Since 1965, the Lincoln Handicap, which traditionally marks the start of the Flat season ‘proper’ in late March or early April, has been run over the straight mile on Turf Moor, Doncaster. However, the race was inaugurated, as the Lincoln Spring Handicap Stakes – later renamed the Lincolnshire Handicap – at Lincoln Racecourse, on the Carholme, on the western edge of the city of Lincoln, in 1853.
Aside from interruptions for World War I and World War II, the Lincolnshire Handicap continued at Lincoln Racecourse for over a century. Indeed, in its heyday during the inter-war period, the Lincolnshire Handicap dominated the horse racing press for weeks on end and, along with the Grand National, formed the traditional ‘Spring Double’. Remarkably, the 1948 renewal of the Lincolnshire Handicap drew a field of 58 runners, which was a record under Jockey Club rules.
Nevertheless, in 1964, the Horse Race Betting Levy Board announced that it was withdrawing financial support for Lincoln Racecourse, thereby forcing its closure. The Lincolnshire Handicap, renamed the Lincoln Handicap, was transferred permanently to Doncaster Racecourse, some 40 miles away; in 2006 and 2007, the Lincoln Handicap was staged at Redcar and Newcastle, respectively, while Doncaster was closed for redevelopment, but has otherwise been held at the Yorkshire venue every year since.
Much beloved of certain pre-eminent trainers, including Gordon Elliot and Nigel Twiston-Davies, the northernmost racecourse in Britain is Perth Racecourse, near ‘The Fair City’ of Perth in central Scotland. The National Hunt-only course is situated in Scone Palace Park, adjacent to the ancient Scone Palace itself; its nearest neighbours are Musselburgh Racecourse and Hamilton Park Racecourse, roughly 60 miles to the south and 66 miles to the southwest, respectively.
The first recorded racing in Perth took place in a large green space, known as the ‘South Inch’, south of Perth city centre on the banks of the River Tay and approximately 4 miles south of Scone Palace Park. However, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the honesty of competitors and the drunken behaviour of spectators on the ‘Inches’ were called into question more than once. In 1906, Lord Mansfield offered his land, in front of Scone Palace, for the construction of Perth Racecourse, which opened two years later. The racecourse has remained more or less unchanged ever since and the main grandstand is still the same one that was built for the opening of the racecourse in 1908.
Regular viewers of televised horse racing coverage on ITV will, no doubt, that presenter Matt Chapman is very fond of saying that such-and-such horse did such-and-such ‘on the snaff’. For the uninitiated, the ‘snaff’ to which he is referring is, in fact, a snaffle bit, or a bridle incorporating such a bit, which is, unsurprisingly, known as a snaffle bridle.
Snaffle bits come in many different varieties, although the two most common types worn by racehorses are known as a ‘D-bit’ and a ‘ring bit’. Regardless of type, though, all snaffle bits share the same basic structure and the same basic action, albeit with a few subtle differences from one type to the next.
Typically, snaffle bits consist of a mouthpiece, made up of two jointed metal segments, with a large ring, to which a rein and cheek strap are attached, on each end. Snaffle bits act with direct pressure, more or less, on the bars, lips and tongue of the mouth. The bars are an area of the gums, between the front and back teeth, into which a snaffle bit should sit comfortably, if properly fitted. Generally speaking, snaffle bits are considered relatively mild, but can be made harsher, or more severe, by the addition of certain mouthpieces.
Horse racing fans of different generations will all have their own opinion on who is the greatest Flat horse of all time in the sport. Here is a breakdown on some of the best thoroughbreds that have excelled on turf and deserve to be in the conversation for this title.
In 1970, Nijinsky became the first horse in 35 years to win the English Triple Crown. He remains the last horse to score in all three of those races (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger). The success he had in the Classics shows how versatile he was on the track as the distances ranged from 1m up to 1m6f.
Nijinsky immediately showed how talented he was in his debut season as he won all five of his races, earning him the tag of the outstanding two-year-old in Europe in 1969. Vincent O’Brien’s runner then built upon that campaign with an incredible year in 1970.
The fact that no horse has been able to repeat what Nijinsky did 50 years ago says a lot about his talent. He will forever be remembered in the sport as a special horse.
Dancing Brave won eight of his 10 races on the track, including success in the 1986 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. That year’s premier Flat race in Paris was considered to be one of the best ever contested, so to come out on top was a great achievement.
The 1986 British Horse of the Year also had wins in the 2000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in what was a spectacular three-year-old campaign.
Although there were defeats in the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1986, few have come close to matching the season he had that year, so he deserves to be in this conversation.
Shergar went into the 1981 Derby with a big reputation, and he enhanced it even further with the most dominant display ever seen in the British Classic.
Wins followed in the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which ensured Sir Michael Stoute’s runner’s value skyrocketed. His last race came in the St Leger, where he could only finish fourth. The ground was against him at Doncaster and it was over a longer trip than was ideal.
Stoute continues to have some talented horses. Maximal is the latest from his yard to show promise and has been installed at 33/1 by Betway in the Derby betting for 2021. It is Shergar though, who is the best runner to represent his yard and he will still be hoping to train another horse that comes close to his talent.
Unfortunately, Shergar was subject to a huge global news story in 1983, which was even reported by the New York Time when he was stolen from his stable and was never seen again. The reason he was targeted was that he was the most famous horse in the world at the time. His legacy lives on today and although he only featured eight times during his career, he did enough to prove what a special talent he was.
Sea The Stars
Sea The Stars produced a dominant campaign in 2009 to merit his name amongst the all-time greats in the sports. The son of Cape Cross picked up wins in the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse, International Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The Irish-trained horse raced nine times, winning eight of those contests. His sole defeat came on his debut at the Curragh where he was green and had to settle for fourth place in the two-year-old race.
Connections wasted no time during 2009 as they allowed their horse to reel off his series of victories across the Flat season. He is the first horse to win the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Arc treble, and he beat some very good horses along the way during his time on the track.
If ratings alone were used to judge the greatest Flat horse in history, Frankel would claim the prize. The dominant miler was rated 140 by the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings Committee, the highest rating ever given out.
Since retiring, Frankel has gone on to have a good career at stud. He has produced multiple Group One winners, including Anapurna who won the Oaks at Epsom in 2019.
With all five of the above having a strong argument for being the greatest Flat horse, the debate will go on amongst horse racing fans. Hopefully, the sport will see some more contenders on this list in the near future.