We had no shortage of heroes in World War I, but the extent to which horses were unsung heroes during this time too, cannot be underestimated. An estimated 8 million horses were killed during World War I. They have been vital to supply lines, delivering medical supplies, ammunition, food and water.
The above photo is a touching tribute by 650 soliders (taken by officers of the Auxiliary Remount Dept No.326 in Camp Cody, New Mexico, 1915.) to horses that died during the war. Many soliders at the time drew close bonds with horses much in teh same war they did with dogs that were also part ofthe war effort. These aspects of the conflcit appear to be all but forgotten due to the passage of time.
Sea-Bird only ran in eight career races. However, the French stallion won seven of those contests while finishing second in the other. Although Sea-Bird left a mark on the horse racing sport, not much was thought of the horse early on in his life. In fact, he was just another colt at Haras de Victot in Calvados. However, there was one aspect that did strike those who saw Sea-Bird, especially later on, and it was his long, thick legs.
Trained by Etienne Pollet, Sea-Bird featured in three races in his debut season. The two-year-old stormed to victory in the first two contests, the Prix de Blaison at Chantilly and the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. In his final race of 1964, Sea-Bird tasted defeat for the first and only time of his career. He came in second at the Grand Criterium behind his stablemate Grey Dawn. Pollet and jockey Pat Glennon weren’t worried about Sea-Bird’s loss, however. In fact, the two weren’t sure if the stallion was good enough to enter the race beforehand.
Despite the loss at Grand Criterium, Sea-Bird was highly thought of by horse racing aficionados going into 1965. Now three-years old, Sea-Bird won all five of his starts. He won his first two races of the season on French soil before heading to England. There, he won the Epsom Derby in fine fashion after being described as “plain” before the race.
A return to France saw Sea-Bird win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His win back on French soil changed the views of many nonbelievers, who had written Sea-Bird off as a flash in the pan. The colt that hadn’t been special on Pollet’s farm, was now bigger, stronger and more cocksure than the rest of the racing field; and the stallion continued to prove his racing strengths. Sea-Bird’s presence alone may have won him the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
After the 1965 season, Sea-Bird was retired. Even before his final race at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sea-Bird’s future was set. American John W. Galbreath leased the stallion for $1.35m and Sea-Bird took up residence in Kentucky at the Darby Dan Farm.
Red Rum achieved tremendous success in his race career. The gelding achieved 24 wins in 100 races and that included three Grand National victories in the mid-1970s. It was the horse’s 1973 Grand National that made the Irish-trained horse a national hero. Red Rum was able to make up 30 lengths to win the Grand National and etch his name in the annals of horse racing history, and excite Grand National fans (https://www.grandnational.fans/) worldwide .
Red Rum debuted in one-mile races; however, the horse would become far more famous running longer distances and winning races. Red Rum’s first year saw him run in low profile festivals and events. After running in these races, the gelding was bought by trainer Ginger McCain for horse race owner Noel le Mare. The trainer would get the best out of Red Rum, transforming the gelding and the duo would go on to unexpected fame.
When Red Rum defeated the field at the 1973 Grand National, it put him on the horse racing map as he and jockey Brian Fletcher became front page news. Red Rum wasn’t done at Aintree, however. The 1974 contest saw Red Rum 12 pounds heavier, but the added weight did not stop the horse from repeating as champion. Shortly thereafter, Red Rum won the Scottish Grand National, and to this day, remains the only horse to accomplish the feat.
Red Rum continued his scintillating form at Aintree as McCain’s horse finished second in both 1975 and 1976. Fletcher was not atop Red Rum for those two Grand Nationals as jockey Tommy Stack was in the saddle. In 1977, Red Rum saved his best performance for last. The horse ran to a third Grand National title with Stack as the jockey. The duo’s win made Red Rum the most successful horse to ever compete at the race, as his three wins are still the most by any participant.
The 1977 Grand National would prove to be Red Rum’s last major win as a hairline fracture before the 1978 edition saw McCain retire the horse.
Reference Point lived a short life, but in that time, the stallion ran hard and experienced more success on the racetrack than most other horses dream of.
Reference Point debuted in 1986, but his rookie race didn’t go to plan. The stallion finished third at the EBF Heart of Variety Stakes. It would prove to be one of few disappointments during his two-year racing career. Just month after finishing third, Reference Point topped the field by eight lengths at the Dorking Stakes. The race was run at Sandown Park, the same venue he had finished third at during his maiden race. A win in his final event of the season at Doncaster saw Reference Point become the highest rated two-year-old of the year, and much was expected from the Henry Cecil trained horse in 1987.
The season start well, but Reference Point missed the 2000 Guineas due to surgery on his sinuses. His first win of the year came at the Dante Stakes in an Epsom Derby warm-up. The pre-Derby race was a sign of things to come as the Stallion won in Surrey shortly thereafter. Reference Point then took first at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and St. Leger races, solidifying him as one of the top horses of the decade.
St. Leger would be Reference Point’s last big win. The stallion was taken to France for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October. Despite starting out strongly, Reference Point struggled and finished eighth. It was discovered the stallion was injured upon returning to Cecil’s farm. The problem was an abscessed hoof, which would have hindered him in France.
Due to the injury, Cecil retired the horse and Reference Point was put out to stud. There was one final award for Reference Point, however. The stallion was voted the British Horse of the Year for 1987.
Unfortunately, Reference Point’s life would come to an end in 1991. After fracturing his leg in an accident at Dalham Hall Stud farm, he was put down.
British-bred and Italian-trained, Ribot registered a perfect 16-win record during his career. Ribot raced for three years between 1954 to 1956, and the stallion earned $294,414. His earnings for the time period were unbelievable and converted into 2018 dollars, Ribot earned more than $2.659 million in just three racing seasons.
Ribot started his racing career in 1954 as a two-year-old. His first race win came at the Premio Tramuschio in Milan, Italy. The stallion continued his fantastic rookie season with a win at the Gran Criterium. A year later, Ribot was entered into Italy’s more prestigious races and he excelled. Originally considered small, Ribot had grown and was now ready to take on the best race horses on the peninsula. Ribot secured four wins early on in the 1955 season despite suffering a respiratory illness.
After picking up four wins from four races, Ribot was taken abroad for the first time. The stallion was entered into the Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe and began the day at odds of 9/1. The competition was no match for Ribot as the horse galloped to victory before picking up a sixth win of the season a few weeks later.
The 1956 race season would be Ribot’s last. He continued his dominance of Italy before once again going abroad. This time his destination was England, and Ribot conquered the Ascot racecourse, winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Months later, Ribot won a second straight Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe by eight and a half lengths, bringing his remarkable career to an end.
The highly rated horse was retired after his third racing season and became a successful stud. In 1959, Ribot was leased for $1.35m ($11.551m in 2018) to Darby Dan in the United States. He remained in America until his death in 1972. During his 13-year stay in the US, Ribot became known as one of the best studs in the world, and his pedigree continues to this day.