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.
Trained by legendary Irish horse trainer Willie Mullins, Hurricane Fly experienced quite the racing career.
Originally trained to race on flat surfaces, Hurricane Fly ran 10 races on flat courses. He registered a record of 2-2-1 during that time. It was a period in which Hurricane Fly raced solely in France. However, following his 10 races on flat tracks, Hurricane Fly’s future changed drastically.
In 2007, Hurricane Fly was sold and relocated to Ireland. It was there that the horse began to compete in National Hunt competitions. Paired with jockey Ruby Walsh, Hurricane Fly began to reel off win after win. Walsh rode Hurricane Fly for 18 of 26 career wins in National Hunt events. The horse won four times at the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, five times at the Irish Champion Hurdle and twice at the Champion Hurdle. His exploits were well-known by racing aficionados despite never running his best race at Cheltenham.
Hurricane Fly managed to carve out a career that saw him change disciplines and win. Something many of the top horses today are unable to do.
In 2015, after a long career on the race track, Hurricane Fly was retired to the stables. Walsh described Hurricane Fly as a legend, and Mullins stated he was a “horse of a generation”.
Hurricane Fly’s owners could have continued racing the horse well into his advancing years. However, the owners stated he was in good shape and preferred for him to live out his years without any major health issues.
By the time Hurricane Fly was retired, the horse had accumulated nearly €2 million in winnings. A battler to the very end of each race, Hurricane Fly was a betting favourite, especially for those living in Ulster where the horse’s owners resided. According to the Belfast Telegraph, Hurricane Fly was moved to Mullins’ farm upon retirement. He may be out of the limelight of racing, but at least the iconic race horse is still around the sport and his trainer.
Frankel was a powerful racing stallion that top the World Thoroughbred Rankings in 2011 and 2012. His career may have only lasted 14 races, but Frankel finished his time as a race horse undefeated. The horse’s ability on the race track was second to none, and due to Frankel’s running power, his stud fee is one of the most expensive in 2018. A date with Frankel will cost horse owners £175,000. It is a small price to continue the horse’s bloodline. Frankel raked in nearly £3 million during his racing career, and one of his offspring could exceed that figure one day.
Trained by Henry Cecil and owned by Khalid Abdullah, Frankel began his career in 2010 as a two-year-old. His first race at Newmarket ended in a half a length win as jockey Tom Queally rode the horse to victory. A month later, Queally rode Frankel to victory at the Frank Whittle Conditions Stakes. There, Frankel won by 13 lengths.
A year later, at the 2000 Guineas Stakes, Frankel won the race by the biggest margin since 1947. He also entered the race with the shortest odds since the mid-1970s (½). The wins just kept coming for the powerful stallion as he won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Queen Anne Stakes, International Stakes and Championship Stakes. For all 14 race wins, Queally sat in the saddle.
In October 2012, Frankel was retired following his Championship Stakes win at Ascot. His originally stud fee was £125,000, which was increased in 2018. In Frankel’s first year as a stallion, he covered 133 mares. Frankel’s first offspring to be auctioned off was sold for a whopping £1.15 million.
Frankel’s stud fee isn’t the highest being commanded in the horse racing industry. Frankel’s father, Galileo, has a fee so high that it has not been made public. Obviously, the bloodlines have produced winners and horse race owners are looking to continue breeding winning offspring through Frankel.
Now living the high life as a stud, Frankel is remembered as one of the best horses of all-time. His race record speaks for itself as his 14-0 is one few other horses will ever touch.