Top 10 Most Impressive Horse Racing Victories (Flat)
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
There have been some impressive wins over the years in some of the world’s biggest horse races. Whether it's a fast-finishing hold-up horse, an outsider upsetting the odds, or a front-running pace machine, these horses have all impressed in their own right. Britain, America, Australia, you name it; every country has had its fair share of formidable racehorses, and today, let’s look at my top 10 horse racing victories of all time. So fasten your seatbelts, as we take a trip down memory lane.
10. Pakistan Star – Debut Race (Sha-Tin 2016)
Perhaps the greatest debut race ever. Out of the champion 2-year-old and hugely impressive Shamardal, it’s perhaps not surprising that he started his debut race as the 7/10 favourite. Despite completely missing the kick (he was also slow in the barrier trials), falling some 5 lengths adrift of the main body of the field, and still having plenty to do entering the straight, he showed a spectacular turn of foot to get up close home and win going away. He was a quirky horse who was never easy to predict, and although this victory didn’t come in the highest grade, there’s no taking away from the fact it is one of the most extraordinary victories seen on a racetrack. He accumulated more than £3.6 million in earnings during his career and became Hong Kong’s most popular racehorse.
9. Mine That Bird – Kentucky Derby (Churchill Downs 2009)
The 50/1 outsider that upset the market leaders in style. Mine That Bird went into the race with some solid form, although nowhere near as impressive as some of the other competitors. Sat dead last at halfway, and some 6 lengths behind the field with 4 furlongs to go, he began to pick them off one by one entering the straight. Turning for home still with plenty to do, he ducked back towards the rail and stayed on well, pulling further clear to eventually win by some 7 lengths. Subsequently, he didn’t quite live up to that performance in his 9 runs following the Derby success, but the way in which he won at Churchill Downs in those conditions is a victory that will be remembered for many years to come.
8. Drosselmeyer – Breeders Cup (Santa Anita 2011)
Drosselmeyer flew from the back at 20/1 to win the 2011 Breeders Cup Classic, in what would turn out to be his last race. He went to Churchill Downs following a respectable 2nd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes, but with little hope of actually winning the race. He was one of the outsiders of the field on the day, but he certainly didn't run like one. Outpaced early and well behind, it was looking grim, but steady headway inside the final 2 furlongs, and one final flurry down the outside allowed him to get his head in front approaching the line, collaring the long-time leader Game On Dude to win by 1.5 lengths. This took his total earnings to over $2million, and that performance cements him 8th place on this list.
7. Zenyatta – Breeders Cup (Santa Anita 2009)
Zenyatta, the first female on this list, but perhaps the most impressive record so far. 19 wins from 20 starts, over £4.6 million in earnings, and a Breeders Cup Classic win; she was one of a kind. Competing in the 2009 running of the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita, she went off as the 100/30 2nd favourite. A big run was expected, but nobody would predict her to miss the break quite as badly as she did. Running around in last for the first part of the race, it looked as though something was amiss, but staying on past tired horses approaching the last bend and moving towards the outside, she picked up when it mattered most and nailed Gio Conti inside the final 70 yards. A win which, for the most part, looked impossible and one we will never forget. Unfortunately, on her second attempt at the race a year later, she just missed out by a head in very similar circumstances. She was subsequently retired following an illustrious career.
6. Woorim – Oakleigh Plate (Caulfield 2012)
A name that some racing fans may not be so familiar with, and another with limited worthwhile form otherwise, but this Aussie raider produced one of the most thrilling finishes ever seen. Competing in the 18 runner Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield over a sharp 5 furlongs, Woorim arrived on the back of a 112-day break. Dropped out at the start and looking in all kinds of trouble at the back, Woorim was stone last with around a furlong and a half to run. But a storming run down the wide outside in the home straight saw him gobble up the opposition under Damian Browne, winning the race by a short head. It’s one thing staying on from the back to win, but it’s another doing it in a Group 1 over such a short distance, not to mention that the commentator didn’t even say his name until he reached the winning post! He’s a horse that’s often forgotten by many, but nothing can take away from just how impressive that victory was.
5. Chautauqua – TJ Smith Stakes (Randwick 2016)
Chautauqua… The Grey Flash… what more needs to be said. 3 successive Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes wins, and over $8.8 million (AUS) in earnings, his 2016 win was perhaps the best of them all. Well known for coming from the back, it was no surprise to see him slightly detached from the start, about 12 lengths off the lead. Pushed into the home turn, it was going to take something pretty special to win from there, but he did! Swooping down the wide outside, right over the top of the other runners, he put his head in front with 50 metres to go, and it was all over. A truly spectacular racehorse, with some equally spectacular wins throughout his career, it's unlikely we'll see anything like him anytime soon.
4. Harbinger – King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Ascot 2010)
Another on this list whose standout performance would be his last. Bidding to make it 4 in a row going into the race, Harbinger lined up against the likes of Cape Blanco (who had won the Irish Derby on his previous start) and Workforce, the 8-11 favourite. He worked his way into the race well, patiently waited with but always travelling. Inside the 2 furlong marker Peslier switched him to the left and pushed him to the front. The rest of the field couldn’t stay with him and he ran on strongly to the line. Despite running off joint top-weight, Harbinger bolted up by 11 lengths, securing yet another Group 1 win. It’s a shame we never got to see him on a racetrack again, but he’ll always be remembered for that performance at Ascot. Now at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan, he’s not doing too badly as a sire either!
3. Frankel – Queen Anne Stakes (Ascot 2012)
It wouldn’t be a list of the most impressive horse racing wins if Frankel wasn’t on it. The wonder horse, undefeated, in a class of his own. 14-14 and so many outstanding performances to choose from, but his demolition in the Queen Anne takes 3rd spot. Frankel sat tracking the leaders as he did so often, tucked in behind, just waiting for his opportunity. He was always travelling well as Queally moved him to the front with just over 2 furlongs to go, before a shake of the reigns saw him move effortlessly away from the rest of the field. Without ever really needing to be pushed, Frankel moved 8, 9, 10, 11 lengths clear crossing the line. Nothing in the field was a touch on him. That victory was his widest margin win in a Class 1 event and was one of the most impressive victories seen on British soil.
2. Winx – Sunshine Coast Guineas (Sunshine Coast 2015)
Getting to the business end now, and it’s Winx who takes 2nd place here. Arguably one of Australia's best, boasting a record of 37 wins from 43 starts, 28 of which were in Group 1 races, and $14.5 million in career earnings. The race in question is the Sunshine Coast Guineas back in 2015. Winx went into it as the 8/5 favourite, but ran in last for much of the race and was niggled along entering the straight. 17 other horses took part in the race, but the Thunder from Down Under passed them all approaching the line. With 200 yards to go, switched to the outside, Winx found another gear and flew home to take it by almost 2 lengths. From last to first, showing an incredible turn of foot, that was the start of an incredible 33 race unbeaten run until her retirement in 2019. Arguably only a Grade 3 race in question here, but the way that she won was simply sublime. That does though mean that only one horse can be number 1…
1. Frankel – Qipco 2000 Guineas (Newmarket 2011)
The legendary Frankel. Already on the list once, but his victories were that impressive I couldn't give anyone else the top spot. This time, his romp in the 2000 Guineas in 2011. This performance is a personal favourite of mine for the way he went about dominating his opposition. No need for a pacemaker this time as Frankel took matters into his own hands and was at least 10 lengths clear at halfway. Tiring slightly inside the final furlong but keeping up to his work well, he blew the opposition out of the water, eventually winning by some 6 lengths. Not his widest margin win, but perhaps, his most impressive. To take one of the most prestigious British flat races in such a fashion is a testament to what a wonderful racehorse he was. The top-quality opposition was still no match for him as he lead them all a merry dance and disappeared into the distance. Frankel was in a class of his own.
So that’s that, my top 10 most impressive horse racing victories of all time on the flat. Honourable mentions of course go to Might And Power in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (11 lengths), Inside Information in the Ruffian Grade 1 Handicap at Belmont Park, and of course, Secretariat for that ridiculous 31 length win in the Belmont Stakes. Had these happened in my lifetime then maybe they would’ve featured on the list, but I wanted to keep it to races that I had personally witnessed.
Are there any performances that you would have included? Let me know in the comments below!