Racehorses, along with their greyhound counterparts perhaps, are one of the only animals to enjoy athletic careers in the same league as humans. These creatures get awarded massive purses, receive medals, and are the darlings of the media in the same way that celebrity jockeys are.
Man o’ War, March 1917 to November 1947
Man o’ War was an American Thoroughbred who is broadly considered to be the greatest racehorse who ever lived. His career began just after World War I came to its bitter end and he went on to win 20 of the 21 races he competed in, collecting purses equivalent to over US$3 million.
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In 1919 Man o’ War won 9 out of 10 starts, including the Belmont Futurity and Hopeful Stakes, which were then the top two races for two-year-old horses in the USA. His single loss was at the Saratoga Race Course, which went on to earn the nickname The Graveyard of Champions. He lost by a mere neck to a colt called Upset!
Phar Lap, October 1926 to April 1932
Phar Lap was another champion Thoroughbred racehorse, albeit one that hailed from Australia instead of the USA. He captured the imagination of his home country during the early years of The Great Depression.
He was foaled in New Zealand and trained and raced in Australia by Harry Telford. Phar Lap dominated Australian racing over the course of his eminent career, winning and AJC Derby, two Cox Plates, a Melbourne Cup, and two other weight-for-age races. He then took the Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico, in record-breaking time in his final race. At the time of his passing, he was the third-highest stakes-winner on earth.
Seabiscuit, May 1933 to May 1947
The third champion Thoroughbred was another American racehorse, Seabiscuit. He went on to earn the most money from wins up until the 1940s, and his incredible career has been retold in various books and films.
He beat War Admiral; the 1937 Triple Crown winner by four lengths in a two-horse special held at Pimlico and got voted American Horse of the Year in 1938.
Secretariat, March 1970 to October 1989
The final Thoroughbred to make his way into the history books for this list is the American Secretariat, who managed to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. The victory that earned him his spot was at the Belmont Stakes, which he won by an astonishing 31 lengths.
Over the course of his career Secretariat managed to get five Eclipse Awards, and added Horse of the Year prizes to his honours at two- and three-years-old. In 1974 he was nominated for entry into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and is second only to Man o’ War in the List of the Top US Racehorses of the 20th Century.