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Horse Racing's Golden Oldies: Age is just a number

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Whilst racing has a long and varied history, its basic concept has changed little over the centuries, with some courses and races still active today, over 500 years later. It's not just those that have stood the test of time, either, with many horses, jockeys, and trainers proving that age is just a number. So, sit back and relax, as we find out more about the record-breaking ‘golden oldies’ of the racing world.

Old Nags:

It's challenging to know when a horse's career will end, and it depends on several factors. Injury, a lack of speed, a lack of fitness, or simply falling out of love with racing, are all reasons a horse may retire. Many have long successful careers, whilst others are much shorter, especially flat horses. The following names, however, clearly didn’t get the memo!

Al Jabal – A purebred Arabian racehorse owned by Andrea Boulton, Al Jabal is the oldest documented horse to win a race. A flat racehorse, he won The Three Horseshoes Handicap over 6 furlongs in June 2002 at Barbury Castle, aged 19.

Megalala – A more recent example of a horse rolling back the years, Megalala, trained by John Bridger, was competing at 16. Although he hadn’t won since 2016 (aged 15), he was one of the oldest horses still competing in Britain until his retirement in 2017.

Sonny Somers – Trained by Fred Winter, he won two chases aged 18, at Lingfield and Southwell, becoming one of only five horses to officially win a race at that age.

Wild Aster – If you thought winning two races at 18 was impressive, Wild Aster won three races within a week in March 1919 at the same age.

Creggmore Boy – The oldest horse to take part in a race, Creggmore Boy finished 4th in a handicap at Cartmel in 1962, aged 22. His last victory came a few years prior, aged 17.

Peter Simple – The oldest winner of ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’, Peter Simple won the 1853 running of the Grand National at the ripe old age of 15, a record that hasn’t been beaten since.

Mac Vidi – Running at the top level is one thing, but doing so at 15 is another! Mac Vidi was placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 1979/80 season, achieving something that no horse aged older than 13 had done before or since.

Persian Punch & Further Flight – The oldest known horses to win Group-2 races at 10, Persian Punch and Further Flight won the Goodwood Cup & Jockey Club Cup and Doncaster Cup, respectively.

Kasbah Bliss & John Henry – Stepping it up a level, Kasbah Bliss and John Henry won Group-1 races aged 9. Between them, they won the Prix Du Cadran and Arlington Million, in France and the US.

Yavana’s Pace & Alcazar – Taking the spoils overall, though, Yavana’s Pace and Alcazar became the joint oldest Group-1 winners, aged 10. Yavana’s Pace won the Credit Suisse Private Banking Pokal (now Grosser Preis von Bayern) in Germany, whilst Alcazar won the French St. Leger (Prix Royal Oak).

Senior Pilots:

Much like a horse, fitness and health are two things that can get in the way of a jockey and racing. These guys, though, proved they could do it year after year!

Dick Saunders – The oldest jockey to win ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’, Dick Saunders won the 1982 Grand National, aged 48.

Danny Miller – An Australian jockey, Miller became one of the oldest to compete in the sport, riding until the grand age of 70. Doctor’s clearance forced him out of the saddle in 2018, but he won a Group-1 (Railway Stakes) as recently as 2000.

Frank Amonte – The American jockey took it a step further, having his last ride in 2011, aged 76. He is also the oldest winning jockey in the US.

Harry Beasley Snr – Irishman Harry Beasley Snr takes the record for being the oldest jockey to ride in a race, however, riding at Baldoyle racecourse aged 83.

Gary Bain – The oldest jockey still competing, Gary Bain is riding in Florida, aged 69. The Bahamian jockey began riding in 1979 and has been winning races well into his sixties.

Jimmy Quinn – Jimmy Quinn is the oldest currently active jockey riding in Britain, aged 55. Just last year (2022), he won the £50,000 bet365 Handicap at Newmarket.

John Forth – Taking the plaudits as the oldest Derby winner ever, John Forth won the Epsom Derby back in 1829, aged 60, a record that still stands today.

Long-Standing Trainers: It's not just the horses and their jockeys, however, which have worked for many years. Several trainers have reached some special milestones too!

Barbara Blackie – The world’s oldest trainer, Barbara Blackie was training in her native New Zealand until her 100th birthday!

Jerry Bozzo – Aged 96, American thoroughbred trainer Jerry Bozzo became the oldest trainer ever to win a race. This came after his horse, Cotton Tooyah, won at Gulfstream Park in 2017. He already held the record for the oldest trainer to win a Stakes race, with Flutterby at Gulfstream in 2015.

Sir Michael Stoute – A name many will be familiar with, Sir Michael Stoute became the oldest trainer to win the Derby thanks to his horse, Desert Crown. Upon winning the 243rd running of the race in 2012, aged 76, he surpassed 75-year-old Mat Dawson, who had held the record since 1895.

Ant Sherman – American trainer Ant Sherman became the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby in 2014, thanks to California Chrome. He was 77.

Richard Harper & Benny – The partnership of Harper and Benny saw them become the oldest pairing to compete in the Kiplingcotes Derby. Benny, the horse, was 19, whilst Harper, who piloted him, was 71, giving them a combined age of 90. They contested the 2022 running of the race.

Timeless Tracks:

Whilst a number of records have been set by those above, none date as far back as those set by the racecourses themselves.

Chester – The oldest racecourse in the world and still in operation, Chester held its first race in January 1539, making it 484 years old as of this year (2023).

Newmarket – The next oldest racecourse after Chester, it was opened in 1636 and is still in use today.

Royal Western India Turf Club – It is the oldest racecourse in the rest of the world, founded in 1800.

Tarbes-Laloubere – The oldest operating racecourse in France, it opened on 23rd July 1809, and has been hosting racing events for over two centuries.

Champ De Mars – A product of the British Empire in Mauritius, Champ De Mars became one of the first overseas racecourses when it opened in 1812.

Freehold Raceway – Taking the title as the oldest racecourse in the US, and still in use today, Freehold Raceway, New Jersey, has been hosting harness racing from as far back as 1832. Next is Fair Grounds, Louisiana, which has been hosting races since 1838.

Historic Contests:

Last but not least, here are some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious races.

Kiplingcotes Derby – The Kiplingcotes Derby celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2019, making it the world’s oldest horse race. Inaugurated in 1519, it is held over 4 miles, ran yearly, and starts at the former Kiplingcotes Station site in Etton, Yorkshire. Horses of any age or breeding may take part.

Town Plate – First run in 1666, the Town Plate is the second oldest race in Britain, at 357 years old. It is held at Newmarket over a distance of 3m6f for amateur riders.

Doncaster Cup – Originally held at Cantley Common, the Doncaster Cup was first held in 1766 and run over 4m. Since then, it has been shortened to 2m2f (1891) and promoted to Group-1 status (from Group-2) in 2002.

St. Leger – The St. Leger is the oldest classic in the world, first held in 1776. It was originally run over 2m but was shortened to 1m6f in 1813.

Belmont Stakes – Originating in 1867, the Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the American Triple Crown races. Originally run over 1 5/8 miles, it has been contested over 1m4f since 1926.

Records are constantly being set and broken, but it is unlikely that those mentioned above will be beaten anytime soon. Proving that age is just a number, these 'golden oldies' of racing will go down in the history books for many years, or even centuries, to come.

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