Last updated
Skeleton of Arkle the horse at the Irish National Stud.jpg
Skeleton of Arkle the horse at the Irish National Stud
Grandsire Nearco
DamBright Cherry
DamsireKnight of the Garter
Sex Gelding
Country Ireland
Colour Bay
BreederMary Baker at Malahow House
Owner Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster
Trainer Tom Dreaper
Record35: 27-2-3
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)
SGB Handicap Chase (1966)
Timeform rating: 212 (steeplechase)
(highest ever given for a steeplechaser)
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)
Last updated on January 26, 2007

Arkle (19 April 1957 – 31 May 1970) was an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. A bay gelding by Archive out of Bright Cherry, he was the grandson of the unbeaten (in 14 races) flat racehorse and prepotent sire Nearco. Arkle was born at Ballymacoll Stud, County Meath, and bred by Mrs Mary Alison Baker of Malahow House, near Naul, County Dublin. He was named after the mountain Arkle in Sutherland, Scotland that bordered the Duchess of Westminster’s Sutherland estate. [1] Owned by Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, he was trained by Tom Dreaper at Greenogue, Kilsallaghan in County Meath, Ireland, and ridden during his steeplechasing career by Pat Taaffe.


At 212, his Timeform rating is the highest ever awarded to a steeplechaser. Only Flyingbolt, also trained by Dreaper, had a rating anywhere near his at 210. Next on their ratings are Sprinter Sacre on 192 and then Kauto Star and Mill House on 191. Despite his career being cut short by injury, Arkle won three Cheltenham Gold Cups, the Blue Riband of steeplechasing, and a host of other top prizes.

On 19 April 2014 a 1.1 scale bronze statue was unveiled in Ashbourne, County Meath in commemoration of Arkle.

Racing career

His first victory at Cheltenham was in the Broadway Chase, which he won by 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 at odds of 7/4. It was the last time he did not start as the favourite for a race. Only two other horses entered the Gold Cup that year.

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 was not. 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 beat Mill House 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 by thirty lengths despite a 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.

Arkle won 27 of his 35 starts and won at distances from 1m 6f up to 3m 5f. 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 other 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 Gallaher Gold Cup (conceding 16 lb to Mill House while breaking the course record by 17 seconds), and the 1965 Whitbread Gold Cup (under 12-7). In the 1966 Hennessy, he failed by only 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 injury, he completed the race and finished second. He was in plaster for four 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's full race record is listed below.

09 Dec 61Mullingar2¼ milesLough Ennel Plate (NH Flat Race)Mr M Hely-Hutchinson11-45/1173rd9 lengths
26 Dec 61Leopardstown2 milesGreystones Flat Race (NH Flat Race)Mr M Hely-Hutchinson10-115/1104th8 lengths
20 Jan 62Navan3 milesBective Novice HurdleL McLoughlin11-520/1271st1½ lengths
10 Mar 62Naas2 milesRathconnell Handicap HurdleP Taaffe11-22/1f101st4 lengths
14 Apr 62Baldoyle2 milesBalbriggan Handicap HurdleL McLoughlin10-16/118Unpl15 lengths
24 Apr 62Fairyhouse2 milesNew Handicap HurdleL McLoughlin10-58/194th12 lengths
17 Oct 62Dundalk2 miles 1fWee County Handicap HurdleP Taaffe11-136/1101st6 lengths
24 Oct 62Gowran Park2 milesHE Presidents Handicap HurdleP Woods10-59/2f211st5 lengths
17 Nov 62Cheltenham2½ milesHoneybourne ChaseP Taaffe11-1111/8f121st20 lengths
23 Feb 63Leopardstown2 milesMilltown ChaseP Taaffe12-111/2f151st8 lengths
12 Mar 63Cheltenham3 milesBroadway ChaseP Taaffe12-44/9f151st20 lengths
15 Apr 63Fairyhouse2¼ milesPower Gold Cup ChaseP Taaffe12-52/7f51st3 lengths
1 May 63Punchestown2½ milesJohn Jameson Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-44/7f31st15 lengths
09 Oct 63Navan1 mile 6fDonoughmore Plate (Flat Race)T P Burns9-64/6f131st5 lengths
24 Oct 63Gowran Park2½ milesCarey's Cottage Handicap ChaseP Taaffe11-134/7f101st10 lengths
30 Nov 63Newbury3¼ milesHennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe11-95/2103rd8¾ lengths
26 Dec 63Leopardstown3 milesChristmas Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-04/7f61st2 lengths
30 Jan 64Gowran Park3 miles ½fThyestes Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-04/6f91st10 lengths
15 Feb 64Leopardstown3 milesLeopardstown Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-04/7f61st12 lengths
07 Mar 64Cheltenham3¼ milesCheltenham Gold CupP Taaffe12-07/441st5 lengths
30 Mar 64Fairyhouse3¼ milesIrish Grand National (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-01/2f71st1¼ lengths
29 Oct 64Gowran Park2½ milesCarey's Cottage Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-01/5f31st5 lengths
05 Dec 64Newbury3¼ milesHennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-75/4f91st10 lengths
12 Dec 64Cheltenham2 miles 5fMassey-Ferguson Gold Cup (H'cap Chase)P Taaffe12-108/11f73rd1¼ lengths
27 Feb 65Leopardstown3 milesLeopardstown Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-78/11f91st1 length
11 Mar 65Cheltenham3¼ milesCheltenham Gold CupP Taaffe12-03/10f41st20 lengths
24 Apr 65Sandown3 miles 5fWhitbread Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-74/9f71st5 lengths
06 Nov 65Sandown3 miles ½fGallaher Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-74/9f71st20 lengths
27 Nov 65Newbury3¼ milesHennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-71/6f81st15 lengths
27 Dec 65Kempton3 milesKing George VI ChaseP Taaffe12-01/7f41st30+ lengths
01 Mar 66Leopardstown3 milesLeopardstown Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-71/5f41stNeck
17 Mar 66Cheltenham3¼ milesCheltenham Gold CupP Taaffe12-01/10f51st30 lengths
26 Nov 66Newbury3¼ milesHennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase)P Taaffe12-74/6f62nd½ length
14 Dec 66Ascot3 milesSGB Handicap ChaseP Taaffe12-71/3f51st15 lengths
27 Dec 66Kempton3 milesKing George VI ChaseP Taaffe12-72/9f72nd1 length

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.[ citation needed ] The horse was often referred to simply as "Himself", and he supposedly received items of fan mail addressed to 'Himself, Ireland'.[ citation needed ]

The government owned Irish National Stud, at Tully, Kildare, Co. Kildare, Ireland, has the skeleton of Arkle on display in its museum. A statue in his memory was erected in Ashbourne Co. Meath in April 2014.

See also

Related Research Articles

Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeplechase horse race in Britain

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt horse race run on the New Course at Cheltenham Racecourse in England, over a distance of about 3 miles 2½ furlongs, and during its running there are 22 fences to be jumped. The race takes place each year during the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Ladbrokes Trophy is a Grade 3 National Hunt steeplechase in Great Britain which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run at Newbury over a distance of about 3 miles and 2 furlongs, and during its running there are twenty-one fences to be jumped. It is a handicap race, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late November or early December.

Hedgehunter Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Hedgehunter is an Irish race horse, who won the 2005 Grand National steeplechase, ridden by Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins. He had fallen at the final fence the previous year when well placed. He then finished second in 2006 to Numbersixvalverde. He also finished second in the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup to War of Attrition. The horse is owned by Lancashire billionaire Trevor Hemmings who also owned Blackpool Tower.

Foinavon (1958–1971) was an Irish racehorse. He won the Grand National in 1967 at odds of 100/1 after the rest of the field fell, refused or were hampered or brought down in a mêlée at the 23rd fence. The fence was officially named after Foinavon in 1984.

Flyingbolt British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Flyingbolt was a famous racehorse. Officially he is the second best steeplechaser of all time, after Arkle. A comparison of their merits is probably best illustrated by the Official Handicapper, who at the end of the 1965-1966 season rated Arkle the superior by only 1 lb (0.5 kg). Timeform, the highly respected racing publication, had a difference of 2 lbs between them. As a hurdler, Flyingbolt was the best Tom Dreaper ever trained. His wins included the Gloucestershire Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Scalp Hurdle at Leopardstown. He also finished third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Flyingbolt and Arkle never met on the race track, mainly because they were trained by the same man and he preferred to keep them apart.

Thomas William Dreaper was a successful Irish steeplechase racehorse trainer. He is best known for being the trainer of Arkle and Flyingbolt.

Danoli was an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. He was best known for his successes in hurdle races, although he also had success in steeplechases later in his career. Danoli was described as the most popular racehorse in Ireland during the 1990s, and was regarded as "the People's Champion". His successes were achieved despite the fact that his career was frequently disrupted by injury. He was noted for a rivalry with another Irish horse, Dorans Pride.

Fortria was an Irish National Hunt horse best known as the first dual winner of the Champion Chase and winner of the inaugural Mackeson Gold Cup. Although very successful over two miles, he also excelled at longer distances, and won the 1961 Irish Grand National and finished second in the 1962 and 1963 Cheltenham Gold Cups.

Imperial Call was an Irish racehorse. He was a specialist steeplechaser who ran thirty-two times and won sixteen races under National Hunt rules. After showing promise as a hurdler and novice chaser, Imperial Call emerged as a top-class jumper with a win in the Hennessy Gold Cup in February 1996. A month later, he became the first Irish-trained horse for ten years to win Britain's most prestigious steeplechase, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His subsequent career was disrupted by injury problems but he won further major races including the Punchestown Chase in 1998 and the Punchestown Gold Cup in 1999. Unlike most modern racehorses, Imperial Call was not a Thoroughbred.

Jodami was an Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse. A specialist steeplechaser, he ran thirty-nine time and won eighteen races in a career which lasted from March 1990 until February 1997. After winning five races over hurdles, Jodami switched to racing over fences in the autumn of 1991. In early 1993 he won four consecutive races, culminating with a win in Britain's most prestigious steeplechase, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He also won three editions of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown Racecourse. Jodami's racing career was ended by injury in 1997. He died in 2008.

Cue Card (horse) British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Cue Card is a British Thoroughbred racehorse. A specialist steeplechaser, he has won fifteen of his thirty-three races, including nine at Grade I level.

Trabolgan Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Trabolgan is a retired, Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse who competed in National Hunt racing. In a racing career which was seriously disrupted by injuries and other health problems, he won five times from seventeen starts between December 2002 and March 2010. After showing promising, but unremarkable form in his early career he showed great improvement when switched to steeplechasing in the autumn of 2004. In March 2005 at Cheltenham Racecourse he won the Grade I Royal & SunAlliance Chase, one of the season's most prestigious races for Novice chasers. On his next appearance in November 2005, he won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup under the biggest weights carried to victory in the race for twenty years. At the time, he was regarded as one of the best steeplechasers in training, but he never won again: he missed the next three years with injury and failed to recover his form when returning to the track.

Willie Robinson was an Irish jump jockey. He is the only jockey to have won the Hennessy Gold Cup three times. He is associated with the great steeplechaser, Mill House on whom he won both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Hennessy. He also won the Champion Hurdle on Anzio and Kirriemuir and the Grand National on Team Spirit. Unusually for a jump jockey, he was also placed in the Derby.

Many Clouds Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Many Clouds was an Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse best known for winning the 2015 Grand National. After being sold as a foal, he was sent to England and trained for a National Hunt racing career by Oliver Sherwood.

Don Cossack (horse) German-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Don Cossack is a retired German-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse who competed in National Hunt racing. Since his second race the gelding has been owned by the Gigginstown House Stud and trained in County Meath by Gordon Elliott. He was ridden by many leading jockeys including Nina Carberry, Davy Russell, Bryan Cooper, Barry Geraghty, A. P. McCoy and Paul Carberry.

Prince Regent was an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 1946 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was the dominant steeplechaser in Ireland during World War II with his wins including the Irish Grand National in 1942. After the war he was able to compete in the major British chases and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1946. He finished third when favourite for the 1946 Grand National and fourth in the race in 1947, carrying top weight on both occasions. He continued to race until the age of fourteen, retiring in 1949.

Fortina (1941–1968) was a French-bred Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 1946 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was and remains the only entire horse to win the race. After establishing himself as a top-class steeplechaser in France he was sent to England and won the Gold Cup on his second British start. He was then retired to become a breeding stallion and became a very successful sire of National Hunt horses.

Kerstin was an Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won the 1958 Cheltenham Gold Cup. She was imported to England as a young horse and showed early promise by winning over hurdles as a four year old. She showed improvement when campaigned in steeplechases and won the National Hunt Handicap Chase in 1956. She ran four times in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, finishing second in 1957 before becoming the second mare to win the race in the following year. She was unplaced in the net two Gold Cups but produced an outstanding effort to win the Hennessy Gold Cup under 164 pounds in November 1959. After her retirement from racing she had some success as a broodmare.

Sizing John British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Sizing John is a British-bred, Irish trained thoroughbred racehorse who competes in National Hunt racing. He is trained by Jessica Harrington and owned by Ann and Alan Potts, and is best known for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017. He has been ridden in most of his races by Jonathon Burke, but has more recently been ridden Robbie Power, including all four of his Grade 1 wins over fences. He also won a Grade 1 over Hurdles, the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2014, and spent much of his early chasing career finishing second or third in races won by Douvan, widely regarded as one of the best chasers of recent times.

Native River is an Irish-bred, British-trained, Thoroughbred racehorse who races under National Hunt rules. He is a specialist long-distance steeplechaser known for his front-running style and apparently inexhaustible stamina. He won three minor hurdle races but began to show better form in the 2015/16 when taking the Worcester Novices' Chase and the Mildmay Novices' Chase. He emerged as a top-class steeplechaser in the following season when he won the Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh Grand National and Denman Chase as well as finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In the spring of 2018 he won a second Denman Chase before recording his biggest win in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.


  1. "The legend of Arkle". BBC. Retrieved 6 May 2015.