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.

Istabraq

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”.

 

Arkle  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.

Sea the Stars  Sea the Stars is another one of the top thoroughbred horses of the modern era that has been considered as one of the greatest of all-time. Foaled in 2006, Sea the Stars was trained by John Oxx. In nine career races, Sea the Stars ran to a record of 8-0-1 and the Irish-trained horse earned more than £4 million in just two years of racing.

The half-brother of Epsom Derby winner Galileo and the son of Urban Sea, Sea the Stars began his racing career in 2008. The two-year-old’s first race took place at Curragh, but the horse’s inexperience in races showed as he finished behind eventual winner Driving Snow. Despite the disappointing result in his first race, the stallion rebounded well with a win at Leopardstown. Sea the Stars finished two and a half furlongs ahead of his nearest competitor and began a streak that wouldn’t end until he was retired in 2009.

Sea the Stars’ final race of his rookie year saw the horse win the Beresford Stakes. He finished just ahead of stablemate Mourayan. The Beresford Stakes’ finish would prove to be the closest race Sea the Stars won as he did it by just half a length.

The stallion’s rookie season was just the tip of the iceberg of what Sea the Stars would achieve. In his three-year-old season, Sea the Stars won the 2000 Guineas to start the year. Although he didn’t experience a preparation race and suffered from an illness beforehand, Sea the Stars exceeded expectations. Sea the Stars next won the Epsom Derby, The Eclipse Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and the International Stakes.

Oxx took Sea the Stars to France for his final race of the season. He started the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe as the odds on favourite. Despite the strong field, Sea the Stars won the race and became the only horse to win the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe in the same season.