Which was the greatest National Hunt horse ever?
Although there is still no objective system for doing so, establishing which was the greatest National Hunt horse ever is, perhaps, a little easier than the greatest Flat horse ever. The likes of Golden Miller, Red Rum, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star all have claims but, in terms of superiority over his contemporaries, there can be only one, Arkle. Arkle was awarded the highest Timeform Annual Rating ever, 212, and was so far ahead of every other steeplechaser in training that the Irish Turf Club was forced into deploying two handicap systems, one when Arkle ran and one when he didn’t.
Trained in Co. Dublin by Tom Dreaper and ridden, throughout his career, by Pat Taaffe, Arkle won 22 of his 26 steeplechases between 1962 and 1966. In that four-year period, his winning tally famously including a hat-trick in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 1964, 1965 and 1966, but also the Irish Grand National, King George VI Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup (twice) and Whitbread Gold Cup. He never fell or unseated rider and, in all that time, was beaten by just half a dozen horses. Mill House, whom he beat by 5 lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1964, and by 20 lengths the following year, was hitherto considered the greatest steeplechaser since Golden Miller.