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Most Famous Racing Horses


man o' war1. Seabiscuit
Perhaps best known thanks to the film by Universal Studios, Seabiscuit's life was one of stops and starts and hardly started out with the brilliance and flash of a horse that would go on to touch the lives of so many through film. He was an awkward colt, sired through a stubborn stallion and an ugly mare. When the owner of the stables came through, in fact, he was hidden from view as he was knobby, ugly, and refused to shed his winter coat. He had his father's attitude which only served to make him difficult to train and he was quickly cast aside for horses that were viewed as better opportunities for less trouble. A true underdog, he was finally purchased by Silent Tom Smith and trained well for racing. Seabiscuit had 89 starts with 33 wins, 15 seconds and 13 thirds and is best known for his success against War Admiral, a son of Man O' War.  He was also one of few horses to successfully come out of retirement and win a race before being fully and officially retired for life.

2. Secretariat
Second only, perhaps, to the great Man O' War, Secretariat was and is a household name that for many defines everything that is great about horse racing. Though his career was only sixteen months long. Secretariat won the heart of the world as well as becoming the first Triple Crown champion in twenty-five years in 1973. Winning by 31 lengths, he set a world record that has yet to be broken. He has appeared on the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, been the subject of a major motion picture, and at the time was bigger than any movie start of the decade. He started 21 times, won 16 and finished in the money in all of his races but one- his first. Secretariat was named Horse of the Year twice and back to back.

3. John Henry
Much like Seabiscuit, John Henry was not much to look at in his youth. He was foul tempered with a poor background and weak knees. John Henry was more trouble than he was worth for a number of owners and found himself on the auction block more than once as he passed from owner to owner looking for someone willing to deal with his poor attitude and violence off the track. It was not until he reached Bob Donato that he was truly put to racing and when finally placed under the training of Ron McAnally he blossomed. His final record was much like Seabiscuits as well with 83 starts, 39 wins and 15 seconds and has won horse of the year twice. At his retirement he was the highest earning thoroughbred of all time.

4. Smarty Jones
The story of Smarty Jones is a story made for Hollywood. Soon after he was foaled, the trainer and his wife at the stables were murdered and his owner sold off all the horses but two- one of which was Smarty Jones. He sent the horses down south to be broken for racing and upon their return hired a trainer who had been a friend of his deceased trainer to work them. John Servis had a plan and once he presented it to owner John Chapman he did not deviate. He was determined that Smarty Jones would go on to the Derby... and win.

5. Man O' War
Though most may not realize it, everyone knows the name Man O' War. It sends chills down the spines of most even if they don't recognize why. Perhaps the greatest horse in racing history, Man O' War passed on November 1, 1947 and was embalmed and lay in state in his racing colors for his fans to see. Nearly 2000 people attended his funeral. His grave is marked by a statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. Man O' War is the measurement by which all other famous racing horses are measured. He ran 21 races with 20 wins and one second, set 8 records, 3 world records, 2 American records, and 3 track records, breaking most by several seconds while carrying on average as much as 30 pounds more than his rivals and still beating them by large margins. He was retired after three years in the racing circuit and went on to sire a great many of the famous horses we have seen in past years. His line continues to survive in stallions such as Relaunch.


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