Best Race Horses of All Time
Dating back to 4500 BC, horse racing remains one of the oldest sports in history. It is said to be one of the human activities that pioneered sports betting. Horse racing has become a million-dollar industry, with numerous events held worldwide. Therefore, it goes without mentioning that the sport has seen several horses come and go.
- Top 10 male race horses of all time
- Top 5 female race horses of all time
- Their records, year activity, wins, and achievements
Top 10 Greatest Race Horses Names Ever
As mentioned above, several brilliant horses have made their marks on racecourses worldwide. However, some particular ones stood out among the mix, forever etching their names in the sands of the sport’s history with their outstanding performances.
Notably, ranking the best race horses of all time in a short list is challenging and tasking. It is usually a hot-debated and subjective topic as it requires considering several criteria. For starters, comparing horses from different ages and locations is challenging, considering horse racing dates back centuries. Another factor is whether you want to value sheer talent and accomplishments over huge prizes. Also, one must consider the outstanding jockeys behind the equines to make such a list.
However, we have undertaken the challenge to rank the most outstanding horses in history. And while the topic is subject to disagreement, we consider several essential factors such as winning streaks, notable achievements, career winnings, and longevity to make an excellent list.
So, without further ado, let’s get into our picks of the 10 best race horse names ever.
10. Hurricane Fly
Foaled in April 2004 in Ireland, Hurricane Fly was a thoroughbred race horse, one of the best race horse breeds. He competed primarily in hurdle races, earning a reputation as a dominant force in the sport. Hurricane was originally trained as a Flat racer in France. However, when he returned to Ireland under the famous trainer Willie Mullins, he began his run into glory.
During his career, Hurricane Fly won 24 32 races, including 22 Grade One victories. It earned him a world record for the most Grade 1 race wins until 2019 he was overtaken by Winx in 2019. He won his first Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March 2011 and reclaimed the title in 2013, setting a record as the first horse to achieve the feat in 38 years. Hurricane also won the Irish Champion Hurdle a record-breaking five consecutive times between 2011 and 2015. Lastly, he won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle four times from 2010 to 2013.
His incredible speed, agility, precision, and grace made the horse stand out. He retired from racing in August 2015 after competing at the highest level for seven years, but his legacy as one of the greatest race horses of all time lives on.
Foaled in 1874 and owned by the Hungarian nobleman Ernő Blaskovich, Kincsem is regarded as Eastern one of Europe’s most famous race horses names. She was a Hungarian Thoroughbred mare who raced during the late 19th century. Kincsem began her racing career at two years and quickly gained a reputation as a dominant force on the track. She had an undefeated run throughout her four-season career (1876 and 1879), with a 54-0 winning world-record streak.
After she retired from racing, Kincsem withdrew to Blaskovich’s stud farm, where she became a highly successful broodmare with several champion offsprings. Also, she has been the subject of numerous books, films, and documentaries over the years. In recognition of her incredible achievements, her statue was erected in Budapest.
8. Dr. Fager
Foaled in 1964, Dr. Fager was a bay thoroughbred stallion who set multiple records throughout his career thanks to his blinding speed and agility. One of his most impressive accomplishments was his track record for one mile on dirt, which he set at Arlington Park in Illinois in 1968. He completed the distance in an astounding time of 1:32 1/5 while carrying 134 pounds, a world record that still stands today.
Despite his career being riddled with illnesses and he couldn’t win the Triple Crown, he had one of the most outstanding single years in the sport’s history in 1968. That year, he won four honors: the American Horse of the Year, champion turf male, champion sprinter, and champion older male, holding the record as the only horse ever to do this.
Dr. Fager retired from racing in 1968 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1971. He won 18 of his 22 starts and set 6 track records. His high-profile wins include the Arlington Classic, the Suburban Handicap, and the Whitney Stakes.
7. Black Caviar
Foaled in 2006 in Australia and trained under Peter Moody, Black Caviar won all 25 starts in her career. Remarkably, 60% of these wins are Group One victories. Black Caviar’s career began in 2009; her first Group One victory came in 2010 at 4 when she won the Patinack Farm Classic. From there, she won a string of races, including the Lightning Stakes, the Newmarket Handicap, and the T.J. Smith Stakes.
Black Caviar was named the Australian Champion Sprinter and Race Horse of the Year for 3 consecutive years (2011 – 2013) in her 5-year career. One of her most memorable races came in 2012 in England and might have been of interest to those loving Royal Ascot betting. There, she competed in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, her only race outside her native Australia. Despite facing a field of international competitors, she won the race and was named European Champion Sprinter the same year, the first to win the award outside of Europe.
Black Caviar retired from racing in 2013, but her legacy as one of the top race horses of all time lives on.
6. Seattle Slew
Foaled in 1974, Seattle Slew became the tenth horse to win the Triple Crown in 1977. He won all of his Triple Crown races by at least one length and was the only undefeated Triple Crown winner until Justify matched his feat in 2018. Seattle Slew made his racing debut in September 1976, winning his first race by 5 lengths. He also won his next 5 races, including the Champagne Stakes, before heading into the Kentucky Derby as the favorite.
Besides his Triple Crown wins, Seattle Slew won several other prestigious races, including the Wood Memorial, the Marlboro Cup, and the Woodward Stakes. He also maintained a thrilling connection with the crowd, championing the “Slewmania” experience. Slew was named the American Horse of the Year in 1977 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1981.
Born in New Zealand in 2011, Winx was trained by Chris Waller and ridden by jockey Hugh Bowman for most of her career. She was a thoroughbred mare who won an impressive 37 of her 43 career races, including 33 consecutive wins, making her the longest winning streak in Australian racing history. Twenty-five of these wins were from Grade 1 races, giving her a world record for most high-level race wins.
Winx’s most notable victories include the Cox Plate, which she won 4 consecutive times from 2015 to 2018, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the George Ryder Stakes, and the Turnbull Stakes. Additionally, she was named Australia Horse of the Year in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019. Winx was also a fan favorite and an icon in the Australian racing world, with many people attending races specifically to watch her run.
In addition to her impressive racing record, Winx also broke records off the track as one of the most successful race horses, earning over $26 million in prize money, the highest earnings of any Australian race horse in history. She was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2019, the third horse to achieve the feat while still active in the sport.
This thoroughbred race horse was foaled in 1957 and was bred by Bohemia Stable in Virginia. Unlike many other horses on this list who were early-stage champions, Kelso didn’t start his glory run until he was 3. During his racing career, Kelso won 39 races out of 63 starts, with 12 seconds and two-thirds, earning $1,977,896 in prize money.
Not fazed by a high weight of 130 pounds, Kelso was named the “American Horse of the Year” five times, in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964, still a record. His most outstanding achievements include winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a record 5 times from 1960 to 1964, despite running against the toughest competition in his era. He also won the Whitney Handicap four times and the Woodward Stakes 3 times.
Kelso’s name entered the Racing Hall of Fame in 1967, just 3 years after his retirement. He was also named one of the top 100 U.S. race horses of the 20th century by Blood-Horse magazine.
Foaled in 1945, Citation was a legendary Thoroughbred race horse that dominated the sport in the 1940s and early 1950s. He had an impressive career record, winning 32 of his 45 starts, including 16 consecutive races, a record that stood for over 45 years. He was also the first race horse to win over $1 million in prize money.
Citation’s most notable wins include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, which together make up the Triple Crown, the most prestigious achievement in American horse racing. Citation is among only 13 horses in history to have won the Triple Crown. His other notable achievements include the American Derby (1948), Hollywood Gold Cup (1951), and American Handicap (1951). He was also named the 1948 American Horse of the Year 1948.
After retiring from racing in 1951, Citation began a successful career as a stud, siring many successful race horses. In 1959 he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
No list of greatest race horses will be complete without Secretariat. Many will argue that he is the greatest race horse ever. Born in 1970, he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in just 5 weeks to clinch the Triple Crown in 1973.
In the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat broke the record for the fastest time ever run, completing the 1.25-mile race in 1 minute, 59.40 seconds. He then went on to win the Preakness Stakes by two and a half lengths and the Belmont Stakes by an incredible 31 lengths, setting a world record time of 2 minutes, 24 seconds for the 1.5-mile race that still stands today.
Furthermore, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career starts and set numerous track records, including the standing record for the fastest 1 1/8 mile race on dirt at Belmont Park. Due to these records, many consider him the fastest race horse ever. Other notable accolades include American Horse of the Year in 1972 and 73, five Eclipse Awards, the Marlboro Cup in 1973, and $1,316,808 in earnings.
Secretariat’s success was primarily attributed to his big heart, weighing over 22 pounds and believed to be the largest in any horse. Due to his exceptional career, his story has been immortalized in books, films, and documentaries.
1. Man O’ War
Man O’ War raced over a century ago, yet, his achievements in the sport shine through to date, and he is easily the best race horse ever on several lists. Born in 1917, Man O’ War was a chestnut thoroughbred stallion who won 20 out of 21 races, including the Preakness stakes and 1920 Belmont Stakes, which he won by an incredible 20 lengths. Also, he set a world record for the mile and 5/8 distance in the Lawrence Realization Stakes and a track record for the mile and a quarter distance in the Belmont Stakes.
Known for a violent temperament that inspired his name, Man O’ War was so dominant that he was often raced against time rather than other horses. But, unfortunately, his racing career was cut short due to his owner’s decision to retire him after his 3-year-old season, without a chance at the Triple Crown.
Man o’ War went on to sire many successful offspring, including War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937. His legacy lives on today, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest and fastest race horses of all time.
Best Female Race Horses of All Time
As seen in the list above, several exceptional female race horses have proven to be as fast, powerful, and dominant as their male counterparts. From the sport’s early days to today, these mares have captivated audiences with speed, grace, and tenacity. However, some of these horses stand out amongst the best and have earned their place in the pantheon of the greatest of all time. Our list of the greatest 4 female top race horse names is below.
4. Rachel Alexandra
Thanks to her incredible speed, power, and stamina, Rachel Alexandra is regarded as one of the greatest female race horses ever. Born in 2006, Rachel Alexandra won 13 of her 19 career races and set several records. One of her most notable victories came in the 2009 Preakness Stakes, where she beat the boys to become the first filly in 85 years to win the race.
Additionally, She won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths, setting a new record. She also set a new record for the Mother Goose Stakes and won the Woodward Stakes against older male horses in 2009. Today, she is remembered as a fierce competitor and a true sports icon.
Born in 1998, Azeri is another of the greatest female race horse names ever. She won 17 of her 24 races and earned over $4 million in prize money during her career. In 2002, she became the first female horse to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, beating a field of top-class male horses. She also won several other major races, including the Apple Blossom Handicap, Vanity Handicap, and the Go For Wand Handicap, all Grade 1 races.
Azeri’s racing career began in 2000 when she won her first 5 races, including the Oak Leaf Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She set records throughout her career, including a track record at Saratoga Race Course in 2002 Go For Wand Handicap. After her racing career ended, Azeri had a successful breeding career, producing several notable foals.
Born in 2004, Zenyatta was trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. One of her most impressive feats was her undefeated streak, which lasted for her first 19 races out of the total 20 starts of her career. Remarkably, 13 of these races were Grade 1 stakes races. Also, she has a signature move of winning dramatically, coming from last place to surge ahead in the final moments of the races.
However, it was in 2009 that Zenyatta became a legend. That year, she won all 8 races, including the Santa Margarita Handicap, the Apple Blossom Handicap, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. She became the first female horse to win the Breeder’s Cup, sealing her place as one of history’s top female race horses. She was named the American Horse of the Year in 2010.
Born in 1972, Ruffian was trained by Frank Whiteley Jr. and ridden by jockey Jacinto Vasquez. She was an American thoroughbred considered one of the most famous female race horses ever, winning all 10 races and setting several records during her short but illustrious career. In her first year of racing, she won all 5 races, including the Fashion Stakes, the Sorority Stakes, and the Spinaway Stakes.
In 1975, Ruffian continued her dominance by winning the Grade I Filly Triple Crown. She also set a new record time in the Mother Goose Stakes, running the mile and an eighth in 1:46 4/5. Unfortunately, Ruffian’s career came to a tragic end in a highly-publicized match race against the Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure.
Ruffian suffered a catastrophic injury to her right foreleg during the race and was euthanized on the track. Many horse racing betting experts noted that Ruffian had all the incredible talent, speed, and power to win at any distance and could have been the fastest race horse in the world without her accident. She was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1976.
Many horses have captivated audiences and left a lasting impact on horse racing history. However, fewer have forever etched their names in the sport with their incredible and almost unmatchable feats. From the sheer power of Secretariat to the speed and grace of Black Caviar, these horses have earned their place in the pantheon of the greatest race horses of all time.
Ultimately, these horses are symbols of courage, power, and excellence. They represent the best horse racing has to offer and will always be remembered as true icons of the sport.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the fastest female horse ever?Selecting the best female horse from different eras of the sport can be tricky, as several criteria must be considered. However, Ruffian comes first on our list, an American thoroughbred who won all 10 races and set several records during her short but illustrious career.
Who is the best race horse of all time?Selecting the best race horse of all time from different eras and locations is a hot-debated and subjective topic. However, Man O’ War came first on our list, a chestnut thoroughbred stallion who won 20 out of 21 races while setting multiple world records.
What are the best horse racing breeds?Famous for their speed, agility, intelligence, and friendliness, thoroughbreds are the most renowned horse racing breed globally. They also have a tall and muscular body structure, making them an excellent fit for the sport.