We Three Kings (and no, I don’t mean Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar), is an oil painting on board depicting the three iconic horses of British racing: Arkle, Red Rum and Desert Orchid. A head portrait of all three horses together in one painting, immortalized for all time.
The artist? Susan Crawford, Scottish-born (1941), whose parents trained racehorses. Crawford is also famous for having painted the portraits of 5 members of the Royal Family.
Arkle (1957-1970) was a bay Irish Thoroughbred. Famous not only for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in a row (1964, 1965, 1966), but his strength was such that the racing authorities were forced to create two handicap weighting systems to make it fair for the other horses. He accumulated a total of £95,198 in winnings. Arkle’s skeleton is now on display at the Irish National Stud.
Red Rum (1965-1995) was a bay Thoroughbred gelding whose three-time Grand National wins (1973, 1974, 1977) remain unrivaled. Did you know that his trainer was a car dealer from Liverpool (Ginger McCain), who used to train Red Rum by galloping through the sea, which is said to have helped build the horse’s legendary stamina? His body was buried next to the winning post at Aintree, where the Grand National is held. His earnings totalled £146,409.80.
Desert Orchid (1970-2006), also known as Dessie, was a grey English Thoroughbred and was renowned for his will of iron and extreme versatility. Some say that he was the greatest jumper of all time. One of Desert Orchid’s claims to fame was winning the King George IV Chase four times and he also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His earnings totalled £654,066.
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