Golden Miller  Comparing steeplechasers from different generations, in an effort to determine which was the ‘greatest’ of all time, is a popular, but ultimately, futile activity. However, although he raced long before the advent of Timeform ratings or any other empirical measure that would allow comparisons to be made, Golden Miller must surely be considered, at least, one of the greatest.

Owned by Dorothy Paget – an extremely wealthy, but plain, hefty woman, with a reputation as fearsome as the horse himself – and trained, initially, by Basil Briscoe, Golden Miller won the Cheltenham Gold Cup five consecutive times between 1932 and 1936. Even allowing for the fact that the Cheltenham Gold Cup, at that time, was not the ‘Blue Riband’ event it later became, no other horse – not even the mighty Arkle – has won the race more than three times.

Of course, following his third win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 1934, as a seven-year-old, Golden Miller went on to win the Grand National under top weight of 12st 2lb. Not only did he beat Delaneige by 5 lengths but, in so doing, he beat the previous course record, which had stood for 72 years, by 9.6 seconds. In fact, his winning time of 9 minutes 20.4 seconds wouldn’t be beaten for 40 years and, even then, it took the legendary Red Rum to do so. Golden Miller remains the only horse ever to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season.

Despite being described by one racing journalist as ‘a god on four legs’, Golden Miller fared less well on subsequent attempts in the Grand National. In fact, his refusal on the first circuit in 1935, when sent off the shortest-priced favourite in National history, caused Paget to fall out with Briscoe and transfer Golden Miller to Owen Anthony. Anthony saddled the horse to win a fifth, and final, Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1936, but Golden Miller failed to complete the National Course again in 1936 and 1937.

 

Dawn Run  Female horses rarely win the Champion Hurdle or the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In fact, the roll of honour for the Champion Hurdle includes just four mares, African Sister, Dawn Run, Flakey Dove and Annie Power, while the roll of honour for the Cheltenham Gold Cup also includes four, Ballinode, Kerstin, Glencaraig Lady and Dawn Run.

Of course, the salient point is that Dawn Run, who remains the only horse, of either sex, ever to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double should be remembered not just as an outstanding mare, but as an outstanding racehorse.

Owned by the late Charmian Hill and trained by the late Paddy Mullins, Dawn Run was variously described as ‘ferocious’ and ‘savage’ by connections, but was nonetheless a relentless galloper. In her second season over hurdles, 1983/84, she won the Ascot Hurdle, when ridden for the first time by Jonjo O’Neill, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown en route to a crack at the Champion Hurdle proper at the Cheltenham Festival.

Sent off slight odds-on, at 4/5, Dawn Run led turning for home but, ultimately, was all out to hold the late challenge of 66/1 outsider, Cima, by three-quarters of a length. Nevertheless, she became the first mare to win the Champion hurdle since African Sister in 1939 and subsequently won the French Champion Hurdle, under Tony Mullins, son of Paddy, to become the first horse ever to win the Champion Hurdle and the Irish and French equivalents.

Dawn Run won her first three starts over fences, too, despite a lengthy absence through injury, but unseated rider Tony Mullins in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, her preparatory race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in January, 1986. Rightly or wrongly, Charmian Hill replaced Mullins with Jonjo O’Neill – for the first time since the 1984 Champion Hurdle – and the Corkman was seen to good effect, galvanising the mare up the Cheltenham hill to beat Wayward Lad by a length and make history.

Night Nurse  Night Nurse ran to 35 wins during his racing career that featured flat, hurdle and chase events. Trained in England by Peter Easterby, Night Nurse was originally a National Hunt race horse. The gelding was able to find success no matter what type of race or event he took place in.

Debuting in 1973, Night Nurse’s career didn’t start well. The horse lost six races during the season. If expectations weren’t high after the first year of racing, then the finish of his second season didn’t increase hope of success by much. Night Nurse won just once in six races in 1974. The gelding’s lone victory came at Ripon Racecourse.

Wins would come more often to Night Nurse in the following years. He raced to victory in two of three races in 1975 with wins at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Irish Sweeps Hurdle. A year later, Night Nurse won the Champion Hurdle for the first of two times, the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Welsh Champion Hurdle for the first time. In 1977, Night Nurse won his most remembered race at Aintree. Competing in the Templegate Hurdle, Night Nurse won a deadheat against Monksfield.

After being so successful in hurdle competitions, Night Nurse was switched to chasing, and more wins followed. Often ridden by jockey Paddy Broderick, Night Nurse raced until 1983. The duo was one of the most feared on the racetrack and many a race was most likely won before the horses even left the gates. During his racing career, the gelding earned over £170,000 in prize winnings.

In 1983, Night Nurse was retired and lived out his days for the next 15 years. Those final years saw Night Nurse live on the farm of his trainer, Easterby, and later buried on the property. In November 1998, the horse was put down just short of his 28th birthday.

Aldaniti  It’s often said that there’s always a story to be told about the Grand National winner, but, perhaps, none quite so compelling as that of Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion. The form book records that, in 1981, Aldaniti, who was sent off at 10/1 second favourite, won the Grand National by 4 lengths from 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile, but the race result was merely the final chapter of a fairy tale that had begun two years earlier.

 

Owned by the late Nick Embiricos and trained by the late Josh Gifford in Findon, West Sussex, Aldaniti was talented, if injury-prone, steeplechaser. In 1979, he had been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr before fracturing a hock-bone at Sandown Park in November, which led to another lengthy layoff.

 

Stable jockey Champion, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in July, 1979, and had undergone a punishing course of chemotherapy. However, both horse and jockey recovered sufficiently to be reunited in the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February, 1981. Despite starting the outsider of eight, at 14/1, Aldaniti won with something in hand and, two months later, took his chance in the Grand National.

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Carrying 10st 13lb, Aldaniti landed steeply at the first fence and was untidy at the last, but jumped impeccably in the main to record what had appeared, just months earlier, a hugely unlikely victory. Aldaniti and Champion returned to Aintree again in 1982, but parted company at the first fence. Nevertheless, their almost miraculous win in 1981 remains one of the greatest moments in the illustrious history of the celebrated steeplechase and is commemorated by the 1984 film, ‘Champions’, which starred Aldaniti as himself and the late John Hurt as Bob Champion.

Secretariat  Secretariat is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – American race horses of all-time. In 21 career starts, Secretariat finished with a record of 16-3-1. The American thoroughbred was trained by Lucien Laurin and debuted in 1972.

Secretariat’s debut race occurred on 4 July 1972 with jockey Paul Feliciano riding in the saddle. Despite a strong start, Secretariat could only manage a fourth-place finish after being bumped by a fellow runner. Eleven days later, Secretariat recovered from his first race to win in his second start. Secretariat would later collect wins at the Sanford Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, Futurity Stakes, Laurel Futurity and the Golden State Futurity to finish out his rookie year.

The stallion’s incredible collection of wins set him up for a tremendous three-year-old season. The year started out with Secretariat becoming syndicate owned. He became the most expensive syndicated horse in the world at $6.08 million as fears of his owner Penny Chenery being forced to sell the horse increased.

On the track, Secretariat ran his first race on March 17 in the Bay Shore Stakes. The race ended in a win for Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte, who had taken over the saddle in the middle of the 1972 season. The Gotham Stakes was won by the duo, but just as easily as Secretariat had won twice already, the stallion lost at the Wood Memorial in his final preparation race for the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s stamina was questioned due to his loss. However, weeks later, Secretariat put those questions to bed as he won the Kentucky Derby in a record time of 1:59 2/5.

The Kentucky Derby was the first jewel in the Triple Crown and it wasn’t long until the other two were attained by Secretariat. His Triple Crown win made him the first horse in a quarter century to accomplish the feat. Following his tremendous feats of 1973, Secretariat was retired and began life as a stud.

In October 1989, Secretariat was put down after acquiring a hoof condition known as laminitis. Despite dying as a result of the affliction at the age of 19, memories of Secretariat’s incredible career persist. Secretariat’s image was even put on a US postage stamp to commemorate his incredible Triple Crown win in 1999.