What Were the Most Famous Racehorses in History?

Most people know the most famous basketball or football players, hockey legends, or Olympic swimmers.

However, only a few could name one or two legendary racehorses. However, these beautiful animals are also athletes. They’ve inspired movies, TV shows, graced magazine pages, and earned hefty sums of money for their owners.

It’s hard to deny that racehorses are mesmerizing, and the sport draws millions to the tracks and TV screens.

Let’s get to know the most famous racehorses of all time.

Filho da Puta

Source: wikipedia.org

One very famous racehorse that even got depicted by John Frederick Herring in a painting, was named Filho da Puta.

What makes this horse particular is definitely his name, that literally means “son of a bitch” in Portuguese. According to the rumors, Sir William Barnet, who owned the horse, decided to name him like that as a reference to his wife’s sexual exploits.

A British Thoroughbred, this horse was popular during the early XIX century, when he won 9 of the 12 races, including the St. Leger Stakes and Doncaster Gold Cup.

In horse racing, it is believed that Filho da Puta success would shape the future for forthcoming horses in the turf.

Seattle Slew

Source: latimes.com

A small colt Seattle Slew was an underdog but had written his name in history books after an unprecedented and successful year in 1977 when he won the Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Preakness).

The same year he won six additional races making his total with 9 wins and 0 losses.

Seattle Slew was undefeated for decades until 2018, when a racehorse Justify also won the Triple Crown.


Source: baltimoresun.com

Seabiscuit is a name many people know because of the 2003 movie with Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire, that was nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. Before he had already been subject of a Shirley Temple movie back in 1949.

So, why did Seabiscuit become such a popular icon of pop culture? Well, his story is truly an inspirational one: Seabiscuit lost 17 races before winning his first one, thus making his rise to stardom a true rag-to-riches story!

After getting a new rider Johnny “Red” Pollard, the horse won 7 consecutive races in 1937. His career happened during the Great Depression period in the US and his unlikely success became a symbol of hope for many Americans who had lost everything.

Seabiscuit’s incredible story reached its culmination when despite missing his regular jockey due to a broken leg, he beat his opponent, Triple Crown winner War Admiral in an upset that went down in history.


Source: americasbestracing.net

Another famous American racehorse was Secretariat, also nicknamed “Big Red.” His winning margin in the Belmont Stakes is the largest in any Triple Crown event ever.

Secretariat was American Horse of the Year in 1972 and 1973.

In then-world record time, winning the Marlboro Cup earned over 1 million dollars in prize money – one of the highest wins in thoroughbred horse racing history.

The story of his life was also documented in a movie in 2010, starring John Malkovich. Plus, Secretariat was also referenced several times in the Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman. In the series he was the main inspiration for young BoJack and appears in flashbacks, being voiced by John Krasinski.

Man o’ War

Source: americasbestracing.net

Man o’War won all but one of his 21 career races, and some people still feel upset that he wasn’t allowed to go for the US Triple Crown by his owner.

The name comes from a powerful warship that was popular between the 16th and 19th century. Plus, his memorable name fits his violent and angry temperament, which has brought back the sport’s popularity after World War I.

Man o’War also had a wide-reaching influence on thoroughbreds and has sired two race-winning horses.


Source: racenet.com.au

Winx has won the most highest-level races with 25 Grade/Group 1, holds a world record, and earned dizzying amounts of prize money.

Four years straight, she won in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, still holds this record, and was also named Australian Horse of the Year in 2015-2019. Winx was also Champion Middle Distance Racehorse in those seasons.

She’s the third horse inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

Makybe Diva

Source: croatia.org

Bred in England, Makybe Diva was shipped to Australia and has won the Melbourne Cup 3 times between 2004 and 2006 – more than any other horses.

She also completed the rare Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup double in 2005, becoming just the seventh horse in history to do it.

Makybe Diva was named Champion Australian Stayer three times (2004-2006) and Australia Racehorse of the Year in 2005 and 2006.


Source: horseracingplanet.com

Zenyatta won 19 races and lost only 1 in her career. She’s also the two-time Breeders’ Cup champion (2008 and 2009) and in 2009 became the first female ever to win the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The media loved Zenyatta! “Sports Illustrated” once declared her to be the greatest filly of all time. She was also nearly the first horse to be named US Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. Zenyatta finished second to Serena Williams in voting for the female award in 2009.

Red Rum

Source: britishhorseracing.com

Red Rum often gets the credit for lifting the gloom around the United Kingdom during the recession and warming all race fans’ hearts.

He was a true fighter – born with an incurable bone disease, he still won three Grand Nationals and has never fallen on the racetrack. Red Rum retired from the sport in 1978.


Source: hri.ie

This legendary horse was renowned for his versatility as he won races over a range of distances and conditions. Arkle was an Irish Thoroughbred, who made success in the 60s, up to his death in 1970.

During the Cheltenham Festival in the UK, Arkle won three successive Gold Cups. His skeleton and full story can be seen at the Irish National Stud, a horse breeding facility in Tully, Ireland.

Here you have, some of the most inspirational stories from racehorses. And if you like horse racing, make sure to check out the current odds for the upcoming Kentucky Derby: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/odds