A good racehorse has the ability to astound, enthrall, and have you on the edge of your seat. The perfect blend of speed and stamina, the world’s best racehorses have won prestigious titles, millions of dollars and unending glory. Find out who are the most successful racehorses of all time…
#1 Frankel • $4,284,489
Other wise known as Usain Colt, Frankel (b. February, 11, 2008) is Britain’s most successful racehorse.
A bay horse with a white star above his nose, and measuring 16 hands high, Frankel is named after the late US trainer Bobby Frankel. This horse comes from an excellent pedigree; his sire is champion Irish racehorse Galileo. His owner Khalid Abdulla claims his athletic gallop and regal outlook are just some of the qualities that make him a champion.
On the track, Frankel was unbeaten in all 14 races he ran. After a triumphant win in the Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes at Ascot, Frankel was named Timeform’s highest rated horse on flat at 147.
Frankel also set records as one of the most expensive stud horses, with stud fees of £125,000. In 2014, Frankel’s first foal was sold at auction for £1.15 million.
His net worth was ‘conservatively’ valued at £100 million — truly one of the best racehorses on the planet.
Take a look at Frankel’s big win at Royal Ascot in 2012.
#2. Cigar • $9,999,815
Cigar (April 18, 1990 – October 7, 2014) — named not after the tobacco product, but navigational intersection for airoplanes — was as fast as they come.
Bred in Lexington, Kentucky, this chestnut stallion was famed for both his speed and stamina. He was the first horse since Citation to win 16 consecutive race titles.
After winning the Dubai World Cup in 1996, with a purse of $4 million – Cigar became the world’s highest stakes-winning horse.
With a net worth of $25 million, Cigar was America’s top earning horse until Curlin surpassed him in 2008.
Cigar retired to stud in 1996, but this world’s best racehorse proved to be infertile as a stallion when 34 mares failed to get pregnant by him.
Named part of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002, Cigar lived out his retirement on Kentucky Horse Park. Following complications during an operation for osteoarthritis, Cigar died on October 7, 2014.
Here’s video footage of Cigar’s legendary win at the Dubai Cup in 1996.
#3. Secretariat • $1,316,808
Secretariat (March 30, 1970 – October 4, 1989) is widely thought of as the best racehorse of all time, setting records that remain unsurpassed today.
Also known as Big Red, Secretariat was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in under two minutes.
He was the first American Thoroughbred to win the US Triple Crown in 25 years, and his win by 31 lengths at Belmont Stakes in 1973 is still unbeaten.
After contracting laminitis (a hoof disease) Secretariat was euthanized at the young age of 19. An autopsy revealed Secretariat had an abnormally large heart, a genetic condition know as the “x-factor”, passed down from the dam line.
Secretariat was given the honour of being buried whole; usually only the head, heart, and hooves of a race horse are buried, the remainder of the body is cremated.
The legend of this successful racehorse extends to the silver screen too, with the release of the Disney film Secretariat in 2010.
#4. Man o’ War • $249,465
While only racing for two short years, Man o’ War (March 29, 1917 –November 1, 1947) is considered one of the greatest Thoroughbred race horses of the 21st century.
Man o’ War (originally ‘The Man o’ War) was named by the wife of August Belmont Jr. (son of Belmont Park’s financier, and namesake of the Belmont Stakes), to honour her husband’s time soldiering in the War.
After racing was legalised again following the Second World War, Man o’ War became the poster horse for the racing revival. A strapping chestnut stallion of 16.2 hands, he outran competitors with strides of 25 to 28 feet.
Bred in Lexington, Kentucky, Man o’ War has some impressive statistics: 20 wins of 21 races — including 11 consecutive victories —, including an astounding 100-length win in the Lawrence Realization at Belmont in 1920.
Man o’ War died at the age of 30, following a heart attack. His death came not long after the passing of his longtime groom. His remains are situated in Kentucky Horse Park, marked with a statue by American sculpture Hebert Haseltine.
This successful racehorse had a cameo in the John Ford film Kentucky Pride in 1952.
#5. Seabiscuit • $437,730
The ultimate rags to riches story, Seabiscuit (May 23, 1933 – May 17, 1947) has a worldwide reputation as history’s best racehorse.
An unlikely champion, Seabiscuit became a symbol of hope to many during the Great Depression. Universally renowned for his victories, Seabiscuit has been subject of several films including the Academy Award-nominated Seabiscuit in 2003.
A bay colt, Seabiscuit was an underdog in terms of his small size and often lacklustre attitude to training. Despite this, his excellent pedigree is undeniable; his sire Hard Tack, was successful racehorse Man o’War’s son.
After a series of setbacks and fails during his early races, Seabiscuit gained a new trainer in Tom Smith, who shook the horse out of his underachieving. 1937 saw Seabiscuit win 11 out of 15 races, and be the biggest earning race horse in the United States.
Critics were clamouring for a meet between Seabiscuit and rival top racehorse War Admiral, which took place at Pimlico Race Course in 1938. Dubbed “The Match of the Century”, the two champions ran neck and neck throughout the race, with Seabiscuit finally breaking through to win by four lengths. Watch the thrilling video of the Seabiscuit / War Admiral match here.
Seabiscuit retired from racing in 1940, shortly after winning $100,000 in the Santa Anita Handicap. He was put out to stud where he sired 108 horses. Before his eventual death in 1947, he had over 50,000 visitors in Ridgewood Ranch in California.
#6. Makybe Diva • $14,526,685
Ireland-born, Australian-bred horse Maykbe Diva (b. March 22, 1999) is the filly that left stallions in the dust.
Foaled in Somerset, England, Makybe Diva comes from a prestigious line of horses. Her sire was Desert King and she has blood lines to Irish racing champion Northern Dancer.
After travelling from England to Australia, Maykbe Diver lost about six months of maturity in comparison to her counterparts. This youthful advantage help her out during competitive meets.
Makybe Diva was the first horse to win three consecutive Melbourne Cup titles. ‘The Race That Stops a Nation’, Maykbe’s last Melbourne Cup win netted a cool $5 million in purse winnings. She represents one of only 14 mares to win the Cup in its entire history. Check the guide on how to bet on the Melbourne Cup in 2023 and choose your favourite horse.
In 2010, she was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and still holds the title as the highest earning racehorse in Australian history
When you’re next in Port Lincoln, South Australia, you’ll find a statue erected in her honour.
#7. Citation • $1,085,760
Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Citation (April 11, 1945 – August 8, 1970) was one of the world’s best racehorses. Notably, Citation was the sport’s first horse to earn a million dollars in racing purses.
A beautiful bay colt, while Citation was bred in Kentucky, his pedigree is largely European.
This successful racehorse saw three seasons, winning 27 out of 29 races (finishing close second in two), and was one of three major North American Thoroughbreds to win at least 16 consecutive major races (alongside Zenyatta and Cigar).
His win at the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup saw him break the $1 million barrier, to become the highest-earning house of the era.
The Top 100 Thoroughbred champions of the 21st century ranked Citation number three, behind Man o’ War and Secretariat.
#8. Northern Dancer • $580,806
Canadian-bred Northern Dancer (May 27, 1961 – November 16, 1990), was claimed by The National Thoroughbred Association as “one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history”.
While Northern Dancer’s career was relatively short (just 19 races in 11 months) he still ranked up some impressive titles including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Northern Dancer’s stud fee was $1 million and more of his offspring have won the Australian Breeder’s Cup than any other horse. One of Northern Dancer’s colts was sold for a record $10.2 million. At the time of his death in 1990, he had sired a lineage of horses that won more than 1,000 races.
This successful racehorse was euthanized at the age of 29 after an attack of colic, his remains were transported to the same farm where he was born in Oshawa, Canada.
#9. Invasor • $7,804,070
Bought for a staggering US$1.4 million, Invasor is certainly a horse worth his buck.
This Argentinian horse has won some of the world’s most impressive racing titles, including the 2005 Triple Crown in Uruguay, 2006 Breeder’s Cup in the United States and the 2007 Dubai World Cup.
Invasor started 11 times and won 10 races, elminiating the competition with his speed and determination. For his finesse on the track Invasor was named Horse of the Year, as part of the Eclipse Awards in 2007.
Inaugurated into the Hall of Fame in April 2013, the racing career of this successful racehorse was shortlived — Invasor retired in 2007 due to a bone fracture from an earlier injury.
#10. Deep Impact • $12,456,514.13
Deep Impact marked the first horse in 21 years to win all races of the Japanese Triple Crown.
This Japanese champion racehorse is said to have rivived the Asian racing industry today.
A bonafide star, Deep Impact has round the clock security guard at the Shadai Stallion Station, where tourists in their hundreds come to see him. Reportedly, around 300 to 400 people a day during the summer. As a stud, Deep Impact stood for $101,614 and his offspring have won numerous titles around the country. Find out about the next racecourse right here.
Despite all Deep Impact’s wins, following his third placement at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2006, this successful racehorse tested positive for the drug ipratropium — a huge upset for Japanese racing.
After this intense period as Japan’s best racehorse, the stallion retired to stud the following month.
The best racehorses of all time have set the bar high for centuries to come, and competition on the track is still fierce. Check out the Top Horse Racing Rivalries to find out about these thrilling head to heads.
Melbourne Cup Horses
Read the complete guide on the Melbourne Cup favourites and runners participating in the “race that stops a nation” Melbourne Cup 2023.