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Skeleton of Arkle the horse at the Irish National Stud.jpg
Skeleton of Arkle the horse at the Irish National Stud
Sire Archive
Grandsire Nearco
Dam Bright Cherry
Damsire Knight of the Garter
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1957
Country Ireland
Colour Bay
Breeder Mary Baker at Malahow House
Owner Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster
Trainer Tom Dreaper
Record 35: 27-2-3
Earnings £95,198
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. 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.

Date Racecourse Distance Race Jockey Weight Odds Field Result Margin
09 Dec 61 Mullingar 2¼ miles Lough Ennel Plate (NH Flat Race) Mr M Hely-Hutchinson 11-4 5/1 17 3rd 9 lengths
26 Dec 61 Leopardstown 2 miles Greystones Flat Race (NH Flat Race) Mr M Hely-Hutchinson 10-11 5/1 10 4th 8 lengths
20 Jan 62 Navan 3 miles Bective Novice Hurdle L McLoughlin 11-5 20/1 27 1st 1½ lengths
10 Mar 62 Naas 2 miles Rathconnell Handicap Hurdle P Taaffe 11-2 2/1f 10 1st 4 lengths
14 Apr 62 Baldoyle 2 miles Balbriggan Handicap Hurdle L McLoughlin 10-1 6/1 18 Unpl 15 lengths
24 Apr 62 Fairyhouse 2 miles New Handicap Hurdle L McLoughlin 10-5 8/1 9 4th 12 lengths
17 Oct 62 Dundalk 2 miles 1f Wee County Handicap Hurdle P Taaffe 11-13 6/1 10 1st 6 lengths
24 Oct 62 Gowran Park 2 miles HE Presidents Handicap Hurdle P Woods 10-5 9/2f 21 1st 5 lengths
17 Nov 62 Cheltenham 2½ miles Honeybourne Chase P Taaffe 11-11 11/8f 12 1st 20 lengths
23 Feb 63 Leopardstown 2 miles Milltown Chase P Taaffe 12-11 1/2f 15 1st 8 lengths
12 Mar 63 Cheltenham 3 miles Broadway Chase P Taaffe 12-4 4/9f 15 1st 20 lengths
15 Apr 63 Fairyhouse 2¼ miles Power Gold Cup Chase P Taaffe 12-5 2/7f 5 1st 3 lengths
1 May 63 Punchestown 2½ miles John Jameson Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-4 4/7f 3 1st 15 lengths
09 Oct 63 Navan 1 mile 6f Donoughmore Plate (Flat Race) T P Burns 9-6 4/6f 13 1st 5 lengths
24 Oct 63 Gowran Park 2½ miles Carey's Cottage Handicap Chase P Taaffe 11-13 4/7f 10 1st 10 lengths
30 Nov 63 Newbury 3¼ miles Hennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 11-9 5/2 10 3rd 8¾ lengths
26 Dec 63 Leopardstown 3 miles Christmas Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-0 4/7f 6 1st 2 lengths
30 Jan 64 Gowran Park 3 miles ½f Thyestes Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-0 4/6f 9 1st 10 lengths
15 Feb 64 Leopardstown 3 miles Leopardstown Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-0 4/7f 6 1st 12 lengths
07 Mar 64 Cheltenham 3¼ miles Cheltenham Gold Cup P Taaffe 12-0 7/4 4 1st 5 lengths
30 Mar 64 Fairyhouse 3¼ miles Irish Grand National (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-0 1/2f 7 1st 1¼ lengths
29 Oct 64 Gowran Park 2½ miles Carey's Cottage Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-0 1/5f 3 1st 5 lengths
05 Dec 64 Newbury 3¼ miles Hennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-7 5/4f 9 1st 10 lengths
12 Dec 64 Cheltenham 2 miles 5f Massey-Ferguson Gold Cup (H'cap Chase) P Taaffe 12-10 8/11f 7 3rd 1¼ lengths
27 Feb 65 Leopardstown 3 miles Leopardstown Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-7 8/11f 9 1st 1 length
11 Mar 65 Cheltenham 3¼ miles Cheltenham Gold Cup P Taaffe 12-0 3/10f 4 1st 20 lengths
24 Apr 65 Sandown 3 miles 5f Whitbread Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-7 4/9f 7 1st 5 lengths
06 Nov 65 Sandown 3 miles ½f Gallaher Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-7 4/9f 7 1st 20 lengths
27 Nov 65 Newbury 3¼ miles Hennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-7 1/6f 8 1st 15 lengths
27 Dec 65 Kempton 3 miles King George VI Chase P Taaffe 12-0 1/7f 4 1st 30+ lengths
01 Mar 66 Leopardstown 3 miles Leopardstown Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-7 1/5f 4 1st Neck
17 Mar 66 Cheltenham 3¼ miles Cheltenham Gold Cup P Taaffe 12-0 1/10f 5 1st 30 lengths
26 Nov 66 Newbury 3¼ miles Hennessy Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) P Taaffe 12-7 4/6f 6 2nd ½ length
14 Dec 66 Ascot 3 miles SGB Handicap Chase P Taaffe 12-7 1/3f 5 1st 15 lengths
27 Dec 66 Kempton 3 miles King George VI Chase P Taaffe 12-7 2/9f 7 2nd 1 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. The horse was often referred to simply as "Himself", and he supposedly 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. A statue in his memory was erected in Ashbourne Co. Meath in April 2014.

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