Red Rum  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 ( 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  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.

Ribot  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.

Nijinsky  In 1992, Nijinsky was put down after years of siring top-class yearlings. His death brought an end to one of the greatest horse racing careers of all-time. The Canadian-bred, Irish-trained horse debuted in 1969 and ran to five race wins during his rookie year.

If horse racing fans and experts were impressed with Nijinsky’s rookie season, then his follow up year shocked on lookers. The stallion won six races including the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, St. Leger Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Nijinsky’s success in 1970 saw the horse win the 15th Triple Crown with jockey Lester Piggot on his back. The win marked the last time a horse has won the British Triple Crown.

Just as Nijinsky ran on to the British horse racing scene, the stallion’s career came to an end. Ahead of winning the St. Leger Stakes, Nijinsky contracted ringworm. Despite coming back from the ailment and winning the Triple Crown, Nijinsky was unable to reach the same heights he had previously. By the end of the season, the stallion was retired and began his career as a stud.

As a stud, Nijinsky would go on to sire 155 stakes/group winners. Nijinsky’s yearlings were so in demand, they sold for an average of $2.9 million in 1985.

Nijinsky featured in 13 career races during his time. Eleven of those races ended in wins for Nijinsky as the stallion earned an estimated $677,118. Nijinsky is still known as one of the greatest race horses of the post-World War II era. The stallion received a Timeform rating of 138, which was second only to Epsom Derby winner to Sea-Bird. Nijinsky has been identified as the best Irish-based race horse of the 20th century, and still is remembered fondly in racing circles.

In 1992, after being put down at Claiborne Farm, Nijinsky was laid to rest next two Secretariat and Riva Ridge. Even in death, the stallion was among champions.


In September 2013, shortly after Australia had quickened clear to win the ICON Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes at Leopardstown by 6 lengths, Aidan O’Brien said, “Everyone probably knows we always thought he was the best horse we’ve ever had”. However, when interviewed in March 2014, O’Brien said, “He is the second-best horse I have ever trained and the best was not a Flat horse.” The horse to which he was referring, of course, was triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.


Istabraq, a beautifully bred son of Sadler’s Wells out of Betty’s Secret, by Secretariat, was originally owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and trained, on the Flat, by John Gosden in Newmarket. However, he was sold to John Gosden’s former assistant, John Durkan, acting on behalf of John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus, for 38,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Sales in 1995.


The intention was that Istabraq, whom Durkan already knew well, was to become his stable star at Green Lodge stables, formerly occupied by Harry Thomson “Tom” Jones, when the young trainer set out on his own. John Durkan recognised Istabraq’s potential as a hurdler very early on and, in 1996, prophetically told J.P. McManus, ‘He will win next year’s Sun Alliance Hurdle.’


Sadly, the original plan was never to come to fruition because, shortly afterwards, John Durkan was diagnosed with leukaemia. He made arrangements for Istabraq to join up-and-coming trainer Aidan O’Brien in Ireland on the understanding that the colt would be returned to him once he had recovered sufficiently to commence his own training career.


Istabraq duly made his hurdling debut in a run-of-the-mill novices’ hurdle at Punchestown in November, 1996, in which jockey Charlie Swan was instructed to make sure the gelding enjoyed himself. Starting 6/4 second favourite – the one and only occasion during his hurdling career that he didn’t start favourite – Istabraq went down by a head to the odds-on favourite, Noble Thyne, despite making a mistake at the final flight.


The experience evidently did Istabraq a power of good, because he won his next ten hurdle races in a row, including the 1997 Royal Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle, as John Durkan had predicted, and the 1998 Smurfit Champion Hurdle. The latter victory was made all the more poignant by the death of John Durkan in January, 1998.


J.P. McManus recalled, “Istabraq’s first Champion Hurdle was very special. John Durkan had just passed away and Carol was working with us. I remember speaking to John after Istabraq had won the Sun Alliance the previous year, I was in the winner’s enclosure, he was in New York in Sloan-Kettering Hospital, he was so happy, so overjoyed, and then the next year he wasn’t there. It was quite an emotional time. It seemed to be more than just a horse race.”


Following his final piece of work in preparation for the Champion Hurdle, Aidan O’Brien had told Charlie Swan, to his surprise, that Istabraq would “destroy them”. Of course, O’Brien was right; starting 3/1 favourite, Istabraq led three out and sauntered clear to win ‘very easily’ by 12 lengths from Theatreworld.


All in all, Istabraq ran in 29 hurdle races, falling twice – coincidentally, in the AIB Agri-business December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown two years running, in 2000 and 2001 – and being pulled up in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002 on his final racecourse appearance. In 26 completed starts, he was beaten just three times, once on his hurdling debut at Punchestown in 1996 and twice over 2 miles 4 furlongs on soft going at Aintree and Fairyhouse in 1999.


He won 14 times at Grade 1 level, including the Royal Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle in 1997 and the Smurfit Champion Hurdle in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In his entire hurdling career, he started at odds-against just six times and, as Aidan O’Brien put it, “was a class above everything he raced against”.