Golden Horn had a brief but hugely successful racing career, between October 2014 and October 2015, with victories in the Epsom Derby, Sandown Eclipse and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe among others.
The son of 1998 Lockinge Stakes winner, Cape Cross was Bred in Britain by Anthony Oppenheimer and foaled on 27th March 2012. He was born with a winning pedigree and is closely related to several top horses, including Sea the Stars.
Put up for sale as a yearling, he was retained by his breeder when bidding at auction only reached 190,000 guineas. He was sent into training at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket, with John Gosden tasked with readying him for a racecourse debut.
His debut came in October 2014, where he started as 15/8 favourite in a Nottingham Maiden. Ridden by William Buick, he started slowly and showed considerable greenness before recovering well and winning by a head from future Chester Vase runner up Storm the Stars.
That was his only run as a two-year-old and his first race as a three-year-old came in Listed Class at Newmarket. This time ridden by Frankie Dettori, he won the Fielden Stakes by one and a half lengths.
A month later, Buick was back on board as he contested the Group Two Dante Stakes at York. This is a major trial for the Epsom Derby and attracted a strong field, including stablemate Jack Hobbs and the Aiden O’Brien trained John F Kennedy.
Buick rode him brilliantly, holding him up until three furlongs out and then taking the lead with just one furlong to run. He showed a strong turn of foot and pulled away from the field, winning by two and three quarter lengths from Jack Hobbs in second.
Oppenheimer hadn’t entered Golden Horn for the Epsom Derby, instead targeting the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly in France. The reason for his non-entry was worry over him staying the distance but, after discussions with Gosden, a £75,000 supplementary entry fee was paid.
Golden Horn lined up for the 236th running of the Epsom Derby on 6th June 2015, with Frankie Dettori on board the 13/8 favourite. He was going up against a strong field which included leading French colt Epicuris, the Buick ridden Jack Hobbs and a solid O’Brien stable headed by Giovanni Canaletto, full brother to 2013 winner Rule the World.
A similar ride to that of the Dante Stakes saw him held up at the rear of the field, before taking over the lead a furlong from the finish line. He pulled away from the rest to win by three and a half lengths with stablemate Jack Hobbs behind in second.
Dettori rode him differently in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in the July, sending him into the lead early. He rode prominently, duelling for the lead with the Jamie Spencer ridden The Great Gatsby. Golden Horn again showed his turn of foot by accelerating and pulling clear just over a furlong from the line, going on to win by three and a half lengths.
He was due to run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the end of July, but was withdrawn after heavy rain had caused the ground to become too soft and sticky.
An anticipated clash with 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles was due to take place in the International Stakes, ran over the same Course and Distance as the Dante Stakes but it never happened. Gleneagles was a late withdrawal from the race, leading to Golden Horn being shortened to 4/9 favourite.
He pulled hard, despite Dettori’s best efforts to restrain him, which eventually led to his first ever defeat. The soft ground prevented his usual turn of foot and he finished a neck behind filly Arabian Queen.
Despite that first defeat, Golden Horn went off favourite for his first race in Ireland when he competed in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Gleneagles was again withdrawn from the race but there was still a strong field of seven at the start.
Dettori allowed him to take the lead early and set a strong pace, keeping on well and winning by a length from Found in second. A stewards’ enquiry was required, after Golden Horn had veered to the right and hampered eventual third-placed Free Eagle. The result was allowed to stand and it was six wins from seven races for Golden Horn.
A trip to France came next, for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Oppenheimer once again had to pay a supplementary entry fee, of €120,000, after originally not entering him into the race.
He was given a wide draw, in Stall 14 and went off as third favourite, behind two-time winner Treve and Prix Du Jockey Club winner, New Bay.
Dettori took him to the far outside in the early stages of the race, with him running pretty much alone, before moving back inside to sit in second place. His phenomenal turn of foot was back on show, taking the lead and finishing strongly to win by two lengths from Flintshire.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland in Kentucky would be Golden Horn’s last ever race and he failed to produce his best on extremely soft ground. Despite a strong run in the closing stages, he couldn’t hold off Found and was beaten half a length into second.
In November 2015, Golden Horn won two Cartier Awards when he was named Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old and Cartier Horse of the Year. He finished the year rated as the best horse in Europe, the best horse on turf and best long distance horse. He was rated second in the world, behind US Triple-Crown winner, American Pharoah.
His racing career only lasted 367 days, with seven wins from nine races and over £4.4m in prize money. He was never beaten by a male horse and became the first unbeaten Epsom Derby winner to also win the Eclipse Stakes since 1989.
Golden Horn was retired to Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket in October 2014, in a partnership between Oppenheimer and Sheikh Mohammad. He has had a prolific start to life as a stallion, with a first book of 145 top-class mares completed and a 93% strike-rate of getting them in foal.
The colt with a habit of biting his own tail and an amazing turn of foot had a short but successful racing career, which many fans of the sport believed ended far too soon. Only time will tell if his stallion career can be as successful or if any of his progeny turns out to be as talented on the racecourse as he was.