Oldest Horses in History That Lived to a Great Age

March 14th, 2024

It is a fact of life that death sometimes comes too soon to the ones we love. The Thoroughbred world is no exception to this.

Although saddened when the lives of some of our Thoroughbred heroes are cut prematurely short, we mustn't forget the many greats that fittingly lived to a ripe age, drawing the amazement and wonder of multiple generations of racing fans. Discovering the tales of the oldest horses in history adds an extra layer of admiration to their enduring legacy.

Oldest horses in history

Here's a sampling of notable Thoroughbreds over the past century that lived to the age of 33 or more.

Round Table (1954-1987)

A three-time grass champion and Horse of the Year in 1958, Round Table at one time was also the world's leading money winner. His mark of 31 stakes wins is tied with Kelso for second most behind presumed record holder Native Diver, who had 34. Foaled at Claiborne Farm on the same night as Hall of Fame rival Bold Ruler (who died prematurely of cancer at 17), Round Table passed away at Claiborne at age 33.

Count Fleet (1940-1973)

A champion at two and Horse of the Year in 1943, Count Fleet was 33 and the lone surviving Triple Crown winner in 1973, when Secretariat ended a 25-year drought in the series. Count Fleet lived to early December that year and remains the longest-lived Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner on record.

Gallant Man (1954-1988)

The third notable Hall of Fame colt from the remarkable foal crop of 1954, Gallant Man outlived contemporary Round Table by more than a year, passing away at Spendthrift Farm at age 34. Although the only U.S.-based horse on this list never to have won a division title, he is the longest-lived Belmont Stakes winner on record and also won such prestigious events as the Travers Stakes, Metropolitan Handicap, and Hollywood Gold Cup.

Turkoman (1982-2016)

Passing away in California less than two weeks before the Jan. 1 universal birthday that would have made him 35, Turkoman was voted champion older male in 1986 following notable wins in the Widener Handicap, Oaklawn Handicap, and Marlboro Cup. He also placed in two editions of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Flatterer (1979-2014)

Perhaps the greatest of all American-based steeplechasers, Flatterer won four consecutive jump titles from 1983-86. He also confirmed his quality overseas, placing in both the English and French Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham and Auteuil, respectively. Flatterer was officially 35 when he passed away at the Pennsylvania farm of his owner, William Pape, though his death that year came shortly before his actual June 5 foaling date.

Primonetta (1958-1993)

The only mare on this list, Primonetta was the champion older female of 1962 for owner-breeder Darby Dan Farm. A stakes winner in all three seasons she raced, Primonetta scored in the Spinster Stakes, Falls City Handicap, and Molly Pitcher Handicap during her championship campaign. Also a prolific producer, Primonetta was named Kentucky Broodmare of the Year in 1978. She died at the Darby Dan farm in Ohio in January 1993, four weeks shy of the 35th anniversary of her foaling date.

Forty Niner (1985-2020)

A Claiborne homebred, Forty Niner was voted champion juvenile colt of 1987 and enjoyed a stellar campaign at three, winning the Travers, Haskell Invitational, and NYRA Mile. He was also a narrowly-beaten second in the Kentucky Derby to the filly Winning Colors. For a quarter-century Forty Niner resided in Japan, where he died a week after the 35th anniversary of his foaling date.

Lyphard (1969-2005)

Bred in Pennsylvania but campaigned exclusively in France, Lyphard was a five-time stakes winner, most notably in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp. He made a larger impact at stud, siring European superstar Dancing Brave and U.S. grass champion and Hall of Famer Manila, both of whom hailed from the 1983 foal crop. Lyphard died at Gainesway Farm at age 36.