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The most famous racehorses throughout history
American Pharoah winning the 2015 Triple Crown (Michael Clevenger/Louisville Courier-Journal)

The most famous racehorses throughout history

Despite being one of the oldest sports in human history — with some estimating the roots of the sport go back to at least 4,500 BCE — horse racing is still big business today. In fact, in the US alone, the horse racing industry is estimated to have around $3.68bn in direct economic impact in 2022.

Horse racing events are also still very much big business, which continue to attract millions of eagerly watching eyes each week across the country. People from all parts of the country gather to watch races both online and in-person, hoping that one of the many cash or free bets they have placed will pay off.

The 2021 edition of the Kentucky Derby, for example, is estimated to have drawn in around 15.7 million viewers at its peak. While this is still only one race of the thousands that are run around the world throughout the year, it still gives us a sense of how important and popular horse racing remains.

Although what often captivates us most during these famous races is the skill, grit and determination of the jockeys as they hurtle round the track at break-neck speeds, an equally compelling aspect is the horses themselves.

While many of the horses that have captivated the world’s attention throughout human history have long been forgotten, in the more modern history of the sport there are a handful that have been elevated to the highest levels of the sport. 

In this short article, we will discuss some of the most famous racehorses throughout history.

Secretariat

Of the few racehorses that have had their lives turned into major motion pictures, Secretariat is arguably one of the highest achieving.

During his esteemed career, Secretariat achieved a string of the highest accolades in the sport. This includes winning American Horse of the Year on two occasions in 1972 and 1973, as well as the American Triple Crown in 1972.

Perhaps most notably, Secretariat became the first American Triple Crown winner in 25 years when he won it in 1972, doing so in dominant fashion with a lead of 31 lengths. Secretariat set the fastest time record in all three races.

Despite winning a long list of accolades in his career, it is this 1972 victory that has led many in the industry to view him as the greatest racehorse of all time.

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Seabiscuit

Much like Secretariat, Seabiscuit is one of the few racehorses to have been immortalized on the silver screen.

In the 1930s, Seabiscuit won more money than any other horse on the racing circuit. In addition, Seabiscuit also took part in some of the most famous horse races in history, which includes the so-called “match of the century” where he took on the 1937 American Triple Crown winner War Admiral.

However, it isn’t just his success in races that helped Seabiscuit to gain such notoriety, it is his entire story.

Seabiscuit’s jockey was known for having one eye, with Seabiscuit himself also suffering from various ailments during his career.

This ability to persevere and win in the face of adversity has turned the Seabiscuit story into the stuff of legends. For this reason, Seabiscuit’s story has spawned three major movies and a bestselling book.

Man o’ War

While his name might not be that well known by the average bettor today, for many decades, Man o’ War was one of the most recognizable names in horseracing.

Born all the way back in 1917, Man o’ War was an American thoroughbred racehorse regarded by many as the greatest racehorse of all time.

During his racing career, Man o’ War racked up a staggering $250,000 in career winnings, which is equivalent to around $3.5m today.

Some of his career accolades include winning the 1920 American Horse of the Year, as well as being honored along with Babe Ruth as an outstanding athlete by The New York Times in the same year.

Man o’ War was the odds-on favorite in every start of his professional career and suffered only one defeat to 20 victories. He was known for being an incredibly dominant racer, often winning by more than 20 lengths. His career included securing a Triple Crown win in 1920, as well as a string of other prestigious races.

Man o’ War’s legacy lived on beyond his retirement, and he would eventually go on to become the grandsire to Seabiscuit, as well as horses such as In Reality, Tiznow, Da’ Tara and Tourist.

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