12 Best Racehorses of All Time

Horseracing is one of the oldest sports known to humankind. Even during the ancient Greek Olympics, there were various forms of horse racing.

It is one of the most exciting sports which involves a horse and a jockey. The horses play a major role in the sport as the fastest horse wins the game.

There are varieties of breeds of racehorses used in the sport. Over the years, the sport has witnessed some incredible horse races with speed and stamina.

Jockey and racehorse
Jockey and racehorse (Source: Wikimedia)

These beautiful four-legged creatures are why the game is more worth watching for many. Therefore, keeping this in mind, we are compiling the list of the best racehorses of all time.

Being the best is subjective; however, we are looking at the total winnings and achievements to help us rank.

So without further ado, let’s get into our list of the best racehorses of all time.

12 Best Racehorses of All Time

We have compiled the list with the help of internet sources like Casino.org, HorseyPlanet, etc.

But before the detailed list, let us look at the overall ranking in the table beforehand.

Racehorses NameRecord
12. Kincsem54-0-0
11. Zenyatta19-1-0
10. Ruffian10-0-0
9. Red Rum24-15-23
8. Affirmed22-5-1
7. Kelso39-12-2
6. Dan PatchUndefeated
5. Winx37-3-0
4. Seattle Slew14-2-0
3. Seabiscuit33-15-1
2. Man o’ War20-1-0
1. Secretariat16-3-1

12. Kincsem

We are starting our list with a Hungarian Thoroughbred racehorse, Kincsem. Her name translates into “My Precious” or “My Treasure.” She was foaled on March 17, 1874, and has the longest undefeated record of any racehorses.

She was a liver chestnut color without any white markings and was 65 inches, 165 cm high at maturity. Kincsem had long and deep, strong, flawless legs that gave her a great advantage during fast galloping.

Kincsem
Kincsem (Source: Wikimedia)

Kincsem’s major wins include Grosser Preis von Baden three times, Goodwood Cup, Grand Prix de Deauville, Hungarian Two Thousand Guineas, Hungarian St. Ledger, among many others.

Kincsem died on March 16, 1887. Her skeleton was preserved and is displayed in the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.

The broodmare is widely considered one of the top racehorses of the 19th century. Furthermore, Kincsem is a national icon, and a Kincsem Park is named in her honor with a life-sized statue of her at the entrance. 

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11. Zenyatta

Our number 9 of the best racehorses of all time goes to a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse, Zenyatta. Foaled on April 1, 2004, record producer Jerry Moss and his wife purchased the mare as a yearling.

The mare had a kind and curious personality. Zenyatta’s height was between 68 inches, 173 cm, and 70 inches, 178 cm.

She would relax before the race by walking or prancing with an elevated stride. With her charming personality and athletic prowess, Zenyatta made many passionate followers.

Zenyatta at 2009 Lady Secret
Zenyatta at 2009 Lady Secret (Source: Wikimedia)

Some of the major wins that the mare accumulated during her racing days were the Lady’s Secret Stakes, Apple Blossom Handicap, Clement L. Hirsch, etc. This horse was the first mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Likewise, Zenyatta also won the American Champion Older Female Horse, American Horse of the Year, and Secretariat Vox Populi Award.

In her honor, she became the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Famer and had a lifesize statue at Santa Anita Park in 2012. Furthermore, the Lady’s Secret Stake race was renamed Zenyatta Stakes.

10. Ruffian

Ruffian was foaled on April 17, 1972, and was an American Thoroughbred racehorse. The racehorse dominated the race tracks and set new stakes records in each of the eight stakes races she won.

Ruffian was quite large for a filly. At her maturity, she stood at 66 inches, 168 cm. Her speed, size, and strength helped her dominate the race.

In 1975, she entered her eleventh race at Belmont Park. Ruffian had hit her shoulder hard as she left the starting gate. After a little while in the race, both of the sesamoid bones in the right foreleg had snapped.

Ruffian
Ruffian (Source: Pastthewire)

This event broke her down, and she had to undergo surgery. Despite the efforts, Ruffian reacted poorly to the treatment. The medical teams concluded that she would not survive more extensive surgery.

Then on July 7, 1975, the team euthanized her to relieve her pain. However, Ruffian’s accident and death led to a public outcry for more humane treatment for the racehorses.

To honor the beautiful frilly, Ruffian was inducted into the American Racing Hall of Fame in 1976, and Ruffian Stakes was introduced at Belmont Park.

9. Red Rum

We have placed a champion Thoroughbred steeplechaser as our number 9 of the best racehorses of all time. Red Rum is a gelding that was foaled on May 3, 1965.

The gelding was famous for his jumping ability. The name was given to her by taking the last three letters of the names of his dam and sire.

Before being a steeplechaser, Red Rum was a spinster. But, his owner Le Mare wanted to win the Grand National and thus, began training him.

Red Rum statue
Red Rum statue (Source: Horseyhooves)

The National is notorious for being “the ultimate test of a horse courage.” Yet, amazingly, the gelding made a historic treble after winning the Grand National in 1973, 1974, and 1977.

With his achievements, Red Rum became a national celebrity and annually led the Grand National parade for many years. In 1978, unfortunately, the gelding suffered a hairline fracture.

He retired from the horse racing world before the 1978 Grand National. In his honor, there is a life-size statue of Red Rum at the Aintree Racecourse and a smaller bronze statue inside Wayfarers. 

8. Affirmed

Next up, we have a stallion on our number 8 of the best racehorses of all time. Affirmed was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse, foaled in 1975.

The stallion had the tactical speed and stamina needed for a racehorse. Every year he raced, he was sure to become the champion. Affirmed won eleven American Triple Crown as a racehorse.

Affirmed became the “Horse of the Year” at age three for winning the Triple Crown. Additionally, he had won many other stakes and Derbys.

Affirmed at Spendthrift Farm 1981
Affirmed at Spendthrift Farm 1981 (Source: Wikimedia)

Moreover, he was well-known for his rivalry with Alydar. Aside from the numerous titles, the stallion also won many awards for his outstanding performances.

Some of the awards include 11th U.S. Triple Crown Champion 1978, American Horse of the Year 1978, 1979, American Champion Older Male Horse 1979, etc.

In 1980, Affirmed was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, this prized stallion fell seriously ill with laminitis, a circulatory hoof disease. As a result, in 2001, he was euthanized.

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7. Kelso

Considered one of the greatest racehorses in history, Kelso was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. The gelding was foaled in 1957 and ranked fourth in the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th century.

Kelso made his racing debut when he was two-year-old in 1959 at Atlantic City Race Course. After beginning his three-year season, his championship run started.

He was an extremely sound horse, light on his feet with incredible balance. The gelding could wheel on a dime, spin around in a circle without letting his feet touch each other.

Kelso
Kelso (Source: Americabestracing.net)

Kelso defeated more champions and Hall of Fame racehorses than any other. Aside from his long list of wins, he also got awards for the Outstanding U.S. 3-Year-Old Male Horse, U.S. Champion Older Male Horse, U.S. Horse of the Year, etc.

After retiring as a racehorse, Kelso worked as a hunter and showjumper. In 1967, he became the United States Racing Hall of Famer.

The champion racehorse died the next day after making his final appearance on October 16, 1983.

6. Dan Patch

Dan Patch is one of the most notable American Standardbred pacers. The stallion was foaled on April 29, 1896, and is our number 6 of the best racehorses of all time.

Dan Patch was one of the best racehorses, while harness racing was one of the largest sports in the nation. He was a buggy horse and made his debut as a racehorse in 1900 as a four-year-old.

The stallion’s hindquarters were notably higher than his front. However, he had a crooked hock on his left hind. Dan Patch was 64 inches, 163 cm tall at his maturity, and weighed 1,165 pounds.

Dan Patch
Dan Patch (Source: Wikimedia)

In open competition, he was undefeated in open competition. Furthermore, his dominant personality scared other owners from entering the competition. Dan Patch had become a major celebrity.

In the early 1900s, he broke the world speed records at least 14 times. Additionally, he set the world record for the fastest miles by a harness horse. The record was undefeated for 30 long years.

The famed stallion died on July 11, 1916. Unfortunately, one day after his death, his owner Marion Willis Savage also passed away.

In 1953, Dan Patch was inducted into the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. Likewise, in 2019, he became the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer.

5. Winx

On our number 5 of the best racehorses of all time, we have the retired champion Australian Thoroughbred racehorse, Winx. The mare was foaled on September 14, 2011.

Unlike the other elite racehorses, Winx’s stride was shorter. However, it did not stop the mare from becoming one of the best racehorses.

In 2014, she made her competitive debut after two racecourse trials. During her debut, Winx was two years old, but she only suffered losses after turning three years old.

Winx
Winx (Source: Wikimedia)

Her first major success came at Randwick Racecourse on September 6, 2014. Some of her major wins include Sunshine Coast Guineas, Queensland Oaks, Queen Elizabeth Stakes, etc.

In 2015-16, Winx became the Australian Horse of the Year. Aside from the award, she has won many Stakes and competitions.

In 2017, she became the Australian Racing Hall of Famer, and in 2018, she became World’s Best Racehorse. In 2019, Winx retired as a racehorse to broodmare duty. 

4. Seattle Slew

Seattle Stew was a dark bay stallion who was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. He was foaled on February 15, 1974, and is one of the only two horses to have won the Triple Crown while being undefeated.

Not considered a particularly attractive foal and had an awkward personality. Later, the stallion developed a graceful front-running style compared to “a falcon in a dive.”

Seattle Stew had a height of 64.5 inches, 164 cm at his maturity. Then in 1976, he made his debut as a two-year-old. Then, likewise, he also started gathering attention.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew (Source: Wikimedia)

In 1977, the stallion won the triple crown races and became the first racehorse to achieve the feat. Likewise, Seattle Stew has won many wins and awards.

After winning the Triple Crown, he was sent to Hollywood Park Racetrack. The race gathered much controversy because he was sedated repeatedly before shipping to California.

Seattle Stew retired as a racehorse to become a sire. The mare became the United States Racing Hall of Famer in 1981. Unfortunately, this champion horse died on May 7, 2002.

3. Seabiscuit

We are down to our top three. Our number 3 of the best racehorses of all time goes to a champion thoroughbred racehorse, Seabiscuit.

The stallion was the top money-winning racehorse up to the 1940s. However, Seabiscuit was a small horse. Moreover, he had an inauspicious start in his racing career.

When he turned two years old, the stallion raced 35 times, where he finished the first five times and came in the second seven times. Soon the horse became the most unlikely champion and a symbol to many Americans during the Great Depression.

Seabiscuit
Seabiscuit (Source: Wikimedia)

Seabiscuit gathered many major wins during his career as a racehorse. Likewise, he won the U.S. Champion Handicap Male in 1937 & 1938 and U.S. Horse of the year.

On May 17, 1947, Seabiscuit died of a probable heart attack. With this, the stallion became the United States Racing Hall of Famer in 1958. Similarly, the iconic racehorse has been part of numerous books and movies.

2. Man o’ War

Man o’ War is considered the greatest racehorse of all time. The stallion was an American Thoroughbred racehorse, foaled on March 29, 1917.

Several publications like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Blood-Horse have voted the Man o’ War as the best American racehorse of the 20th century. He was a chestnut horse with a white star and stripe on his forehead.

The stallion had virtually flawless legs and solid bones. Man o’ War was 66.5 inches, 169 cm in height at his maturity. He was an energetic horse described as the “look of eagles.”

Man o' War 1920
Man o’ War 1920 (Source: Wikimedia)

He won 20 races out of 21. His achievements made him the unofficial American Horse of the Year 1920. Furthermore, The New York Times honored him and baseball player, Babe Ruth, as the year’s outstanding athlete.

In 1947, Man o’ War suffered from a heart attack which led to his retirement. The stallion passed away on November 1, 1947. There is a life-size statue at Kentucky Horse Park.

He is the United States Racing Hall of Famer and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer.

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1. Secretariat

Secretariat is widely regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time. Foaled on March 30, 1970, the stallion holds the fastest time record in the American Triple Crown.

Nicknamed “Big Red,” Secretariat was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. He made his debut as a racehorse on July 4, 1972.

As a three-year-old, he was syndicated for a record-breaking amount of $6.08 million. His record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes is widely regarded as one of the greatest races in history.

Secretariat won his triple crown race in 1973, while he also won multiple stakes from 1972 to 1973.

Secretariat
Secretariat (Source: Pinterest)

Likewise, he also won many awards, like the 9th U.S. Triple Crown Champion, American Horse of the year, American Champion Male Turf Horse, etc.

After his retirement as a racehorse, the stallion became a sire. Then in the fall of 1989, Secretariat contracted laminitis. After a month of treatment, this star racehorse died on October 4, 1989.

Secretariat is the U.S. Racing Hall of Famer, Canadian Hall of Famer, Kentucky Athletic Hall of Famer, and featured in U.S. Postage Stamp.

Conclusion

With this, we will conclude our list. These majestic creatures have played their part in making the sport more enjoyable and exciting.

These racehorses are the stars of sports. Their spectacular show stole the hearts of many fans and spectators alike.

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