Arkle was one of the most successful Irish Thoroughbred horses ever produced by Emerald Isle. Owned by Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, and trained by Tom Dreaper, Arkle posted a 27-2-3 record in 35 race starts. Jockey Pat Taaffe often partnered with Arkle. Taaffe rode the horse in 28 races and was atop Arkle in 26 chase outings. Twenty-four of those races ended in success for both Arkle and Taaffe.
The jockey was instrumental in Arkle’s wins at Cheltenham, a venue that saw the pair win four times – 1963,1964, 1965 and 1966. Three of Arkle’s wins at Cheltenham came in the Gold Cup. It wasn’t just at Cheltenham where Arkle ruled. He won twice at the Hennessy Gold Cup, once at the Irish Grand National and twice at the Leopardstown Chase.
Arkle has been rated as the best chaser of all-time, according to Timeform. Arkle’s rating of 212 tops the list of all-time great race horses. The 2018 Gold Cup winner, Native River, has a Timeform rating of 172, which pales in comparison to Arkle’s figure.
Arkle’s greatest success and 22 of his 26 steeplechase wins came in a short timeframe. The horse ran to glory in a four-year period from 1962 to 1966. He was the most dominant horse of his generation, and according to the Guardian newspaper, handicapping had to be altered to account for the horse’s ability to beat all other competitors.
His success of the 1960s helped Arkle become one of the most popular sporting figures of the decade. In a time when horse racing was on par with football, boxing and other games, and millions of sports fans followed it each year. Arkle was on top of the world.
An Irish national hero, Arkle died in 1970 and his skeleton can be seen in a County Kildare, Ireland museum today.
Fallen for any April Fools pranks yet you plonkers?
Best Mate died in 2005 during the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup. The horse died of a suspected heart attack and fans who witnessed the event were moved to tears. Best Mate was one of the most beloved horses of his generation.
Much of that love was due to the Irish horses three Cheltenham Gold Cup wins. Best Mate won the Gold Cup in three consecutive years – 2002, 2003 and 2004. Best Mate’s unbelievable form and treble of Gold Cup wins matched Arkle’s record set in the 1960s. Best Mate’s consecutive Gold Cup wins made him the first horse to accomplish the feat since 1970 and 1971 when L’Escargot did it.
Best Mate was trained by Henrietta Knight and earned over £1m in winnings. The horse recorded a 14-7-0 record in 22 starts and remarkably never fell at a hurdle. Best Mate won numerous award during his career including the British Horse Racing Board’s Jump Horse of the Year.
Best Mate’s death came just weeks after a failed attempt to win his fourth consecutive Gold Cup. Best Mate had broken a blood vessel and it contributed to his inability to when the race. The race in Exeter that saw Best Mate’s untimely demise was expected to be his return to the top of the sport. Unfortunately, it was the venue for his death.
One reason for Best Mate’s popularity was due to the amount of money he had helped raise for charity.
The horse’s death didn’t just hit horse racing fans hard, but it also affected Knight and the trainer’s inner circle. The horse was called the best horse they could have ever had. In truth, Best Mate was the just that, a horse that won races and touched the lives of those who worked with him.
British Thoroughbred race horse Brigadier Gerard raced for just three years. However, during that short timeframe, Brigadier Gerard won 17 of 18 races and hearts of English race fans. His success inspired horse racing experts to proclaim him the best race horse of the 20th century.
Brigadier Gerard debuted in 1970 as a two-year-old. Ridden by Joe Mercer, Brigadier Gerard won the Berkshire Stakes in his first race before running his second event just over a week later. Fatigue was not a factor for the horse as he won again, this time at the Champagne Stakes in Salisbury. In all, Brigadier Gerard won all four of his races in his rookie season, setting him up for further success in the years to come.
By the time 1971 rolled around, Brigadier Gerard had made quite the name for himself; and by the end of 1972, he had completely altered the landscape of horse racing, becoming the most famous British Thoroughbred.
As 1971 ended, Brigadier Gerard had pushed his record to a perfect 10 wins from 10. His record influenced horse racing insiders to name him the Horse of the Year and he also received the Champion Miller award.
The 1972 season was more of the same for Brigadier Gerard as he moved to a perfect 15 wins. It was at 15 that the racing great’s win streak ended. Running at the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, Brigadier Gerard was defeated by Roberto. Despite suffering his first loss, Brigadier Gerard was still awarded the Horse of the Year honours in 1972. Two more races followed – the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Champion Stakes – and both ended in wins for Brigadier Gerard. He was put out to stud following his final victory and lived until 1989.