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Five legendary Irish horses for St Patrick’s Day

Legendary horse Arkle in action


To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, we preview five Irish horses who will go down in horse racing history due to their remarkable achievements. Galileo When breeders look to create what is described as the perfect racehorse, it’s extremely rare that this happens. In Galileo, we got one who was great on the racetrack but his...

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, we preview five Irish horses who will go down in horse racing history due to their remarkable achievements.


When breeders look to create what is described as the perfect racehorse, it’s extremely rare that this happens. In Galileo, we got one who was great on the racetrack but his legacy continues through his offspring.

After winning on his only two-year-old start at Leopardstown on heavy ground, he went on to win two key Derby trials in the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Derby Trial both again at Leopardstown in his preparation to head to Epsom for the Derby itself. He settled beautifully for Mick Kinane and when asked for his effort, he scooted clear impressively to beat the other joint-favourite Golan by three-and-a-half lengths. It was a similar story in the Irish Derby where he was even more dominant in beating Morshdi by four lengths.

Apart from his Derby wins, he is most famously remembered for his battles with Fantastic Light in both the King George at Ascot and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. The first of those being the first time Galileo had come up against the older horses and he had to grind it out against Godolphin’s star performer. The rematch at Leopardstown was quite incredible with both Ballydoyle and Godolphin throwing out their pacemakers Ice Dancer and Give The Slip who both went a long way clear. Once they faded, it was left for the main protagonists to battle it out but the older horse was able to seek his revenge.

Galileo’s racing career ended in the Breeder’s Cup Classic where he never looked at home on the surface when sixth behind Tiznow and was promptly retired to stud. His record at stud is second to none with multiple Group One winners including the likes of Frankel, Australia, Noble Mission and plenty of others.

Sea The Stars

Galileo’s dam was Urban Sea and his younger half brother Sea The Stars looks to follow in his footsteps as a leading sire. He looked a horse of fair promise as a two-year-old even though he was beaten on debut but thereafter, he remained unbeaten throughout the rest of his career. He ended his two-year career with two victories and started his three year old career in the 2,000 Guineas which began his dominance as he won beating Delegator. From there, he won a Group One in every month of the calendar until October.

His next start was in the Epsom Derby where he was keen enough early on, but travelled powerfully and won with something to spare; a trait showed in all his performances. Instead of going to the Irish Derby, connections decided to be bold and go into all age company in the Coral Eclipse where he had to fight off Rip Van Winkle to win by a length. Next stop was York for the Juddmonte International, where it turned into a real tactical affair but with Mick Kinane on-board, just exuded confidence as he beat Mastercraftsman.

He then went to Leopardstown for his only start that year in his native Ireland and beat Fame And Glory by two-and-a-half lengths with Mastercraftsman further back in third. His final career start was his biggest test in the Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp. Drawn on the rail, he broke well but was hampered, which lit him up and it took a lot of restraint from Mick Kinane to settle him but once in the straight, he showed why he was a true champion as he shot clear of Youmzain to win by two lengths.

With his first three-year-old crop, he sired Taghrooda who went onto win the Oaks and the King George at Ascot. If he can produce that in his first crop then the future of his progeny looks exciting.

Hurricane Fly

A horse that has broken almost every record going, with 22 Grade One victories over hurdles and there could still yet be more to come from Hurricane Fly. Originally on the flat in France, he went to Willie Mullins in 2008 and made a winning start over hurdles at Punchestown before travelling to Auteuil twice winning a Grade Three before finishing runner-up in the Prix Alain du Breil. Because he won his maiden hurdle in May, he was still a novice throughout the following season and remained unbeaten with three Grade One successes but he did miss the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham due to a setback.

It didn’t quite all go according to plan the year after as he returned with a setback from his disappointing season reappearance in the Punchestown Hurdle behind Solwhit but he did return to the track at the end of the season when just beating the same rival in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle. He then went unbeaten for almost two years which finally included his first visit to Cheltenham where he battled tenaciously to beat Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle. He started the following season later than usual in the Irish Champion Hurdle where he was very impressive in beating Oscar’s Well and Binocular but he didn’t show that form at Cheltenham when struggling in third behind Rock On Ruby but back in his native Ireland, he returned to domination.

The 2012-13 season showed that the old Hurricane Fly was back. Even though he was beating the same horses over and over again, his confidence was sky high and he returned for the 2013 Champion Hurdle where he looked in a spot of bother at the top of the hill before finding endless reserves of stamina to regain his crown, the first to do so since Comedy Of Errors in 1974.

Yet again, he came back for more the following season and whoever the rivals, he showed them a clean pair of heels, most notably Jezki and Our Conor as he would not be denied. He returned to Cheltenham for the Champion Hurdle where the mix of quick ground and a lightning fast pace did for him as he finished out of the frame for the first time since 2009 when forth to Jezki.

It looked as though after being beaten by Jezki again that retirement would be the way to go. But he returned with a vengeance, winning his twentieth Grade One and whilst it looked as though Jezki would improve past him, he didn’t. Two more Grade One victories at Leopardstown came before an excellent effort in last week’s Champion Hurdle when third behind Faugheen. The plan now looks to be the French Champion Hurdle and you wouldn’t put it past him to gain another Grade One success, even at this stage of his career.


Before Hurricane Fly, Irish racing had Istabraq. Prior to his move to Aidan O’Brien, he started off on the flat with John Gosden where he was just a handicapper for Hamdan Al Maktoum before JP McManus bought him to send him hurdling. Surprisingly given his record, he was beaten on debut over hurdles before going on to win the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. He remained unbeaten for the rest of the season, culminating with his first visit to Cheltenham for the Royal & Sunalliance Novices Hurdle where he had to show class and guts to see off Mighty Moss.

He returned for his first Champion Hurdle the following year and confirmed the faith connections had in him with an effortless victory beating stable-mate Theatreworld by twelve lengths. He then suffered a shock reversal on desperate ground when beaten by a determined Tony McCoy on Pridwell. He wasn’t to be beaten for another year where he did the Cheltenham/Aintree double with him showing his true class both times.

Year 2000 was probably his dominant display in the Champion Hurdle as he quickened smartly off the fast ground and he devoured the hill in devastating style. He sadly never got the chance to go for a fourth straight win at Cheltenham and by the time 2002 came around, the vibes were negative and he was pulled up after the second flight and retired instantly. He spends his retirement at Martinstown, home of his owner.


Possibly the greatest steeplechaser ever in the history of the sport. Trained by Tom Dreaper, Arkle had everything. He emerged on the scene when taking his first Gold Cup in 1964 in the match of the decade, beating Mill House who had looked a chaser of top quality when winning the previous year’s renewal and the Hennessy Gold Cup in which Arkle made a shuddering error late on.

His record speaks for itself. Apart from three Gold Cups and two King George’s, he didn’t just stick to Grade One chases. He went for some of the best staying handicap chases in both England and Ireland, lumping twelve stone and seven pounds giving over two stone to rivals and he would still beat them effortlessly. Irish Nationals, Hennessy Gold Cups, a Whitbread Gold Cup and two Leopardstown Chases all part of a strong CV. Sadly, his career was ended abruptly when he injured himself in the 1966 King George and was retired soon after.

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