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Which is the best race horse of all time? Find out here

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Horse racing dates back to around 4,500 BC and is considered one of the oldest human sports. Over the years, the competition has stiffened as many stars continue to emerge, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. To be considered the best racehorse of all time, a horse has to go down in history with numerous records and titles, and not just a one-off win.

Jockey Lyle Hewitson riding Ching wins the Race 9 Wu Yee Sun Alumni Handicap (Class 3) at Sha Tin Racecourse on 26 March 2023 in Hong Kong. Photo: Lo Chun Kit
Source: Getty Images

The first group of people to domesticate horses and train them in the art of racing are believed to be the nomads who lived in Central Asia. Today, horse racing is a big business that is legal worldwide.

Top 10 ranking of the best racehorses of all time

The debate about the greatest racehorses of all time will always leave room for disagreements. Horses are ranked according to their performance in flat racing, jump racing, saddle trotting, harness racing, and endurance racing.

That said, here is a compiled list of the top 10 best racehorses of all time, according to various online sources.

10. Dr Fager

The greatest racehorses of all time
Bill Boland in action aboard Dr Fager (3) during race at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica on 30 September 1967. Photo: Tony Triolo
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 6 April 1964
  • Place of birth: Florida, the United States of America
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 22:18-2-1

Although his career was marred by an illness that made him not participate in the Triple Crown races, Dr Fager was one of the most accomplished racehorses in history. He won four American titles in 1968 and thus became the only one to do so in a year.

Additionally, he set the world record in the Washington Park Handicap, one of his most notable victories, and in 1971, he was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame. That said, his 1968 season is regarded as the best single season in horse racing history.

9. Kincsem

Is considered the greatest racehorse of all time
Hungary’s undefeated world-class sprinter horse on 16 April 2009. He is considered to be the best horse to emerge from Hungary since the great Kincsem in the 1870s. Photo: STR/AFP
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 17 March 1874
  • Place of birth: Tapioszentmarton, Pest County, Hungary
  • Gender: Filly/mare
  • Record: 54:54-0-0

Kincsem is one of the greatest racehorses of all time who won all 54 races that she took part in, and in doing so, she set the world record for undefeated races.

The Austria-Hungary filly won the Grand Prix de Deauville, the Grosser Preis von Baden, and the Goodwood Cup, Europe’s most lauded race, and was the most-celebrated racehorse in the UK.

8. Affirmed

Best racehorse names of all time
Kentucky Derby hopeful, Affirmed, with exercise rider Jose Ithier up, gallops around track on 29 April 1978. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 21 February 1975
  • Place of birth: Marion County, Florida, the United States of America
  • Gender Stallion
  • Record: 29:22-5-1

From the beginning, Affirmed was groomed to be one of the most successful racehorses ever. He had a great rivalry with Alydar, with whom they both shared a grandsire, Raise a Native.

Despite the rivalry, Affirmed won the Triple Crown, Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Preakness Stakes in 1978 and thus became the last to do so until American Pharoah did so in 2015. He won titles in his three-year racing career, and in 1980, he was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame.

7. Black Caviar

Best racehorse of all time in Australia
Black Caviar on 9 April 2011 at Randwick racecourse in Sydney, Australia. Photo: El Pics
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 18 August 2006
  • Place of birth: Nagambie, Victoria, Australia
  • Gender: Mare
  • Record: 25:25-0-0

Black Caviar went undefeated in the twenty-five races in which she competed and is considered the best racehorse of all time in Australia. She was trained by Peter Moody and won the Lightning Stakes from 2011 to 2013 and was renamed the Black Caviar Lightning.

She ranks first worldwide in terms of her career earnings and has won the Australian racehorse of the Year award thrice.

6. Seattle Slew

Ranking of the best racehorses of all time
Triple Crown winning horse Seattle Slew trotting with his jockey during a practice run on 1 January 1977. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 15 February 1974
  • Place of birth: Lexington, Kentucky, the United States of America
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 17:14-2-0

The Kentucky-based stallion was one of the most prominent racehorses in the sport’s history. He rose to stardom after winning fourteen out of seventeen races, and among them was the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness Stakes.

That said, with Justify, they became the only horses to accomplish the undefeated above. Seattle Slew was known for his electrifying performance and connection with the crowd. In 1981, he was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame.

5. Ribot

Most successful racehorses of all time
Enrico Camici aboard horse Ribot (1950-60) touring club Italiano. Photo: Marka
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 27 February 1952
  • Place of birth: Newmarket, Suffolk, England
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 16:16-0-0

Bred in Italy by Federico Tesio, Ribot was considered the best racehorse of all time in the UK. Throughout his career, he went undefeated, winning 16 races, including the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

He rewrote the European horse racing history books and was described as having a deep heart, a balanced temperament, and intelligent wit. Additionally, Ribot was the leading sire in Ireland and Great Britain, triumphing in all races, and was voted the fourth-greatest Italian athlete of the 20th century.

4. Citation

Ranking of the best racehorses of all time
Citation, the victor at the Derby, Preakness and Belmont races, is ready to run again on 21 July 1948 in the Welles stake. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 11 April 1945
  • Place of birth: Lexington, Kentucky, the United States of America
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 45:32-10-2

The citation was the first racehorse to earn more than $1 million in history. He won 16 consecutive races and triumphed in 32 out of 45 starts, and among them was the Triple Crown and the American Derby in 1948 and the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1951.

The legend was awarded the 1948 Horse of the Year award, and in 1959, he was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame.

3. Frankel

Best racehorse names of all time
Cunco, the first offspring of the champion racehorse Frankel is lead round the pre-parade ring by Barry Savage on 13 May 2016 in Newbury, England. Photo: Julian Herbert
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 11 February 2008
  • Place of birth: Great Britain
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 14:14-0-0

Among racehorses’ names, the British-bred Frankel ranks among the best racehorse names of all time. He accomplished the feat of having an unquestionable career of fourteen undefeated starts.

In 2011, Frankel was the top-rated racehorse in the world, and after he won the Queen Anne Stakes in 2012, his rating became the highest in the history of the rating organization. He was inducted into the British Champions Series Hall of Fame in 2021.

2. Man O’ War

Best racehorse of all time in Australia
Man O’ War, considered one of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses of all time during his career years between years 1917 and 1947. Photo: Print Collector
Source: Getty Images
  • Foaled: 29 March 1917
  • Place of birth: Lexington, Kentucky, the United States of America
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 21:20-1-0

Man O’ War is considered the best racehorse of all time. Although he was profoundly spirited and highly energetic with a wild and explosive character, he was sold to Samuel D Riddle, who refused to let him compete.

Despite his chance of being hindered and not competing in the Triple Crown, he dominated his rivals, winning 20 out of 21 races that he took part in. Man O’ War won the American Horse of the Year award in 1920 and became a member of the US Racing Hall of Fame in 1957.

1. Secretariat

  • Foaled: 30 March 1970
  • Place of birth: Caroline County, Virginia, the United States
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Record: 21:16-3-1

Topping the list is Secretariat, considered the greatest racehorse of all time. His significant achievements include the 1973 Triple Crown title, in which he still holds the record as the fastest-ever racehorse in the three races; the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness Stakes.

Best racehorse of all time
Secretariat ahead of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York on 6 June 1973 after winning the Belmont Stakes and completing the Triple Crown. Photo: Bettmann Archive
Source: Getty Images

His victory at the Belmont Stakes is one of the most-remembered in the history of horse racing. Secretariat was a powerful horse with perfect physical conformation and a big heart, propelling him to greater heights.

He was named Horse of the Year in 1972 and 1973, and in 1974, he was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame.

Who was the only horse to beat Man O’ War?

Upset, ridden by Willie Knapp, was the only racehorse to ever defeat Man o’ War to win the Sanford Memorial in Saratoga, New York.

Who was the greatest warhorse?

The American Sergeant Reckless is the most excellent warhorse. He carried ammunition to the front lines and helped rescue the wounded soldiers during the Korean War.

Who was the most successful racehorse?

The most successful racehorse of all time is Secretariat. He was the first ever to be awarded the Horse of the Year Award in horse racing history.

What is the biggest horse in the world?

Sampson, a Shire Breed, was the most famous gigantic horse in history. He weighed 3,359 pounds or 1,523.6 kilograms and stood over 22 hands tall.

Best racehorse of all time in the UK
Matthew Sampson of Great Britain riding Geneve R during the CSI 5* on 26 June 2021 in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. Photo: Scoop Dyga
Source: Getty Images

Which is the most expensive horse?

History’s most expensive horse is the Furaichi Pegasus which was sold for approximately $70 million. On the other hand, Frankel, the retired British champion, was once valued at over $100 million.

Who is the number 1 horse in the world?

As of 2023, Flightline, with an unforgettable Pacific Classic victory, is the most-rated horse with 140 in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.

Over the years, countless dominant champions have gone down in the history of horse racing as the best racehorses of all time. With the increasing popularity and breeding technology in the modern era, more racehorses are expected to rise to stardom and even break some records that have gone on for years without being broken.

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