Horses That Made History and Film

Seabiscuit was so prolific that he inspired movie makers to turn this tale into a big-screen thriller. (Photo credit: Claiborne Farm).

The relationship between man and horse dates back centuries. Whether you fancy a flutter when you go to the races, or you keep or train horses yourself, there’s no doubt that there have been some pretty spectacular specimens over the years. Here are some of the most famous and high-profile horses.


Seabiscuit is one of the most famous horses in history. A champion thoroughbred bred in the US, Seabiscuit was so prolific that he inspired movie makers to turn this tale into a big-screen thriller. Scooping every title available in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, Seabiscuit was the perfect representation of the American dream. He didn’t appear to be a good bet on his first few starts, he didn’t always look like a champion, yet he defied the odds to win more than 30 races and earn his owners more than $430,000.

At the peak of his career, Seabiscuit all but eliminated the element of risk you get when you play lottery online or put a wager on a horse. If ever there was a dead cert, you’d be hard pushed to name a better horse. Horse racing fans will always look back on Seabiscuit’s story as a true rags to riches tale.

Phar Lap

A legend of Australian racing, Phar Lap won 37 races from just 51 starts. Despite his epic performances on the track, Phar Lap’s name really hit the headlines and grabbed the nation’s attention when he died in 1932 in the US. Having galloped to victory in the 1930 Melbourne Cup, Australians were devastated to hear of his untimely death. Tests revealed Phar Lap had an abnormally large heart, which is now on display at the National Museum. The story of Phar Lap was made into a film in 1983.


Affectionately known as Big Red, Secretariat was a US thoroughbred champion. In 1973, he became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in a quarter of a century. Crowned ‘Horse of the Year’ twice, Secretariat was inducted to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974, and a film charting his life was released by Disney in 2010. Famed for his own speed, power, and stamina, Secretariat also sired a number of successful foals. He died in 1982 after developing laminitis.


The movie Hidalgo tells the tale of cowboy, Frank Hopkins and his trusty steed, Hidalgo. The story goes that Hopkins took the much-loved mustang abroad to compete in the Ocean of Fire event, an endurance race that takes places in the deserts of Arabia. A blockbuster movie, which Disney and Touchstone claimed was based on a true story, there’s an element of scepticism surrounding the accuracy of the finer details.

The Black Stallion

The Black Stallion is a family favorite, which is based on the book by Walter Farley. During the 1940’s, Alec stumbles across a spectacular black stallion while traveling in North Africa. When the steamship Alec and his father are on runs into trouble, he rescues the horse and manages to escape to a nearby island.

Man and horse have been working together for centuries, so it’s no wonder horses have such a prominent role in sporting history, as well as a cinema.

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NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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