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Arkle

Arkle
Deleted image removed: 250px
Arkle on a 1981 Irish postage stamp
Sire Archive
Dam Bright Cherry
Grandsire Nearco
Damsire Knight of the Garter
Gender Gelding
Foaled 1957
Country Ireland
Color Bay
Breeder Mary Baker at Ballymacoll Stud
Owner Anne, Duchess of Westminster
Trainer Tom Dreaper
Record 35: 27-2-3
Earnings £95,198
Summary
Arkle is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Bright Cherry by Archive. He was born around 1957 in Ireland, and was bred by Mary Baker at Ballymacoll Stud.
Major wins
Cheltenham Gold Cup (1964, 1965, 1966)
King George VI Chase (1965)
Irish Grand National (1964)
Hennessy Gold Cup (1964,1965)
Leopardstown Chase (1964, 1965, 1966)
Whitbread Gold Cup (1965)
Gallagher Gold Cup (1965)
Punchestown Gold Cup (1963)
Powers Gold Cup (1963)
Awards
Timeform rating: 212 (steeplechase)
(highest ever given for a steeplechaser)
Honors
British Steeplechasing Hall of Fame (1994)
Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham
Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown
Song 'Arkle' by Dominic Behan
Republic of Ireland postage stamp (1981)
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on January 26, 2007

Arkle (19 April 1957 - 31 May 1970) was a famous Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. A bay gelding by Archive out of Bright Cherry, his grandsire was the unbeaten (in 14 races) flat racehorse and prepotent sire Nearco. Arkle was bred at Ballymacoll Stud, County Meath by Mrs. Mary Alison Baker of Malahow House, near Naul, County Dublin. Owned by Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, Arkle was trained by Tom Dreaper at Greenogue, Kilsallaghan in County Dublin, Ireland and ridden during his steeplechasing career by Pat Taaffe. Arkle became the first racehorse in Britain to capture public attention outside racing circles and he is regarded as the greatest steeplechaser of all time.

At 212 his Timeform rating is the highest ever awarded to a steeplechaser. Only Flyingbolt, also trained by Tom Dreaper, had a rating anywhere near his at 210. The third highest are Kauto Star & Mill House on 191. Despite his career being cut short by injury he still won three Cheltenham Gold Cups, the Blue Riband of steeplechasing, and a host of other top prizes.

His first victory at Cheltenham was in the Broadway Chase and it gave the first inkling of what was to come as he won by a breathtaking twenty lengths. Mill House beat Arkle (and gave him 5 lbs) when they first met in the 1963 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with Arkle slipping a few fences out and finishing third.

However, in the 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup Arkle avenged that defeat by beating Mill House (who had won the race the previous year) by five lengths to claim his first Gold Cup (and, starting at odds of 7/4, the last time he was not to start favourite for a race). Such was the superiority of these two horses that only two other horses were entered.

The racing authorities in Ireland took the unprecedented step in the Irish Grand National of devising two weight systems — one to be used when Arkle was running and one when he wasn't. Arkle won the 1964 race by only one length but he carried two and half stones more than his rivals.

The following year's Gold Cup saw Arkle totally dominant over Mill House as he crushed him by twenty lengths at odds of 3/10. In the 1966 renewal he was the shortest priced favourite in history to win the Gold cup starting at odds of 1/10. He won the race very easily by thirty lengths despite a shocking mistake early in the race where he ploughed through a fence. However, it did not stop his momentum nor did he ever look like falling. Arkle had a strange quirk in that he crossed his forelegs when jumping a fence. He went through the season 1965/66 unbeaten in five races at the absolute peak of his powers.

Arkle won 27 of his 35 starts and won at distances from 1m 6f up to 3m 5f. Legendary racing commentator Peter O'Sullevan has called Arkle a freak of nature — something unlikely to be seen again.

Besides winning three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups (1964, 1965, 1966) and the 1965 King George VI Chase Arkle triumphed in a number of important handicap chases including the 1964 Irish Grand National (under 12-0), the 1964 and 1965 Hennessy Gold Cups (both times under 12-7), the 1965 Gallagher Gold Cup (conceding 16 lb to Mill House and breaking the course record by 17 seconds), and the 1965 Whitbread Gold Cup (under 12-7). In the 1966 Hennessy he only failed by half a length to give Stalbridge Colonist 35 lb. The scale of the task Arkle faced is shown by the winner coming second and third in the two following Cheltenham Gold Cups, while in third place was the future 1969 Gold Cup winner, What A Myth.

In December 1966 Arkle raced in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park but struck the guard rail with a hoof when jumping the open ditch, which resulted in a fractured pedal bone; despite this he completed the race and finished second. He was in plaster for 4 months and though he made a good enough recovery to go back into training he never ran again. He was retired and ridden as a hack by his owner and then succumbed to what has been variously described as advanced arthritis, or possibly brucellosis, and was put down at the early age of 13.

Arkle became a national legend in Ireland. His strength was jokingly claimed to come from drinking Guinness twice a day. At one point the slogan Arkle for President was written on a wall in Dublin. Often referred to simply as "Himself", the story goes that he received items of fan mail addressed to 'Himself, Ireland'.

The government-owned Irish National Stud, at Tully, Kildare, Co. Kildare, Ireland has the skeleton of Arkle on display in its museum.

See also

External links

References

  • Arkle - Portrait Of A Legend (video)



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