Shergar may be one of the most famous race horses in Irish and British history, although it isn’t for his major wins. The Irish reared, British trained horse had minimal success in his first season as he ran just two races. Ridden by Kris Plate as a two-year-old, Shergar won at Newbury, as the horse whet its appetite for more wins in the future. In 1981, as a three-year-old, Shergar blew away the field at the Epsom Derby. It was his first derby win and it wouldn’t be Shergar’s last. The horse followed up the race in Surrey by winning the Irish Derby without breaking a sweat. The win made Shergar one of the most popular Irish race horses of all-time.
Owned by Aga Khan, the race horse entrepreneur sold 34 shares of Shergar following his two derby wins. The horse’s value soared to £10 million as each share cost £250,000. Shergar claimed one more victory as a three-year-old, winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Following the race Shergar’s racing career was over and he went on to produce 35 foals in his first year as a stud.
In 1983, just as Shergar was to begin his second season as a stud, the horse was kidnapped. Although no one has ever been charged with the abduction of the horse, it is believed the Irish Republican Army snatched him. Shegar was never found, and it is theorised that the horse was shot and killed within hours of the bungling thieves taking him. Today, the Shergar Cup is run at Ascot as a way to remember the great race horse. The race is run in August and its unique format attracts horse racing fans from all over the globe.
Mill Reef was born in the United States, but rather than destined for the Kentucky Derby, the stallion was shipped off to the United Kingdom. Trained by Paul Mellon, Mill Reef competed in 14 races and registered a record of 12-2-0.
The Stallion only raced from 1970 to 1972, and in that time, he accumulated wins at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Epsom Derby, Gimcrack Stakes and more.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Mill Reef’s wins were the distance in which he finished in front of the competition. At Gimcrack he won by 10 lengths. The King George VI saw him stroll to victory by six lengths; and the Epsom Derby was won by two lengths.
In 1972, Mill Reef’s career was cut short due to breaking his foreleg. Although a plate was inserted to fix the fracture, Mill Reef’s racing days were finished and the horse was retired. Over the ensuing years, Mill Reef fathered a number of offspring that went on to successful careers. In 1986, Mill Reef died at age 18.
Mill Reef’s legacy lives on in the stakes race named after the famous horse. Founded in 1972, the Group 2 flat race is run at Newbury.
During his successful career, Mill Reef was ridden to victory by Geoff Lewis. The extraordinary jockey reached fame and fortune thanks to the horse and in 1999 retired from the sport. Now 82, Lewis won a laundry list of cups and trophies during his illustrious career and a number of those came with Mill Reef.
Kauto Star was a French-bred race horse that claimed fame as a National Hunt champion. The gelding won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and amassed more than £3.78 million in winnings. Kauto Star won 23 races in 41 starts during his career. The horse was known as the greatest chaser of the 21st century, and based on his record of 23-7-4, it is difficult to argue with the claim.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup wasn’t the only race Kauto Star excelled in. He won the King George VI Chase five times with the first four victories coming in consecutive years between 2006 and 2009. Trained by Paul Nicholls, Timeform has rated Kauto Star as the third-best steeplechase horse since the group began keeping records. Only famed horses Arkle and Flyingbolt achieved a better Timeform rating than Kauto Star’s 191.
While Kauto Star achieved immense success on the race track, the horse was mired in controversy off it. In 2012, owner Clive Smith retired the gelding and Kauto Star began competing in dressage events. The decision was against the wishes of trainer Nicholls, who wanted the horse to remain at Ditcheat farm. The owner and trainer fell out due to the circumstances surrounding the horse.
Less than three years later, Kauto Star was put down by vets following a fall. The 15-year-old horse had broken his neck and pelvis; and due to the development of pneumonia, Kauto Star was finally put down. It is believed the horse’s initial injuries occurred when he tried to jump out of the paddock.
Kauto Star’s legacy lives on as he was one of the most successful National Hunt race horses of the last 20 years. Despite an early death, Kauto Star still made a major impact on the horse racing world.