Here are some of the best National Hunt Racehorses of all time. With several hot contenders this season, it will be exciting to see who can break records and tally up the wins to compete with these four legends.
One of the most famous and greatest National Hunt horses of all time, Desert Orchid, had an astonishing career winning the King George VI Chase an incredible four times. Not only this but Dessie (stable name) also went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989. This stunning grey not only won the hearts of racing enthusiasts but the whole nation. There are many other great horses who have achieved similar victories at the same level however, nothing quite compares to this enthusiastic and flamboyant grey’s career. Desert Orchid had a total of 70 runs where he won a staggering 34 times and was placed 19 times. What made him special and more advanced than any other was his versatility. It was not only the greatest races in the National Hunt calendar that made this horse's’ name in the history books but, it was his capability to produce some of the best handicapped runs ever. Most of his life was spent in training with David Elsworth at Whitsbury Manor Racing Stables and partnered with 4 different jockeys including Colin Brown, Simon Sherwood and Richard Dunwoody. Other great wins include the Tingle Creek Chase, the Irish Grand National and the Whitbread Gold Cup. It was in December 1991 that the legend Dessie was retired, making many public appearances to soak up the glory of such a successful career. He lived happily in retirement and lived to a grand old age of 27. His ashes are buried at Kempton racecourse near his statue and the inaugural Desert Orchid Chase is named in memory of Dessie, and takes place late in December each year.
Red Rum was a superb champion thoroughbred steeplechaser, who set an unmatched historic treble when he won the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and placed second in the intervening years. This notoriously challenging and difficult race is best described as the ultimate test of a horse's courage and ability with fences which measure over 5 ft in height and width including the world famous the Chair which measures at 5 ft 3 in height, followed by a 6ft ditch. The race consists of two laps of 16 fences over a distance of 4 miles and 4 furlongs. Red Rum also known as Rummie was in training with several trainers over his career but most famously won whilst with trainer Ginger McCain. Unfortunately, Rummie became lame and retired from racing in 1977 but only after a staggering 21 steeplechase wins, 3 hurdle and 3 flat wins. This legend now lives on in memory at his favourite racecourse, Aintree, where his statue stands and he lays buried by the winning post.
The third great horse of all time appeared on the racetrack a little more recently than our other legends. The legend that is Kauto Star, won an incredible 23 of a total of 41 races over the course of his memorable career. Big wins include the King George VI an astonishing five times for Somerset based trainer Paul Nicholls. He also won the Gold Cup twice and is the only horse to have won the Gold Cup and regain it after having lost it. Other wins include the Betfair Chase four times. He is known as one of the most successful steeplechasers of the modern era and became the first horses to win over £2 million in total prize money whereas Desert Orchid won £654,066 during his career. His total prize money won was helped by a £1,000,000 bonus for the completion of the 2006/07 Stayers Chase Triple Crown. With plenty to be proud of, owner Clive Smith retried Kauto Star in 2012 at the age of 12. He sadly died in a freak accident whilst based with British Event rider Laura Collett where he had been training to do Dressage; one of the three disciplines in eventing.
Last but by no means least is former giant of jumps racing, Denman, an Irish-bred thoroughbred by Presenting. Another great to come out of Paul Nicholls yard, Denman won 14 out of a total of 24 under rules races. His most memorable wins were the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year with now retired jockey Sam Thomas on board. This chaser was stable mates with Kauto Star and was his biggest rival. The ‘Tank’ as he was also known, gave Kauto Star a run for his money in the 2008 Gold Cup, beating him by seven lengths. Denman’s career was short lived after an injury during training for the Lexus Chase in 2011 and retired in 2012. His life after racing still continued with Team Chasing and Hunting but was recently retired from all work in 2017. Denman’s career performances are honoured by the Betfair Denman Chase which is run at Newbury racecourse in February.