With horse racing in Ireland dating back to at least 60 AD, it is easy to see why the sport is so deeply entrenched in our culture. And perhaps having horse racing in the blood is why we can claim to have produced some of the greatest race horses in the world. It would be interesting to know the form of the horses that took part in races of ancient times and how they would compare to their modern-day counterparts. But as that is not possible, here is a look at the five greatest Irish-bred racehorses of all time. Well, since records began.
Named after the Irish painter Jack Butler Yeats, the Irish thoroughbred Yeats won several Group 1 races, but he is most famous for winning the Ascot Gold Cup in succession four times. Yeats is undoubtedly one of the greatest Irish racehorses of all time. Over a 22-race career, Yeats claimed 14 wins. And by the time he retired in 2009, he had claimed the European Champion Stayer four consecutive times.
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Although Zarkava was born in Ireland in 2005, she did not attain her accomplishments until she swapped the Emerald Isle for France. Zarkava soon became one of the most outstanding horses to ever participate in French flat racing. During her seven-year career, she was unbeaten. She claimed several Group 1 wins, but her greatest moment arguably came in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2008 when she beat some of the world’s greatest stallions to win the most prestigious Group 1 race in France.
3. Sea The Stars
The Irish thoroughbred racehorse Sea The Stars, who was foaled in 2006, is cited by many as one of the greatest racehorses to have ever lived. Amongst his many achievements, he is most well-known for winning the Derby, the 2000 Guineas, and the Eclipse Stakes in his three-year-old-season, making him the first colt to accomplish the feat since Nashwan in 1989. Sea The Stars also won the Irish Champion Stakes, the International Stakes, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In fact, the only blot on the thoroughbred’s career is from when he was a two-year-old when he came in second place. After that, Sea The Stars was simply unbeatable.
2. Dawn Run
Born in 1978, Dawn Run was the daughter of the famous National Hunt sire Deep Run. The thoroughbred was purchased for 5,800 guineas and trained by Paddy Mullins. She went on to become the most successful race-mare in National Hunt racing history. Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle at 1984’s Cheltenham Festival, and two years later, she won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. She is the only racehorse to have completed the Champion Hurdle – Gold Cup double and only one of four mares to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Arkle caught the Irish public’s hearts in a way that no other racehorse has ever done. He was born at Ballymacoll in Co Meath in 1957. The bay gelding was the grandson of another famous racehorse, Nearco, who was one of the most important sires of the 20th century. Known as a steeplechase specialist, during his career, Arkle ran 35 races, winning 27 and never finishing out of the places. His numerous triumphant wins include the Irish Grand National, the King George V Chase, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times. How did Arkle achieve his accomplishments? If rumours are to be believed, it was because he consumed two pints of Guinness every day