Obviously, horse racing takes place in numerous jurisdictions worldwide and, as such, it can be difficult to keep track of which jockeys have ridden how many winners on a single day down the years. However, the world record for the most winners on a single day, on a single racecourse, is believed to be held by Panamanian-born jockey Eddie Castro. On June 4, 2005 at Calder, Florida, Castro rode nine winners on a 13-race card; in so doing, he equalled the feat achieved by Chris Cantley on October 31, 1987, but Cantley rode five winners at Aqueduct, New York in the afternoon and four at Meadowlands, New Jersey in the evening for his total of nine.
Elsewhere in the world, on September 6, 2013, Brazilian-born jockey Joao Moreira rode eight winners from as many rides on a nine-race card at Kranji, Singapore; he was ineligible for the remaining race on the card, an apprentices’ event. In Britain, Italian-born Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori hit the headlines when, on September 28, 1996, he rode all seven winners on the ‘Festival of British Racing’ card at Ascot. More recently, on October 15, 2012, Richard Hughes also rode seven winners, albeit from eight rides, at Windsor.
Any discussion of which was the greatest ‘anything’ ever is, invariably, biased towards events occurring in the recent past. Furthermore, ‘greatest’ is a subjective term, not necessarily based on empirical evidence, so which was the greatest Flat horse ever is really just a matter of opinion. Notwithstanding the fact that Timeform ratings were not published until 1948 and, for much of their existence, included only horses that raced in Britain, they probably provide as reliable a comparison between generations as we’re likely to find.
According to Timeform, the greatest Flat horse ever was Frankel, who won all 14 of his races between August, 2010 and October, 2012, including ten at the highest, Group One level. His Timeform Annual Rating of 147, achieved when winning the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012, is 2lb higher than that of Sea-Bird, who raced just once in Britain, but was an effortless winner of the Derby at Epsom and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in 1965. Of course, there are numerous Flat horses that never raced in Britain, or did so before the advent of Timeform, that could described as the ‘greatest’ ever; Secretariat, Phar Lap and Pretty Polly are just three of them.
In handicap races, the weight carried by each horse is determined by its official handicap rating, as assigned by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). The race conditions for a ‘Class 6’ handicap on the Flat, for example, might specify that the race is open to horses officially rated 46-65, but horses rated 45 and below are also eligible. In such a race, a horse rated 65 would carry top weight, say, 9st 7lb, a horse rated 64 would carry 9st 6lb, and so on.
At the bottom of the handicap, a horse rated 46 would be required to carry 19lb less than a horse rated 65 or, in this example, 8st 2lb, which would be the minimum weight applicable. Thus, if a horse rated 45 was entered for the race, its rating would merit carrying 8st 1lb, or 1lb lower than the minimum weight applicable. Such a horse can compete, but must carry 1lb more than its ‘true’ handicap mark, and is said to be racing from ‘1lb out of the handicap’.
If a horse is running from out of the handicap, its name will be listed in the ‘Long Handicap’ section of the racecard, along with the weight it would be carrying if allowed to run off its correct mark. Of course, it is not unknown for horses to win from out of the handicap but, win or lose, they are competing on disadvantageous terms, in the eyes of the official handicapper and should be treated with caution.
As the same suggests, jump racing is the discipline of horse racing that involves jumping obstacles of one form or another. Jump, or National Hunt, races can be divided in hurdle races, steeplechases and, rather confusingly, National Hunt Flat races, which involve no obstacles at all. Hurdles are the smaller type of obstacle, standing a minium of 3’1″ high and consisting of lightweight, brushwood panels driven into the ground. Unlike hurdles, which are often knocked flat during a race, steeplechase fences are tallest, more rigid obstacles. They must be a minimum of 4’6″ high, but in the case of ‘The Chair’, which is the tallest fence on the Grand National course, can reach 5’3″ in height.
Jump races are typically run over distances between 2 miles and 4 miles 2½ furlongs, the latter being the distance of the world famous Grand National, run at Aintree Racecourse in April each year. Nowadays, jump racing takes place all year round, almost without interruption, but for National Hunt purists, the season ‘proper’ still starts in mid-October and ends in late April or early May. Aside from the Grand National, the highlight of the National Hunt season is undoubtedly the Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March; the four-day Festival features the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup, which are ‘championship’ races in their respective disciplines.