The 11 Best Jumps Horses Of The Decade

The 11 Best Jumps Horses Of The Decade

We take a look back at some of the top jumps horses this decade (© PA Images)

When the new decade dawned, jumps racing still worshipped at the altar of Paul Nicholls’s most legendary quarter - Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded, and Big Buck’s.

The stars of veteran Champion Hurdlers Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace had faded, Gordon Elliott had yet to train a Cheltenham Festival winner, and the era of Willie Mullins had just begun in earnest.

What would play out across the next 10 years, would include heart, heart ache, and heartbreak, as our stars of yesteryear crumbled, giving rise from their ashes to the class of 2019.

Here we take a look back at the 10 horses who graduated top of their class this decade, some showing unprecedented bravery to come back from what many believed would finish them entirely, others defying size, scope and everything in between, and all proving that, no matter what, they are indeed the best.

The best of a decade.


Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Jessica Lamb

Trainer Nicky Henderson must have thought Sprinter Sacre was a once-in-a-lifetime find, that the almost unbeaten chaser, the winner of two Champion Chases would be his last great two-miler. He was wrong.

One month before Sprinter Sacre won his final chase, Altior won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, annihilating Irish banker Min by a cool seven lengths. Back in third was future two-time Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air.

It was already quite clear this was no ordinary son of High Chaparral, but the real stardom came over fences the following November. Sprinter Sacre was now 10 and retired, having won 14 of his 18 chases, and 18 of his 24 races overall in a truly glittering career that launched that of his work rider Nico De Boinville.

Boinville, through his work with Sprinter Sacre, who he got to ride in his emphatic final five races, was now among Henderson's number one jockeys and the only rider of Altior.

Unbeaten together in five runs over hurdles, they added six to that tally in that first chasing season, including the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham and two other Grade 1s. He was still on that unbeaten run when winning the 2018 Champion Chase, and when lining up to defend in 2019.

That season was his first with hiccups, enduring 10 months off racing and a wind operation. Henderson described his work as 'frightening' in the build-up though, and he didn't disappoint, taking his unbeaten run to 18. But those cracks that had appeared the previous summer did so again this summer, and after landing win 19 in a row in April, he had another wind operation, before suffering his first defeat in four years.

Though he has undoubtedly been dominant in the past decade, he does still live in the shadow of Sprinter Sacre, Henderson saying before Cheltenham that he isn't 'quite the showman that Sprinter was'. Maybe then, it is the 2020s that will truly define Altior as one of the greats.

Annie Power

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Jessica Lamb

There seemed decades between the mighty Solerina and the next great mare, and although Quevega, the six-time Cheltenham Festival and four-time Grade 1 winner, did come first, it was Annie Power who lit up the last decade.

Bred by Eamon Cleary, she started racing in his colours with Flat trainer Jim Bolger, but when Patrick Mullins rode her to win her first bumper at odds of 9/10 and then her second by 15 lengths, word soon got back to his father Willie. He bought her for owner Rich Ricci and she won her next bumper at Listowel by 61 lengths.

This style of racing became her trademark. The ease with which she travelled through races for Patrick Mullins, and later Ruby Walsh, was astounding. She could be ridden up with the pace, or down the back, or out in front, alone. It didn't matter; every time, at the last, she would power away to win by devastating margins.

She would win 10 races, including three Grade 2 hurdles and a Grade 1 mares' novices' hurdle before any horse finished ahead of her, More Of That causing defeat in the 2014 Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham - Annie Power's first run over a distance of more than 2m4f.

She was beaten a length and a half - the winner, unbeaten to that point, won only twice more in 13 runs, Annie Power was only defeated one more time in sensational circumstances.

Poised to take over from Quevega as Queen of the mares at Cheltenham, she was sent off 1/2 favourite for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle that her stablemate had made her own. In her usual style, the now seven-year-old, cruised to lead at the penultimate flight and approached the last four lengths clear of the rest.

Amid deafening cheers, she cantered gently up to that final hurdle, and just forgot how to jump. Her legs barely left the ground, and down she came in one of Cheltenham's most unforgettable moments.

But the following year, having won the Punchestown Mares' Champion Hurdle for a second time, she more than made amends in the 24 days that crowned her mare of the decade.

Making no mistakes this time, she became the first mare since Flakey Dove in 1994 to win the Champion Hurdle, making all the running to beat My Tent Or Yours by four and a half lengths. Three weeks later, in the Aintree Hurdle, that margin extended to 18 lengths, and Annie Power's work was done.

She was now in the same bracket as the mighty Dawn Run.

Don Cossack

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Diarmuid Nolan

This can possibly be described as an emotional selection, but Don Cossack has definitely been my horse of the decade.

Ever since he won his first bumper for trainer Gordon Elliott at Naas in 2013, under Nina Carberry, the expectation that this strapping son of Sholokhov would go on to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup only grew larger and larger.

It was hard not to fall in love with Don Cossack after that performance, as he demolished his rivals by 18 lengths. Elliott declared him the "best horse I’ve ever trained", but those words looked like they might haunt him in the years that followed those bullish comments.

Don Cossack was ultimately disappointing in his novice hurdle season, and failed to win on five of his seven starts in his novice chasing campaign, but then it all seemed to click for him in 2014. Don Cossack was beaten just twice in his 12 runs after that.

In 2015 he won the Grade 1 Melling Chase at the Aintree Grand National meeting under AP McCoy, beating Cue Card by 26 lengths. That performance was the highest Racing Post Rating a horse has ever recorded with McCoy in the saddle, which is no mean feat.

A Punchestown Gold Cup win followed and the following season he would go on to win the biggest race of them all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in a flawlessly brilliant display.

On that glorious day Don Cossack proved that Elliott's confidence in 2013 was correct. He silenced the many detractors who doubted his love of Prestbury Park, and helped to temporarily banish the doubters of his pilot, Bryan Cooper.


Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Jessica Lamb

When Ireland was deep in recession, it was Faugheen who emerged to make them proud, to show once again what kind of thoroughbreds are bred, born, reared and trained in Ireland. He came at a time when Irish foal production was at its lowest, when few racehorse owners could stay in the game, and when every one of Ireland's best horses were being sold to race in Britain - for nothing.

The Machine himself only cost trainer Andrew Slattery €12,000 as an unraced three-year-old, having left breeder Dr John Waldron for only €4,000, months after he was born to an unraced, unremarkable mare called Miss Pickering.

To them, and to trainer Willie Mullins, who snapped him up for owner Rich Ricci after he won his point-to-point debut, where he came from did not matter, it was where he promised to go - and that, only they could see.

Despite a low-key - unbeaten - start to hurdles, The Machine was Ireland's banker on day two of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, destroying the Neptune Novices' Hurdle field to win as the 6/4 favourite. Having previously won over 3m and 2m6f, as well as his Festival victory over 2m5f, he then dropped back to 2m to win his second Grade 1 at Punchestown.

He won the next season's Christmas Hurdle by eight lengths, then the Champion Hurdle at odds of 4/5, lowering the colours of his legendary stablemate Hurricane Fly in an era-defining moment that earned him the title Horse Racing Ireland Horse of the Year 2015.

He won another Christmas Hurdle, then the Irish Champion Hurdle, and was favourite to win his second Champion Hurdle in 2016, right until he was ruled out by an injured leg. The 2017 Champion Hurdle also came and went without him and many began to think that was it.

A scintillating 16-length victory in that November's Morgiana Hurdle signalled his return, but it looked like a fluke when he was beaten in the 2018 Irish Champion Hurdle and a long way back in sixth at Cheltenham. Was it time to call time?

With his face now adorning an entire wall of a Dublin city street - a mural which still stands this day - Faugheen The Machine returned. In a move of genius, Mullins stepped him up to 3m at Punchestown, where he left for dead the Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle winner Penhill and won his eighth Grade 1 aged 10.

Despite more niggles, his first-ever fall, and a heart scare, Faugheen has reinvented himself a third time this season, taking to fences to win twice, including his last of the decade, his ninth Grade 1, a 10-length demolition of Samcro. Aged 12 on New Year's Day, this is a horse for the ages, never mind the decade.

Hurricane Fly

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Steve Ryder

It is easy to fall in love with horses who keep winning and with a record of 24 wins from 32 starts over hurdles, my horse of the decade has to be Hurricane Fly.

By Montjeu and bred to race on the Flat, ‘The Fly’ was small in stature, but had the heart of a lion, which he showed numerous times, winning 22 Grade 1 races - a record only surpassed by the mighty Winx in 2018.

He was the first in 38 years to regain the Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham, winning in 2011, finishing third in 2012, and winning again in 2013. Both bookmakers and punters were against him that day, but I will never forget the emotion jockey Ruby Walsh showed afterwards, describing Fly as, “the best hurdler I have ever sat on”.

Many questioned whether Hurricane Fly was ever at his best at Cheltenham but he, without doubt, put in his best performances at Leopardstown, where he won 10/10, including five successive Irish Champion Hurdle victories between 2011 and 2015.

After that final win, he finished a gallant third in his fifth and final Champion Hurdle run, being beaten only by stablemates Faugeen and Artic Fire.

He stepped up to 3m for the first time in his career after that, agonisingly losing a titanic battle with old foe Jezki at Punchestown. It showed he still had that fighting spirit at the age of 11, and he was retired after his next outing at Auteuil.

Still looking amazing in his retirement, Hurricane Fly can be found at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, Ireland, hanging out with the likes of Gold Cup winner Kicking King, fellow Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace and the enigmatic chasing star Beef Or Salmon in the aptly-named Living Legends exhibit.

Long Run

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

By Dean Ryan

Long Run had already hinted at greatness before the turn of the last decade, and entered 2010 primed to shake up the staying chasing division, which for some time had belonged to Paul Nicholls, Denman and Kauto Star.

This wonderful French gelding put in a romp and a half at Kempton in the Feltham Novices Chase on Boxing Day 2009, slamming the best novice chasers around with a performance that proved a perfectly delivered hors d'oeuvre ahead of a remarkable British career.

It was his first run in England, having been purchased from France by Robert Waley-Cohens the previous month for his son Sam, a dentist by trade, to ride.

He had some wonderful quirks, dismissive of rivals in the same way he was of fences, but Long Run knew he was special; He carried an air of grace and a penchant for power-packed swoops that would leave all but the very best a long way behind, over almost any trip, track or conditions.

His battles with Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander came at the very height of the Gold Cup division.

He won the 2010 King George in his sleep, and though he faltered behind Kauto Star in 2011’s renewal, but came back, as all the best prizefighters do, and reclaimed the King George crown in 2012 – doing so in a way that only Long Run could.

His own way was sometimes to kid himself into almost not doing it, hitting the fences, making Sam work for everything and when he didn’t want to deliver, he still could - he just made you think he might not.

The race that marks him apart and worthy of a fighting chance of being the horse of the last 10 years is the wonderful and pulsating Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2011.

Long Run’s performance that day would have won every Gold Cup of the last 10 years in this writer’s opinion and when we are discussing the best horses of that era then this day, this race and this field will not be matched.

Kauto Star and Denman, Imperial Commander and Long Run all in attendance. A stellar field of 13 on perfect racing ground and the ultimate acid test awaited.

Standing on the lawn in front of the home straight that afternoon as Kauto, Denman and Long Run came to the second-last in unison, I genuinely felt the earth move, the ear drums mildly perforate and the air stand still as breaths were held once the horses lifted their front legs.

Age perhaps told on the two heroes Denman and Kauto Star, but Long Run fancied it, and Sam had produced him perfectly against his professional foes. It was a powerful and regal run to the line that saw Long Run come home seven lengths to the good in a race for the ages.

That will do I thought, that will do. He is the new breed, he is the new king and long live the ones in behind.

A generation of special horses all clashed at a perfect venue, a perfect occasion and we had a winner worthy of the day. He may not have been the longest-standing at the level he reached, he had already stood plenty of racing in France before we got to see him in England, but boy was he special.

Many Clouds

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Steve Mullington

A Grand National winner, who literally gave his heart to racing, Many Clouds has to be among the most treasured racehorses this century, never mind decade.

Bought as a three-year-old by multiple Grand National winning owner Trevor Hemmings, Many Clouds won 12 times, his fans drawn in by his performances, and his open, charismatic connections, including trainer Oliver Sherwood and work rider Nathan Horrocks, who would go on to make an award-winning film about his star.

Winning began for Many Clouds in a bumper at Wetherby in February 2012. After a season of hurdling in 2012/13 he moved up chasing in 2013/14, winning at Carlisle and Wetherby and finishing a decent second in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.

He hit his peak the following season when becoming the first horse to win both the Hennessy Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season. The weight of 11st 9lbs which he lumped around Aintree that day was the second-highest weight a winner had carried since the mighty Red Rum.

He had been sent off an unfenced 25/1 shot that fateful afternoon, some perhaps disappointed with his sixth placing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but as he held off Saint Are up that long run-in, he and jockey Leighton Aspell really didn’t care.

Many Clouds would finish 16th in the next Grand National and win three more times, his last coming at Cheltenham in January 2017 when, moments after beating Thistlecrack in a pulsating finish, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

It was the most saddening of days for his connections and his army of adoring fans, but his legacy lives on in Equine Productions’s documentary Many Clouds, The People’s Horse, and at Aintree, where a Grade 2 chase has been renamed the Many Clouds Chase in honour of the very special 2015 Grand National hero.

Native River

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Paddy Aspell

Born and bred in Ireland by one-mare farmer Fred Mackey, who could ever have imagined what Native River would go on to achieve?

By Indian River, the tall chestnut was perhaps the last of the old-school chasers. Bred to jump and stay forever, he made his debut aged four at Dromahane point-to-point on St Patrick’s Day 2014. He was hampered and unseated his rider at the last fence, but looked sure to secure third place, and that was enough for trainer Colin Tizzard to buy him for Brocade Racing.

He soon won his hurdles debut at Stratford and would go on to win three of his seven hurdle outings, but by October 2015 had switched to fences, where the real magic began.

He steadily climbed the novice ranks, achieving two Graded wins, and a second at the Cheltenham Festival, then in just his second season of chasing, he put in a very tough, front-running performance to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. That was his defining moment, his coming out, and only a month later, under 11st 12lb, he repeated the feat in the Welsh National.

Native River, now seven, was beaten less than three lengths when third in that season's Cheltenham Gold Cup, and gave us a Gold Cup for the ages 12 months later. Fence after fence, Native River jumped upsides with favourite Might Bite, the King George VI Chase winner. At each, both reached further, Might Bite taking his first advantage at the penultimate flight, but Native River responded in devastating fashion, powering over the last and up the hill to win by four and a half lengths.

A laid-back yet very resilient star, his jumping has always been accurate and quick, setting him apart. Rising 10, he could yet show more in a second decade, having just won the Old Roan Chase sporting blinkers for the first time.

Un De Sceaux

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Jessica Lamb

In the last 10 years, was there a horse more entertaining than Un De Sceaux? From his hair-brained front-running, to his gasping leaps, and his open, excitable owners, the O'Connell family from County Cork, this son of Denham Red has done nothing but bring joy.

He was a runaway winner of two bumpers in France, and a runaway winner of his first seven hurdle outings for Willie Mullins, and would have been a runaway winner of his first seven chase outings if he hadn't fallen twice when clear near the finish.

His Arkle Novices' Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival was among the most anticipated because he could only be beaten by himself. Exactly how fast would he hit the first fence? He won that, he won two Clarence House Chases at Ascot, the 2017 Ryanair Chase, the 2016 Tingle Creek, the 2018 and 2019 Punchestown Champion Chases, and a total of 23 of all his 33 races.

What has stood out every time has been his zest, and yes he has become less craic as he's aged, but that is perhaps why Ruby Walsh was able to steer him to that elusive senior win at Cheltenham in 2017.

This was the season in which he transition from runaway to class act and that was the race where it all came together. He wasn't just galloping blind and hanging on this time. This was arguably his most professional performance, and Walsh's strongest on him.

Rising 12, we don't see Un De Sceaux very often, but he is still winning, and showing no signs of stopping. Defi Du Seuil proving only a neck to good for him on his last outing of the decade - the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase.

Sprinter Sacre

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Colm Phelan

Few in attendance at Ascot back in February 2010 would have expected to see a future Nicky Henderson superstar in the 4.55 bumper, but they witnessed just that. Sprinter Sacre’s reputation at home sent him off as the 8/11 favourite that day and although he didn’t win in style, there was more to come.

With Barry Geraghty on board he went on to win his second start at Ayr, and his career over hurdles would yield two more wins before a third-place finish in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. It would be his last race over hurdles as he swapped to bigger obstacles - going on an unbeaten run spanning two years and 10 races, nine of which were Grade 1s.

His debut year as a chaser boasted a near faultless performance en route to an Arkle win at the Cheltenham Festival beating the likes of Cue Card, Menorah and Al Ferof. His resume was writing itself.

At one point during his dominance his Timeform rating reached 192 - one of the highest ever recorded.

Things took a turn in December 2013 when he pulled up in Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, and a long lay off was on the cards - 386 days to be exact. After exiting early once again at Cheltenham in March many questioned whether they would ever see the old Sprinter Sacre again.

A 14 length win in the November Cheltenham meeting teased a comeback, and an impressive win over Sire De Grugy a month later added fuel to the fire. It was all set-up for Cheltenham Festival where the Queen Mother was targeted, but Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux stood in the way. Coming around the final turn there was only going to be one winner. The comeback was complete.

Tiger Roll

Tiger Roll

(© PA Images)

by Adam Kenny

Having won the 2014 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on just his second start for trainer Gordon Elliott, Tiger Roll's career sputtered for a couple of seasons. That was until a successful chase debut at an evening meeting in Ballinrobe, where all the greats start off.

His first foray into handicap chasing company ended in 2016 Munster National victory. That season would also see a somewhat surprising win at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in the National Hunt Novices’ Chase.

Ahead of the 2018 spring festivals, Tiger Roll had finished a well-beaten fifth in his first cross country chase at Cheltenham. That experience proved invaluable though, as he landed a third Cheltenham Festival win that March, and followed it up by winning the big one - the Aintree Grand National.

2019 saw Tiger Roll take on a new role. He was the Irish banker at the festival, going off the 5/4 favourite. He duly obliged, with jockey Keith Donoghue not having to do much for the pair to romp home by 22 lengths.

He was no longer a dark horse for the Grand National, he was 4/1 favourite. Again, he landed the odds. This time under Davy Russell, he moved effortlessly to the front coming to the last and dug deep to hold on by a couple of lengths.

The diminutive, surprise winner of a 2m juvenile hurdle in 2014 now has four Cheltenham Festival wins, is the pride of a nation and has managed something no horse since the legendary Red Rum has - multiple Grand National victories. If that's not enough to be the best horse of the decade, I'm not sure what is.

With 2019 drawing to a close, this horse of a lifetime is yet to blow out 10 candles on his birthday cake. He might end up in this kind of list in a decade's time too, as a fifth festival win and third successive Grand National in 2020 wouldn't exactly be a shock.

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