Browse Month

September 2017

A Gift Horse – Horses that Made a Difference

As in any sport, there are always standouts and the horse racing world is no exception. Whether it is on the flat or over the jumps, there are a number of remarkable horses that have stood head and shoulders above the rest due to their stamina, perseverance and ability to win. Here are just a few of these noble animals.

Red Rum

Considered to be the best steeplechaser of all time, Red Rum won the Grand National not once but three times – a feat that has never been repeated. As a foal, he was passed around from buyer to buyer until finally Ginger McCain took him on. It was soon discovered that he had a bone disorder, which McCain sought to fix through training in seawater. It worked and Red Rum went on to win the Grand National in 1973, ’74 and ’77. In the middle years between victories, whilst not winning, he still came second; a remarkable career all round.

Secretariat

An American born flat racehorse, Secretariat won the American Triple Crown in 1973 becoming the first horse to do so in 25 years. Named the fastest horse on dirt in history, he was fast over distances from 1 2/16 to 1 5/8. The records he set still hold today for all those distances. His record win at the Belmont Stakes saw him lead the field by a massive 31 lengths, a feat he was to perform on a regular basis against any field. He didn’t just win races, he destroyed the field.

Of course, these are just two of many, with other notable inclusions being Man o’War, Seabiscuit, Phar Lap and War Admiral. These horses all showed great heart and exceptional talent, bringing joy to thousands of race goers over the years.

Getting Over the First Hurdle

When it comes to horseracing most people instantly think of flat racing – fast speeding horses dashing along a straight flat stretch of turf or sand. But there is another type of race, one that has more excitement and uncertainty. It is steeplechasing.

Steeplechasing

Steeplechasing makes the outcome of a race that much more interesting. The fastest horse is not necessarily going to be the one to cross the finish line first. Huge hedges, ditches and fences block the way. The horses are required to show speed and stamina in getting around the course first, but they also need to avoid being taken down by the obstacles or indeed another flailing horse, as happens all too often.

Origins

Primarily found in Ireland (the place of its origin), the United Kingdom and North America, the name came about because the sport used to take place across open countryside. Rather than a specific racetrack, horse and rider were required to simply head for the church steeple crossing any obstacles that were in their path. Nowadays this is not allowed and the sport has been transferred to maintained tracks with carefully placed obstacles.

The Grand National

The most famous race in this genre is the English Grand National. Run every year at Aintree racecourse, it has provided a severe test for every horse and rider since its inception in 1836. The race is over four miles long, and there are thirty fences that the horses have to jump, including the infamous Becher’s Brook, an obstacle that has taken down many a horse. Known for the difficulty in predicting a winner, the Grand National remains the race that any steeplechaser wishes to win. Sadly though, due to the severity of the course, a number of horses do get injured and are subsequently put down.

Due to their extreme difficulty, jump races are considered to be the ultimate test for both rider and horse.