Did Flyingbolt ever beat Arkle?

Did Flyingbolt ever beat Arkle? The simple answer is no he didn’t. Both Flyingbolt and Arkle were trained by Thomas ‘Tom’ Dreaper at Greenogue, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, but never met on a racecourse. According to Paddy Woods, who rode out both horses on a daily basis, ‘It was never going to happen. The boss [Dreaper] wouldn’t allow it. I think he knew in his heart he’d be killing the younger horse for nothing.’

Nevertheless, Arkle and Flyingbolt, in that order, remain the two highest-rated steeplechasers in the history of Timeform, with ratings of 212 and 210, respectively. Arkle won 27 of his 35 races, including a notable hat-trick in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Irish Grand National in 1964 and the King George VI Chase in 1965. Flyingbolt was slightly less impressive, numerically, but nonetheless won 18 of his 36 races. His major victories included the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1964, the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1965 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Irish Grand National in 1966. Remarkably, the day after winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Flyingbolt was sent off favourite for the Champion Hurdle, eventually finishing third, beaten 3¾ lengths.

Unsurprisingly, Dreaper experienced significant public pressure to race his two stable stars against each other, but never succumbed to that pressure. According to Timeform, Arkle was the better of the pair, but only just, and who knows what Flyingbolt – who was two years younger than Arkle – might have achieved if he hadn’t contracted brucellosis in the latter part of his career.