According to Guinness World Records, the longest horse race in the world is the Mongol Derby which, since 2009, has been staged annually each August in the Binder district of Khentii Province in eastern Mongolia. The Mongol Derby traces a 1,000-kilometre, or 621-mile, route across a vast expanse of grassland, known as the Mongolian Steppe, and attempts to recreate the messaging system established by Genghis Khan, Emperor of the Mongol Empire, in the early thirteenth century.The course is punctuated at regular intervals by a network of horse stations, or ‘urtuu’, as they are known locally, twenty or so miles apart. The stations are hosted by local families, employed by the race organisers, The Adventurists, to provide food, accommodation and support to participating riders.
The same families provide native Mongolian horses, 1,500 or so of which are trained, specifically, for the Mongol Derby each year. Mongolian horses are stocky, ranging between twelve and fourteen hands in height, but, although diminutive by Western standards, are deceptively strong. The vast majority live in semi-feral herds, outdoors, throughout the year, and largely fend for themselves, with human intervention. They must survive not only the short, warm summer, but also the long, dry and frigid winter – which can resul temperatures as low as -40°C – for which Mongolia is notorious. Mongolian horses are blessed with a calm, docile temperament and an abundance of stamina, making them the perfect partners for the Mongol Derby. Indeed, riders from all over the world are prepared to stump up the not insignificant entry fee – £11,375 at the last count – which also includes three days’ training.
Royal Ascot, running for five days in mid June of each year (Tuesday 16th June – Saturday 20th June in 2020), is one of the most highly anticipated events in UK racing. With its royal connections and history dating back to 1911, it’s one to watch for all ardent horse racing fans.
As is the nature of racing, it’s impossible to totally rule out big raced winners, and over the years outsiders have won even the most prestigious of Royal Ascot races. I recall Arcadian Heights winning the 1994 Gold Cup on his third attempt as outsider at 20-1.
2020 was no exception for big priced winners. There were several horses winning at big odds with bookmakers over the five days (Onassis and Scarlett Dragon both won as 33-1 outsiders). As often happens though, racing saves the best for last. On the final day not only did Frankie Dettori pull off an impressive treble (which as an accumulator would have been 150-1), but it also brought us the biggest odds winner in Royal Ascot history, co-incidentally also 150-1, Nando Parrado.
Coming in at only fifth on his Newmarket debut earlier this month, Nando Parrado simply wasn’t on the radar, and left punters and bookmakers stunned with a performance that earned him the title of biggest price Royal Ascot winner in modern times. He looked to have serious ambitions as he started the Coventry Stakes, featuring prominently. Qaader put down a challenge but there was only one winner on the day, Nando Parrado, ridden by Jockey Adam Kirby. Prior to this the longest-priced outsider winner in Royal Ascot’s history was Flashmans Papers in the 2008 Windsor Castle and Fox Chapel in the 1990 Britannia Stakes.
After the victory Trainer Clive Cox was more inclined to say he was shocked by the 150-1 price, rather than the win, “I was just saying it is not a shock. The price was a shock. He is a proper horse and we loved him from the start. It was always the plan to come here, it was just a sideways step on his first run.”. Before 2020, the biggest priced winner(s) in the Coventry Stakes was just 20-1 (Chief Singer (1983), Landseer (2001), War Command (2013)). At 150-1 with bookmakers – and much bigger on the exchanges – Nando Parrado has set a Royal Ascot record that’s going to be hard to top.
Foaled on April 12, 1997, Fugaichi Pegasus was bought, as a yearling, by Japanese businessman Fusao Sekiguchi for a little over £3 million. Three years later, after a glittering racing career, which included victory in the Kentucky Derby in 2000, Fugaichi Pegasus was sold to Coolmore Stud, in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, for £53.7 million, making him the most expensive racehorse in history.
Indeed, Fugaichi Pegasus beat the previous record held by Shareef Dancer – a son of Northern Dancer, one of the most iconic sires of the twentieth century – who was bought, as a yearling, in 1981, by the late Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Emir of Dubai, for £2.5 million, but syndicated for £24 million at the end of his racing career.
The most expensive ever sold at auction was The Green Monkey, who was bought for £325,000, as a yearling, by Florida pinhookers Randy Hartley and Dean de Renzo in 2005, but knocked down to Demi O’Byrne, representing Coolmore Stud, for £12 million as a two-year-old in 2006.
As listed in the Guiness Book of World Records, the record number of winners trained in a single day is twelve. That was the number sent out by Michael W. Dickinson, at six different meetings across Britain, during the Bank Holiday programme on Boxing Day, 1982, and included Wayward Lad, winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park. Apparently, while having dinner with his parents, Tony and Monica, in early November, Dickinson Jnr. announced, to the exasperation of his father, that he was going to break the world record for the number of winners in a day. He eventually ran twenty horses on Boxing Day, of which twelve won and just one finished outside the first three. The record is unlikely ever to be broken.