Tuesday, October 10, 2006

horses race horses

Giant's Causeway earned himself the name of 'Iron Horse' during the summer of 2000.

Owned by the legendary owner, gambler Dorothy Padgett, Golden Miller was to chalk up a remarkable five successive victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The first of these wins came in the 1932 season when Golden Miller was just five years old. Better was to follow in 1934, when still at just seven years of age he won both the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season. A feat that has never been equalled before or since. His sequence of Gold Cup victories may have been even better had it not been for the 1937 renewal being lost to the weather. After his one National victory he developed the habit of refusing at the big fences and was never successful there again.

This year it's the twenty fifth anniversary of Red Rum's final race in the Grand National, but for many people if you asked them which horse they most associated with the event they would still say Red Rum. In all Red Rum ran in the National five times, winning a record three times and coming in as runner up twice. A phenomenal record of achievement. His record away from Aintree was unexceptional with a career record of 27 wins from 110 races. So it just goes to underline how he clicked up a couple of gears when he was at Aintree. He was trained nearby on the Southport sands by Ginger McCain and after his death in 1995 he was buried at the course, not far from the finsihing line.

A great horse between 1970 and 1972, trained by Ian Balding and ridden by Geoff Lewis. Mill Reef was off to a flying start even as a two year old. He raced six times claiming five victories. These victories included major races such as the Coventry Stakes, Gimcrack Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes. All quality races where he simply spreadeagled the fields winning these races by an average of seven lengths. He suffered just one defeat as a three and four year old and this came at the hands of the brilliant mile specialist Brigadier Gerard, in the 2000 Guineas. From there though it was success all the way and Mill Reef became the first horse to win the Derby, King George VI and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. An outstanding achievement. Mill Reef then treated his public to a facile ten lengths win in the Prix Ganay at Lonchamp. Sadly he was only to race once more, capturing the Coronation Cup at Epsom, to prove himself as one the greatest mile and a half horses ever. In late August 1972 he fractured a leg on the gallops and was retired to stud. He met with further success as a sire, producing two Derby winners and winners of several other major races.

Lammtarra's racing career was short, but very sweet. In all he raced just four times. All four outings resulted in victory. He raced just once as a two year old before being sent to the 1995 without the benefit of a prep race. He became the first horse to win the Derby on his seasonal debut since 1995 and beat the Derby record time in the process. The previous record had stood for almost sixty years. In winning the Derby he became the first winner to have had a Derby winning sire (Nijinsky) and an Oaks winning dam (Snow Bride). After the Derby he went on to win both the King George VI and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He is the only horse other than Mill Reef to have captured all three of these races.

Nashwan's claim to fame is the fact that he won the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Eclipse and the King George VI, all in the same season. A feat that has never been matched by any other horse. His year was 1989. Trained by Dick Hern and ridden by Willie Carson, Nashwan was sent to the 2000 Guineas without a prep race. He justified favouritism by winning by a length and a half. His only defeat came when third in the Prix Niel and he was retired to stud soon after.

A star from the legendary Vincent O'Brien stables Nijinsky carried almost all before him in the 1970 season. The year before as a two year old he raced and won five times, but it was as a three year old that Nijinsky really made his mark. He managed to pull of wins in the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Ledger becoming the first horse to win the triple crown since 1935. He also won a high class renewal of the King George VI Stakes that year. After winning all of his first eleven races Nijinsky was to be defeated by just a head in that season's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. After one more race that ended in defeat Nijinsky was retired to stud. His story doesn't end there as he produced three Derby winners and countless other class horses.
Sadler's Wells doesn't get a mention here for what he achieved on the track, but for what he has achieved off it. During his racing career he managed six wins from eleven races including the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Eclipse and the Phoenix Champion Stakes. A fair haul and one most horses would be content with. The story of Sadler's Wells doesn't take off until he was retired from stud. He has been champion sire for each of the last ten seasons and he has had a remarkable influence of Group One races. The roll call of races won by his offspring include the Derby, the Oaks, King George VI, the Eclipse, the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Breeders' Cup Mile and the Irish Derby. The 2001 season showed his influence at its peak as he sired the winners of both the Derby and the Oaks. Even more remarkably he was responsible for the first three in the Oaks. His influence doesn't just rest with flat racing as he is also the sire of Champion Hurdle star Istabraq.

Shergar produced a number of blinding performances in the 1981 season to earn his place in racing history. He kicked off his three year old season by claiming the Guardian Classic Trial at Sandown Park by ten lengths. From there he went on to Chester to win the Chester Vase by twelve lengths. He then produced one of the best performances ever seen in the Epsom Derby where he laid waste to the field by ten lengths, the biggest ever winning margin in the race's history. He followed this up by capturing the Irish Derby and the King George VI by four lengths apiece. After than came his only failure as a three year old when for some reason he didn't run anywhere near his best and could only manage fourth place in the St Ledger.

After this he was retired to stud and it was there that the Shergar story takes a final sad turn. One night in February 1983 he was kidnapped from the stud in County Kildare and was never seen again. A very sad way to bring to an end the life of one of the greatest racehorses ever seen.

It was a well-earned name as he slugged it out head to head with a number of that year's top horses. It was his determination not to be beaten that marked Giant's Causeway ahead of the rest and led to a remarkable five successive group one winners. His victories were in the St James's Palace Stakes - by a head, the Eclipse - by a head, the Sussex Stakes - by a comfortable three quarters of a length, the International Stakes by a head and the Irish Champion Stakes - by half a length. On top of all this he also managed credible second places in the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, where he was beaten by half a length and the Breeders' Cup Classic where he was beaten by no more than a neck.

The distances involved don't always tell the whole story of the titanic battles that Giant's Causeway was involved in, especially his two victories over the unfortunate Kalanisi. Giant's Causeway battled like few other horses have in the history of the sport and fully deserves his place in racing's Hall of Fame.

Abernant was a flying machine who plied his trade between 1948 and 1950. A grey colt, trained by Noel Murless, he was one of the greatest sprinters ever to be seen on a racecourse. He won fourteen of the seventeen races that he contested and what races they were. By the end of his two year old season he had already tucked away victories in the Chesham, Champagne and Middle Park Stakes. At the peak of his powers as a three year old he cruised to victory in the King's Stand, King George and Nunthorpe Stakes and added the July Cup for good measure. The following season he produced repeat victories in the King George Stakes, Nunthorpe Stakes and the July Cup.

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