Irish Grand National Racing Legends

15 Nov 2000: Champion jockey Tony McCoy sits astride a statue of Desert Orchid at press conference held at Kempton Park Racecourse to promote the running of this years King George VI Gold Cup to be held on Boxing Day. Julian Herbert/ALLSPORT
Irish Grand National racing legends in the 1990s have included Arkle, Flyingbolt, and Desert Orchid.


All-time favourite Arkle won the Irish Grand National in 1964, with jockey Pat Taaffe and trainer Tom Dreaper. Tom Dreaper is an Irish Grand National racing legend himself, with horses he trained having taken seven consecutive Irish Grand National wins between 1960 and 1966.

Arkle is regarded as the best National Hunt steeplechase racer of all time, with three consecutive wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1964, 1965, and 1966). Arkle also won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in 1964, the Gallagher Gold Cup in 1965, and the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup in 1966. Consistently rated as the people’s favourite racing legend of all time, Arkle appeared on a postage stamp in Ireland in 1981.


Often ranked as the second-best steeplechase racer ever (after Arkle), Flyingbolt won the 1966 Irish Grand National with rider Pat Taaffe and trainer Tom Dreaper – the same jockey and trainer who saw Arkle take the victory two years before. This despite a massive handicap of 12 stone.

Flyingbolt won three championship races at the Cheltenham Festival in the 1960s. He is famous for his win of the Massey Ferguson Gold Cup in 1965, where he carried 12 stone 6 pounds and still managed to finish an amazing 15 lengths ahead. Flyingbolt was notorious for his bad temper – perhaps part of the reason he hasn’t earned quite the fame of his rival and fellow stable mate, Arkle.

Desert Orchid

The English racehorse Desert Orchid has been ranked as the fourth best National Hunt racer of all time. He took the Irish Grand National in 1990, with rider Richard Dunwoody and trainer David Elsworth.

Desert Orchid won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989. In 1990, he won both the Irish Grand National and the Racing Post Chase.

Desert Orchid won the King George VI Chase a total of four times (1986, 1988, 1989, and 1990) and the Gainsborough Chase a total of three times (1987, 1989, and 1991). Other major wins by this much-loved horse include the Tolworth Hurdle and the Kingwell Hurdle in 1984, the Hurst Park Novices’ Chase in 1985, the Martell Cup, the Whitbread Gold Cup, and the Tingle Creek Trophy in 1988, and the Victor Chandler Chase in 1989.