Horse racing and online sports betting fans may have heard of some great comebacks in horse racing news or been fortunate enough to witness great turnarounds in races themselves. If you haven’t been so lucky to hear about these great returns, racing history has many fascinating tales of winners who overcame incredible odds to claim victory.
If you love horse racing and horse race betting, join us as we take a look at six of these incredible comeback stories about racehorses and the jockeys that rode them.
The story of Aldaniti goes hand in hand with his jockey, Bob Champion (who we discuss later on,) as both had recently recovered from potentially career- (or in Champion’s case, life-) threatening ailments.
After Aldaniti miraculously recovered from a leg injury that put him out of action at Sandown Park, Surrey, UK, in November 1979, he humbly joined the 39 or so other racehorses at the starting line at Aintree, near Liverpool, UK, in 1981 for the Grand National. With Champion helping guide him, Aldaniti managed to claim the win by four lengths, cementing their story in the horse racing history books.
In 2017, Edwulf was looking to end the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase (held in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK) in second place when he suddenly collapsed. The horse had to be removed from the course and was transported by ambulance for treatment. It was later discovered that he had an irregular heartbeat, which in turn affected his oxygen levels, causing him to collapse. Considering the severity of the condition that caused his fall and subsequent exit from the race, it was expected that Edwulf would never race again.
However, less than one year later, Edwulf not only competed in the Irish Gold Cup but ended the race in first place. This was a clear demonstration of Edwulf’s resilience and the work that the horse’s team had put into helping him recover from an almost life-ending event.
Many people are likely to recognize the name “Seabiscuit” after a movie was made in 2003 sharing the tale of this incredible horse. If you have yet to see this highly thrilling film about horse racing and still plan on watching it, you may want to skip this section and carry on reading further down. For those of you who want to know why Seabiscuit makes it onto our list of incredible comebacks, we share the explanation below.
Seabiscuit had a very successful early career and was undoubtedly one of the most reliable horse racing picks at the time, but while training in 1939, the horse stumbled and ruptured a suspensory ligament in his front left leg. While the horse wasn’t in any mortal danger, at the time everyone believed his racing career was over.
However, in 1940, alongside Red Pollard, his jockey, who had also undergone numerous challenges in life, Seabiscuit entered the La Jolla Handicap at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. While he only finished third, it was a welcome return to the track for many who had expected this horse to never set foot on a racecourse again.
1. Bob Champion
The Grand National is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most memorable horse racing events, but the story of Bob Champion and his victory in the 1981 Grand National will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest stories ever told.
In 1979, during an incredibly successful period in his career as a jockey, Bob Champion received some devastating news: he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and was told he only had a few months to live.
Champion lived up to his name, though, when he underwent cancer treatment, as well as additional surgery to check whether the cancer had spread. Thankfully, he eventually recovered and, as we mentioned earlier on, went on to win the 1981 Grand National riding Aldaniti – a double triumph for both jockey and his trusty steed.
2. Frankie Dettori
Frank Dettori is an incredible jockey, but he almost lost his entire career after failing a drug test back in 2012 and was banned from racing for six months. Dettori accepted his punishment, did his time, and eventually returned to the racing circuit. He then secured his first win while riding Asian Trader, just days after his ban ended at the Lammas Lane Handicap at Sandown in 2013.
From there on, it’s been a successful return to riding for the 50-year-old jockey, who recently received his third award for best jockey in the world, making it three years in a row that he’s been recognized for his contribution to the sport.
In The Guardian article, “Talking Horses: Dettori named world’s best jockey for third straight year,” he had this to say:
“It’s a great honor to win for the third year in a row,” Dettori said during the annual Longines World’s Best Racehorse ceremony, which this year took place online. “Who’d have thought at my age I could still do it? It goes without saying that [mare] Enable has not just been the best horse but the horse I’ve loved most in my life. We tried to win three Arcs [in both 2019 and 2020] but just couldn’t make it. She managed to win three King Georges, which is a record, though. I miss her a lot but she gave the public so much joy, and helped me win this award.”
3. Gary Stevens
Back in the day, if you were placing a bet on a race with Gary Stevens, who should be given the honorary title of “Comeback King”, the horse racing odds would probably not have been in your favor. Stevens’ amazing comebacks were not about his ability to win from behind, though – more the courage he displayed in overcoming physical adversity. He’s a rider who has suffered injury after injury and managed to come back each and every time after sustaining a major injury, at least up until his most recent accident, which damaged his spine.
Going back to 1985, Stevens was thrown into a rail in a starting-gate training incident and ended up in a coma. In 2013, he finished first at the Arlington Million (now called the Mister D Stakes,) at Arlington Park, Illinois, but was thrown into the oncoming riders by his own horse, which resulted in a collapsed lung and neck injuries.
Stevens has had his right knee and left hip replaced, and has undergone other minor and major surgeries over the years until finally, a checkup for a pinched nerve revealed he had a major spinal injury that could spell disaster if he were ever to fall again. After finding this out Stevens announced his retirement in 2018.
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