Nunthorpe Stakes

The Nunthorpe Stakes is a Group One race run over 5 furlongs at York Racecourse on the third day of the four-day fixture, known as the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’, staged annually in August. The Nunthorpe Stakes is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged two years and upwards and, as such, is not only one of the few races in which juveniles can compete against older horses, but the only Group One contest in Britain open to juvenile geldings.

Established, in its present guise, in 1922, the Nunthorpe Stakes takes it name from Nunthorpe, an outer suburb of Middlesbrough, on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, 50 miles or so north of York Racecourse. Since 2007, the Nunthorpe Stakes has been sponsored by the prestigious Coolmore Stud – headquarters of the largest thoroughbred breeding operation in the world – in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. In 2019, the Nunthorpe Stakes offered total prize money of £400,000.

Two horses – namely Tag End, in 1928, 1929 and 1930, and Sharpo, in 1980, 1981 and 1982 – have won the Nunthorpe Stakes three times. The leading trainer in the history of the race remains Australian-born Captain Oswald ‘Ossie’ Bell, who saddled five winners in the Twenties and Thirties. Flat racing legend Lester Piggott rode seven winners between 1958 and 1978 and is the leading jockey in the history of the Nunthorpe Stakes.

According to the ‘weight-for-age’ scale, which is designed to compensate younger horses for their lack of physical maturity, juveniles competing in the Nunthorpe Stakes carry just 8st 1lb. By contrast, three-year-olds carry 9st 9lb and four-year-olds and upwards carry 9st 11lb. However, despite a generous weight concession, of 22lb and 24lb, respectively, from the older horses, the last two-year-old to win the Nunthorpe Stakes was Kingsgate Native in 2007.

The 2019 renewal of the Nunthorpe Stakes proved pivotal, insofar as the winner, Battaash, trained by Charles Hills, recorded a time of 55.90 seconds and, in so doing, broke the five-furlong course record set by Dayjur 29 years earlier. Dayjur, trained by Dick Hern and owned, like Battaash, by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, was billed in his heyday as the ‘fastest horse in the world’; his winning time of 56.16 seconds was widely considered to be unbeatable.

Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp

The Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp or, in English, ‘Prize of the Abbey of Longchamp’, is a Group One race run over a straight 1,000 metres, or 4 furlongs and 213 yards, at Longchamp Racecourse, in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris France. The race is open to colt, fillies and, since 2001, geldings aged two years and upwards. However, since 1972, just one juvenile – the Habitat filly Sigy, trained by Christiane ‘Criquette’ Head-Maarek and ridden by her brother, six-times French champion jockey Freddy Head – has won the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

As the title suggests, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp was named after a thirteenth century priory which, prior to the French Revolution, occupied an area on the northern boundary of the modern racecourse. The race was inaugurated in 1957, when it was added to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe fixture, staged on the first Sunday in October, to celebrate the centenary of Longchamp Racecourse. Following the introduction of the European Pattern race system in 1971, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp was assigned Group Two status, but subsequently upgraded to Group One status in 1976.

Yves Saint-Martin, the darling of the French racing public in the Sixties and Seventies, is the leading jockey in the history of the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, with five winners between 1962 and 1975. François Mathet, perennial French champion trainer between 1957 and 1982, did better still, saddling a total of eight winners between 1957 and 1974.

The Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp is regularly contested by the crème de la crème of sprinting talent from the other side of the English Channel. Since the turn of the century, various British and Irish trainers, including David Nicholls, Clive Brittain, Roger Charlton (twice), Kevin Ryan (twice), Sir Mark Prescott and Charles Hills, among others, have tasted success in the Longchamp showpiece. Other illustrious ‘foreign’ winners down the years have included Sharpo, trained by Jeremy Tree, in 1982, Habibti, Timeform Horse of the Year, trained by John Dunlop, in 1983, Dayjur, European Champion Sprinter, trained by Dick Hern, in 1990 and Lochsong, Cartier Champion Sprinter twice, trained by Ian Balding, in 1993 and 1994.

St. James’s Palace Stakes

The St. James’s Palace Stakes is a Group One race run over 7 furlongs and 213 yards on the Old Mile course at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, South East England. The race is named after St. James’s Palace, a former royal residence built by King Henry VIII, in the City of Westminster, London and is staged on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting, held annually in June. The St. James’s Palace Stakes established in 1834 and, following the creation of the European Pattern in 1971, was initially assigned Group Two status before being upgraded to its present Group One status in 1988.

The St. James’s Palace Stakes is open to three-year-old colts only, so naturally attracts horses that previously contested the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – a.k.a. the French 2,000 Guineas – at Longchamp. Indeed, the roll of honour for the St. James’s Palace Stakes features some of the highest-rated racehorses of all time, according to Timeform.

The 1947 winner, Tudor Minstrel, rated 144, had previously won the 2,000 Guineas by eight lengths and, according to some observers, could have done so by double that margin, or more. The 1971 winner, Brigadier Gerard, also rated 144, had also won the 2,000 Guineas, famously defeating subsequent Derby winner Mill Reef in the Newmarket Classic. The 1979 winner, Kris, rated a ‘mere’ 135 by Timeform, had suffered a narrow, shock defeat by Tap On Wood – ridden by a youthful Steve Cauthen – in the 2,000 Guineas, but would go on to win 14 of his 16 races. Much more recently, the 2011 winner, Frankel – whose rating, of 147, was the highest ever awarded by Timeform – arrived fresh from an impressive six-length victory in the 2,000 Guineas, but came as close as he ever did to losing his unbeaten record, but held on to win by three-quarters of a length.

The ‘Master of Balldoyle’, Aidan O’Brien, is the leading trainer in the history of the St. James’s Palace Stakes, with eight wins since the turn of the twenty-first century. Michael ‘Mick’ Kinane, erstwhile stable jockey at Ballydoyle, remains the leading rider, with six wins between 1982 and 2004.

A look at the most successful horses in racing history

There are some horses that are so famous, even those who know exactly nothing about horse racing have heard of them. Desert Orchid, Nijinsky, Red Rum, Arkle – all became celebrities in their own right and in each case, the world mourned their passing. Yet strangely, none of these household names make it into the top lists when you look at career success.

 

In many sports, it can become almost meaningless to try to define the greatest of all time. Pele or Ronaldo? Fangio or Schumacher? Bradman or Lara? It’s impossible to say. But horseracing is a sport steeped in statistics that has changed very little over the years. Here, then, we can say with some confidence, are the five most successful racehorses ever.

 

Secretariat

 

In 1973, this chestnut stallion became the first horse in a quarter of a century to win the Triple Crown. Justify repeated the feat last year, becoming only the 13th horse to do so in more than a century. But for Secretariat, that was just the beginning. By the time he went to stud, he had won an incredible 16 of his 21 races, coming second in three of the others. In his brief career, he generated more than $1.3 million in winnings, a sum that was unheard of in horse racing in the early 1970s.

 

Winx

 

From the USA of the 70s, we proceed to present day Australia. For the past three years, there has been only one word to describe Winx: Unbeatable. If you’d looked up the Unibet racing odds on any of the Group One races in Australia since 2016, you would have seen Winx head and shoulders ahead of the rest. Her record speaks for itself: 29 consecutive wins, 22 at Group One level is unprecedented, not just in Australia but in horse racing worldwide.

 

Man O’ War

 

Here’s the horse that is often compared to Secretariat by American racing fans. He single handedly put horse racing back on the map in the 1920s – in fact, many say he saved the sport from extinction. Born in 1917, there was no cosseting of special dietary regime for this stallion, who won all but one of his 21 races. Yet the one race he never won was the Kentucky Derby.

 

Frankel

 

An unbeaten career record and career earnings just shy of £3 million. Has there ever been a horse like Frankel? When he retired unbeaten in 2012, the BBC’s horseracing guru Cornelius Lysaght argued in his favour over such legends as those mentioned above. Frankel’s wins included the 2000 Guineas, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the Champion Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes, to name just a few.

 

Phar Lap

 

Fans of horse racing on the big screen will know all about Phar Lap, but his real life was just as extraordinary as the movie. He was described as the horse that was just too good. With 37 wins out of 51 starts, he had only just begun, before his untimely death in 1932, the circumstances of which are still shrouded in mystery almost 90 years later.