortunate fall at the last to Alverton as well as his unfortunate disqualification after failing a dope test. That race will never evade my memory as he won from start to finish by 8 lengths to avenge his fall the previous year. Seeing Anthony Robinson lift the trophy (he died just 3 months later) and Tommy Carberry being felicitated (equaled Pat Taffe's record of 4 wins) was one of Steeplechasing's most emotional touching moments, particularly for the Irish.

I saw the race from the stands. It is sad that the record books do not include him as the winner as the traces of theobromuine found in his urine sample were so minute that all racing experts concluded that it could never have affected his performance and the horse would certainly have won. It was one of the greatest performances ever witnessed in the Gold Cup, being a start to finish effort. Tommy Carberry rode like a genius.
Harsh Thakor, India

In my view the greatest flat racehorses in the British Isles in the last 100 years were Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Nijinsky, Dancing Brave and Shergar. Horses like Dubai Millenium, Hyperion, Bayardo, Sir Ivor Nashwan or Generous are just a notch below. My personal best in the middle distance was Mill Reef who simply annihilated some of the finest hoses being the only horse to win the Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes, King George and Arc. His 10 length Prix Ganay win at the age of 4 was an absolute classic. The Reef could win on soft and hard ground, which Dancing Brave, Brigadier Gerard or Nijinsky did not prove.

Dancing Brave had the greatest finishing speed as he proved in the 1986 Arc against the greatest field since Sea Bird. However he could not stay beyond a mile and a half. Shergar won like an Emperor but he hardly beat good opposition. Nijinsky has the best statistical record in terms of big races but did not have as good opponents as Mill Reef, who I personally vote the best post-war British Racehorse. The Brigadier has the greatest statistical record in terms of victories but did not beat the same class of opponents. In raw ability Hyperion comes closest to challenging the top 5. However his temperament could have acted against him (gave a smashing Derby performance).
Harsh Thakor, India

My top 3 in my time (in no order!) = Desert Orchid, Best Mate, See More Business.
Cath, North Wales

Sorry folks! there will never be a horse as good as Red Rum. Ive watched all the video stories of the greats and the watching what Red Rum achieved against the odds is spellbounding.

There has never been a horse to match his heart, personality and the will to keep going. That horse was almost human who knew what he had to do and didn't actually know when he was beat! The Red Rum story will leave you feeling choked but proud
Rob Smith, UK

Not disputing with anyone that Arkle was truly a great horse, in his time he was the best, in the time I've watched racing Desert Orchid is the tops for me, made the King George at Kempton his own, won the Gold Cup, the Whitbread and the Irish National as well as giving Panto Prince 22lbs and beat him over 2 miles.

A fantastic horse in my opinion the best of this generation, he was entered in the National and I'm sure the handicapper gave him 12st.2lb, had he have allotted him 11st 10lb like a lot of the top weights get nowadays the owners might have considered letting him take his chance.

Arkle without reservation is the greatest horse ever over the sticks
Robert Chadwick, USA
Would he have won who knows, but he was a great stayer and just dropping him in behind and saving him for the end of the race he would have gone close, but we'll never know .. A truly great horse all the same.
Baz, England

All these horses are favourites of people for different reasons but Arkle has to be the best steeplechaser this century. He had the highest Timeform rating, at 212, ever awarded to a steeplechaser.

To put this in context one of the more up to date heroes, Desert Orchid, was rated 187. This means that Arkle would have given him 1st 11lbs in a handicap. And what about Persian War who also carried big weights and won, including 3 Champion Hurdles and two seconds.
Gordon Phillips, Britain

Well, the racing public has decided on a horse who has been dead for 30 years as the all time favourite! It was a pretty close vote but it shows that quality will always rise to the top. Arkle was a legend in his time and remains one to this day.

Those who were lucky enough to have seen him were delighted at the time and remain in awe of just how good he was. Simply put, he was the closeset thing to a certainty ever to grace the racing circuits of England and Ireland.

I think that his record speaks far louder than any other horses achievements since his time, especially on the NH circuit. Tom Dreaper, Ann Duchess of Westminster or, Pat Taaffe, took on all comers anywhere so sure were they of Arkle's brilliance.

Were he running today, the handicapper would have to employ the same system they did back when he was alive.
Brendan Delany, Usa/Ireland

The poll was the favourite racehorse of all time. Arkle was brilliant, and Dessie touched the public imagination, but Red Rum was truly the most remarkable horse and story. Arkle and Dessie did not have to start out at two running in 5 furlong sprints.

Both Arkle and Dessie were well bred, and trained by top trainers with facilities to match. Red Rum was out of a lunatic mare, and trained from the back of a car showroom in Southport.

This horse saved a National tradition, and brought more people into National Hunt racing than ever before. How great was Red Rum? Well if Arkle or Dessie had been given the ultimate equine test, I have no doubt Red Rum would have shown both that Aintree was his kingdom. But for injury the day before the 1978 National, who is to say he would not have won a 4th National aged 13?
Paul Kent, UK

Red Rum was truly the most remarkable horse and story
Paul Kent, UK
We can't say who is the best horse ever, but we all know who our personal favourites are. For me, Crisp's perfomance in the 1973 Grand National makes him my favourite - he did what no other horse has done in making the fences look easy, only to bravely get caught on the line when trying to conced 23 pounds to Red Rum. Other favourites of mine include Jodami (the perfect physical specimen of a steeplechaser) and Desert Orchid.
Mike, Canada

TS: Arkle without reservation is the greatest horse ever over the sticks. It was because of him that weights had to be altered.
Robert Chadwick, USA

As with any of these polls it is difficult to compare from one era to another. Having been a racegoer for twenty years there are a couple of performances that live long in the memory. Carvill's Hill destroying the field in the Welsh National and in the process beating Cool Ground by the length of the straight at Chepstow is one such memory.

Lest we forget that Cool Ground would win the Gold Cup 3 months later when Carvill's was worried out of it. Make A Stand's season of 96/97 was extraordinary.

He kept turning out and kept winning against more and more difficult opposition. His Champion Hurdle win was a course record time and the speed that he had over the obstacles was like nothing I have ever seen before.

Sure enough I quite agree - I was not around to see Arkle, the one time I saw Dessie race in the flesh was unforgetable and Red Rum's Grand National performances speak volumes. I just have two special memory's of horses that are not spoken through the pocket but left an indelible mark.
Sam McEwen, England

Martin Pipe showed us how past master trainers were really just amateurs. Although they never raced, Flyingbolt was thought to be within a couple of lbs of Arkle; bit of a coincidence that they were both trained at the same time by Tom Dreaper.

Like Pipe horses, they were probably fit to run for their lives, whereas horses like poor old Mill House probably weren't quite as fit as they could have been. Similarly, Vincent O'Brien winning, Gold Cups, Grand Nationals and Champion Hurdles.

O'Brien was galloping his horses up a really steep hill at his brother's farm when the master trainers in England had theirs out for a stroll. For all this, the competition was a bit of fun but i would suggest, not to be taken too seriously.
Phil Woods, England

For me Red Rum has no equals. He was the consummate professional and as hard as nails.

To have competed in as many races as he did from the age of 2, finish 1st 3 times and 2nd twice in the Grand National (in the days when the course was more difficult) and live to the ripe old age of 30 - unbelievable!!
Vicki Morton, UK

I don't think that poor old Mill House gets the credit he deserves. Let's not forget that he gave Arkle weight and a beating in the 1963 Hennessy Gold Cup.

I would like to see Best Mate run in a handicap to see how good he really is
Sam McEwen, England

As with any of these polls it is difficult to compare from one era to another. Having been a racegoer for twenty years there are a couple of performances that live long in the memory. Carvill's Hill destroying the field in the Welsh National and in the process beating Cool Ground by the length of the straight at Chepstow is one such memory. Lest we forget that Cool Ground would win the Gold Cup 3 months later when Carvill's was worried out of it. Make A Stand's season of 96/97 was extraordinary. He kept turning out and kept winning against more and more difficult opposition. His Champion Hurdle win was a course record time and the speed that he had over the obstacles was like nothing I have ever seen before. Sure enough I quite agree - I was not around to see Arkle, the one time I saw Dessie race in the flesh was unforgetable and Red Rum's Grand National performances speak volumes. I just have two special memory's of horses that are not spoken through the pocket but left an indelible mark.
Sam McEwen, England

I do know that a poor jump on Arkle's part is offered as an excuse for his defeat but jumping is what this game is about and should not be used as an excuse when a horse is beaten - otherwise we might as well turn steeplechases into long distance flat races !

Arkle became the superior horse - no doubt about that - but I think it is a great shame that my old favourite Mill House gets overlooked when the great three-mile 'chasers are talked about.

I firmly believe that any horse who could give weight and beating to Arkle would have no trouble coping with the likes of Burrough Hill Lad, Desert Orchid and Best Mate !
Rick Brown, England

The beauty of history is, we will never know who was "The greatest".

The Real top class horses today don't run in handicap's. To me what makes a horse so great is weight carrying performances. Carvills Hill in the Welsh National, Dessie in the Whitbread, Arkle 12-7 or more.

So well done Fred, for putting this huge bonus up for the double or treble!!! I would like to see Best Mate run in a handicap to see how good he really is. We know he is top of the current crop by a long way (I believe) This would be the acid test.

This would add fire to the debate. To me Arkle winning the 1965 "Whitbread" giving Mill House 16lb and a distance beating was the best performance I have seen (but only on Video!!) and in smashing the course record by 17 seconds, which still stands today, say no more.

So come on Hen and team, give us a "Whitbread to truely savour.
Mark R, Smethwick, W. Mids, England

As with any of these polls it is difficult to compare from one era to another. Having been a racegoer for twenty years there are a couple of performances that live long in the memory.

Carvill's Hill destroying the field in the Welsh National and in the process beating Cool Ground by the length of the straight at Chepstow is one such memory. Lest we forget that Cool Ground would win the Gold Cup 3 months later when Carvill's was worried out of it. Make A Stand's season of 96/97 was extraordinary.

He kept turning out and kept winning against more and more difficult opposition. His Champion Hurdle win was a course record time and the speed that he had over the obstacles was like nothing I have ever seen before.

Sure enough I quite agree - I was not around to see Arkle, the one time I saw Dessie race in the flesh was unforgetable and Red Rum's Grand National performances speak volumes.

I just have two special memory's of horses that are not spoken through the pocket but left an indelible mark.
Sam McEwen, England

As pointed out previously favourite horse is totally different to best horse...one of my favs was a horse called Celtic Ryde who would have been very hard to beat in the Champion Hurdle, but was tragically killed at Chepstow when cruising. I can't remember the year. Also Night Nurse was a great horse as was Wayward Lad. The list can go on...
Paul, England

As outstanding as Best Mate is, you cannot compare him to the greats like Arkle. Best Mate has had no real competition to his throne - whereas Arkle beat the equally great Mill House. If you lined up Arkle, Mill House, L'Escargot, and Best Mate in a race - I bet any money that Best Mate would be last.
Polly, Bristol

My all-time favourite National Hunt horse would have to be Dessie because of the brave gutsy runs he has given but of recent years I have to say Persian Punch on the flat has to match his performance and never gives in.
Jane Mills, England

The nation's favourite or the best ever? There's quite a difference in the two categories
Phil Piper, England

All this hype about Arkle is annoying - I'll grant he was a great horse but the greatest ever??. He was a modern chaser - high cruising speed, quick jumper with a turn of foot - racing against the old fashioned - euphemism for no ability to quicken - types like Mill House.

Something with acceleration will always beat something that can't - ask David Bedford and Jim Clarke both great record-breaking athletes but who never won a top class championship race because they could not quicken when it mattered.

I cannot help thinking that today's jocks are much too tactically aware to allow the likes of Arkle to have the race run to suit him the way they did in the 60's and for this reason alone I think it is a far superior performance to win 3 Gold Cups in todays era. If Best Mate does it then I for one will definitely say he is superior to Arkle.
Don Constable, UK

Seeing as loads of people are saying it, my 3 top NH horses of all time are See More Business, Party Politics and Istabraq.
Jeremy Onslow, UK

When Mill House captured the Gold Cup at age six, I had to agree with the experts who said that this huge animal will win many gold cups.

Mill House with only one gold cup under his belt was regarded as equal if not better than all the great past Gold Cup winners. All Mill House had to do now was stay healthy he could only get better as he was only six.

The following year Mill House had the misfortune of clashing with seven year old Arkle. After finishing second in two gold cups to Arkle a decision was made by his owner and trainer not to race against Arkle again.

If Arkle had not been around Mill House would have won at least four gold cups. Who knows, we might be comparing Mill House with Best Mate today.
Frank Geraghty, New Jersey ,USA

The nation's favourite or the best ever? There's quite a difference in the two categories. For the nation's favourite horses such as Desert Orchid would have to be included, but that is mainly owing to his style of racing and the fact he is a grey.

Best Mate is undoubtedly popular and most racing enthusiasts want him to be the next Arkle and win many more Gold Cups. So do I

Red Rum must be considered too but I am always astonished how Crisp's run in the 73 National gets dismissed.

I have watched every Grand National since 1964 and I have never seen a horse destroy the fences like he did. That was his undoing, in fact. He jumped them so well he gained lengths at each one and ended up 30 lengths ahead. He was giving Red Rum 23lbs and got beaten by 1.5 lengths.

As for Arkle. He was winning Gold Cups when two other horses were considered great champions - Pas Seul and Mill House.

He had fan mail addressed to Arkle, Ireland stuck on his box door and the N.H. rules had to be changed, one handicap with Arkle, the other without. I think it will be a while before they do that for Best Mate!

Best ever: Arkle - by a country mile! Nations favourite: Much more personal but for me a tie -Arkle/Crisp
Phil Piper, England

Best Mate as good as Arkle? Case not proven, yet
Chris Hayward, Wales
Dawn Run the best ever? Do me a favour. She wouldn't have won either a Champion Hurdle or Gold Cup without her 5lb allowance. Very talented but not as good as most Gold Cup winners of the last 30 years.
Jamie Mckeown, England

My favourite horses of all time are four steeplechasers who gave us all some indelible moments, namely Captain Christy, Pendil, Tied cottage and Night Nurse.

Captain Cristy won the `74 Gold Cup but is probably best remembered for his extraordinary performance in the `75 King George at Kempton which he won by 30 lengths.

Pendil was also a dual King George winner who is probably the best chaser never to win the Gold Cup. Who could forget Night Nurse's epic battles with Monksfield and Silver Buck in the '70s and early '80s.

Finally, my personal favourite is Tied Cottage who epitomised the winter game. His career spanned ten years, and though the record books do not show him as a Gold Cup winner he could easily have won it three times.

He fell at the last in '79 when upsides Alverton, was unfortunately disqualified in '80, and he was a long way clear when he fell in '81. He also fell at Becher's Brook when well clear in the 1978 Grand National.
Mervyn Charter, Grenada

Best Mate as good as Arkle? Case not proven, yet. However lest we forget, Golden Miller won 5 Gold cups, was favourite when it was called off in year six and finished second at his seventh attempt.
Chris Hayward, Wales

He might not have been the best horse of his time, but my favourite as a kid was Andy Pandy. He won the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1977 and I'm convinced if he had stayed on his feet would have won the National that year. What a shame there is little information around about him.

He was ridden by John Burke and trained by Fred Rimmell and wore orange, green and white.

I also liked Sea Pigeon with his tremendous finishes. Anyone remember Lavermoss, who used to race off to a 20 length lead at the start but rarely won?
Glen Robinson, England

No need for the pithy comment Mr. Moore! If you read my E-mail properly, I said we should NOT always look to the past, and we must appreciate what a superb horse Best Mate is.

Also, I never said that Best Mate was better than Arkle, I mentioned that he has the potential to be up there with him as a racing legend when his career is over.

Glorified handicappers?! He has beaten good horses in Commanche Court, Harbour Pilot etc - plus Behrajan who is no longer with us. I do agree though that Mrs. Knight should begin to think about a couple of major handicap races for Mate.
Chris Kisby , UK

The best steeplechaser of the last 30 years has got to be Burrough Hill Lad
Ernest Stoddart, England
You cannot compare these great horses, they are legends of their time and there are arguments for and against every one of them. Even if they all raced side by side there would still be doubts that the best horse won. You cannot decide whether a hurdler is better than a chaser, a 2 miler is better than a 3 miler etc.

Best Mate is like a Ferrari and if I owned a Ferrari, I wouldn't take it out every day into a major city, therefore if I owned Best Mate I would only bring him out for the big chases, not risk him having a fall at Newton Abbott on a wet Wednesday and injuring himself.

Is it not possible just to remember all of these as the greats who entertained us by winning time and time again? There is no winner, they are all winners and we would do well to remember that.
Karen, England

Have to correct you on the Arkle record, he actually ran 35 times, winning I think on 29 occasions and finishing unplaced just the once.
TC, uk

Chris Kisby is Jimmy Tarbuck's nickname right? Best Mate better than Arkle? Won 2 Gold Cups (against a tribe of glorified handicappers), and 1 King George. Arkle ran every second day, against the best horses of his generation, and they'd have had to shoot him to beat him. Fair play to Venetia for wrapping her star in cotton wool and the big chases. I'm a huge Best Mate fan, but Arkle would have lifted him and carried him up the Cheltenham Hill.
Lawrence Moore, Ireland

Chris You cannot compare horses like Arkle and Best Mate, Best Mate is only running in carefully planned races he's the best around at present but not in Arkle's class I'm afraid.
Neil Rich, UK

The best steeplechaser of the last 30 years has got to be Burrough Hill Lad - injury prevented him winning 3 Gold Cups in a row. He was on the up when he won in 1984 and was a better horse the following 2 seasons when he missed the race.

However 3 Gold Cups is not what makes a horse great. His weight carrying performance in the 1984 Hennessy for me was his finest hour - beating horses that ran in Gold Cups with an awesome display of staying power. Arkle won 3 Gold Cups but it was his handicap performances against Mill House etc which established his place in history. Desert Orchid was a great horse and was probably only about 3lbs behind Burrough Hill Lad, but I believe over a stiff 3 miles round Sandown the Lad would have just come up trumps.

Dessie's greatest moments were when giving weight in handicaps eg the beating of Panto Prince. Best Mate must be at least 8lbs behind Dessie & will never get the chance to prove himself a great as he has been wrapped in cotton wool just at a time when we need to see our winter heroes more with the increasing publicity of all weather racing. We should be encouraging more racecourse appearances by our best at least so this debate can continue for the decades ahead.
Ernest Stoddart, England

If we are going for most popular it's got to be Desert Orchid. I am a bit fed up with 'Dessie knocking'.

Recent times seem to see nothing but commentators constantly banging on about Dessie's popularity being based purely on his colour and dismissing his incredible handicapping performances out of hand.

Isio and beating Azertyuiop? Not a bad performance from Azertyioup, but didn't he, a specialist two miler go down giving 19 pounds? As I recall Dessie, a stayer, won the Victor Chandler against the Mighty Panto Prince giving 22 pounds. You pick the better performance.

In conclusion I would say Dessie's style of running was simply awe0inspiring and as his part-owner Richard Burridge said after the '86 King George even if he had never run again, the memory of those jumps would have lived for ever!
Ruth Chamberlain, Scotland

Has everybody forgotten about Dawn Run? A winner of the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdles and the only horse ever to complete the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup double. Her achievements put Desert Orchid in the shade. On form alone though, Arkle stands head and shoulders above everything.
Ronnie, Ireland

Thank you to all those people who agree with me on the matter that Best Mate is Best Mate, a superb animal with the potential to be the best ever.

That is fact and my whole point was for us not to continuously look to the past, and to appreciate what a true champion Best Mate has become in modern times.

He will run in a handicap when he matures further, whether it is going to be the National or not we do not know, but it would be an amazing sight to see him win it.
Chris Kisby, UK

My favourite is Sea Pigeon. What a versatile horse - a dual Champion Hurdler as well as a high class handicapper on the flat.

His style of running was one of the attractions - he would be waited with and usually came with a final rapier-like sprint to steal the spoils, often with the handicap of top weight. Truly unique.
Guy Manly, England

Best Mate is a star, and instead of every one knocking his success they should be just be enjoying watching him in action.

A great should be able to jump which he does, he has got a high cruising speed and a turn of foot so just enjoy the superstar of the jumps. And I would also like to say Jim Culloty is one top jockey.
Dan, Uk

The greatest chaser for me is 'Dessie'. Arkle is the obvious choice of many but did he really have a lot to beat.

Red Rum deserves lots of praise for his achievements, and Best Mate is clearly the best of the current crop. But as an all round talent Dessie has to be the one.

A capable hurdler, top two-mile chaser, then beating everything over 3-3.5 miles, he was a true people's champion.

He ran and won regularly in handicaps, The Irish National win was incredible and the Whitbread.

Best Mate will never be regarded in the same league unless he is used more, and in handicaps.

Do his connections not realise that if all owners ran their NH horses so sparingly the sport would cease to exist. So come on Jim, Henrietta and Terry, give Best Mate the chance to prove he really is one of the best ever, if not the best .
Mike Stevens, England

If you consistently beat the top horses in championship races, you are entitled to be considered a true champion
Andrew Butler, UK
The best horse simply can't be named on what it has won or how many times it won this or the other as timescales and different opponents make variable reading.

Did Dessie beat anything in the Gold Cup? If Dancing Brave had got going earlier would he have been a great Derby winner?

But the one horse in the poll who has done it at both codes is Sea Pigeon - Champion Hurdles and arguably the hardest handicaps to win on the Flat with top weight. Surely that gives him the edge on the best of all!!!
Trevor Shooter, uk

Best Horse for me: Dancing Brave - the speed to win a Guineas and the resilience to cut down arguably the best Arc field ever assembled, truly scintillating, even if that Starkey geezer cost me a small fortune,
Steve Broom, England





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19 Feb 04  |  Horse Racing


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