Abernant (1946–1970) was British Thoroughbred racehorse who is "considered by many as the greatest British sprinter of the 20th century," according to Godolphin Racing. In a racing career which lasted from May 1948 until 1950 he ran seventeen times and won fourteen races. He was the best British two-year-old of 1948 and returned from a narrow defeat in the 2000 Guineas to become the dominant sprinter in England in 1949 and 1950.
Abernat was a grey horse who was bred by Catherine Macdonald-Buchanan and raced in the colours of her husband Reginald Macdonald-Buchanan. He was sired by the Epsom Derby winner Owen Tudor, by Hyperion, a son of the English Triple Crown winner, Gainsborough. Abernant's dam, Rustam Mahal, was a non-winning daughter of Rustom Pasha and the very important broodmare Mumtaz Mahal who in turn was sired by The Tetrarch. Abernant was a half brother to Kurdistan (by Tehran) who was a successful sire in New Zealand, siring among others, Baghdad Note, a winner of the Melbourne Cup. Abernant was a dark-grey horse during his racing career although like many grey horses, his coat lightened as he aged. Abernant was sent into training with Noel Murless at Beckhampton in Wiltshire.
Abernant was beaten on his debut in a race at Lingfield, but won his remaining five races in 1948. He won the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, the National Breeders' Produce Stakes at Sandown, the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (beating Nimbus by six lengths) and the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. His only serious challenge came in the National Stakes in which he had to be ridden out by Richards to beat Star King.
At the end of the year, he was rated the best British two-year-old in the Free Handicap.
On his first appearance as a three-year-old, Abernant won over seven furlongs at Bath and was then moved up to one mile to contest the one mile 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. He started favourite at odds of 5/9 and led from the start under Gordon Richards. In the closing stages his stamina failed and he was caught and beaten a short head by Nimbus in the closest finish in the race's history. Following his defeat at Newmarket, Abernant reverted to sprint distances and went through the rest of the season unbeaten. His wins included the King's Stand Stakes, the July Cup, the King George Stakes and the Nunthorpe Stakes. In the Nunthorpe he won by five lengths despite only taking the lead inside the final furlong.
At age four in 1950, he was beaten in the King's Stand Stakes, when he failed to concede twenty-three pounds to the three-year-old Tangle. He won the Lubbock Sprint Stakes at Sandown Park Racecourse, to give Richards his 4000th winner. He repeated as the easy winner of the July Cup, the Nunthorpe Stakes and the King George Stakes. He ended his career that year with fourteen wins from the seventeen races he entered. On Abernant's retirement, Murless said that "there is nothing left for him to win".
Abernant's Timeform rating of 142 equals that of Ribot as the fourth best ever awarded. In the years that followed his retirement, among the many accolades, The Independent newspaper wrote that Abernant "was the best sprinter ever to grace a racecourse." Timeform rated Abernant the best horse of his generation in Europe at ages two, three and four years of age. He was the joint-highest rated horse of 1949 (with the stayer Alycidon) and the highest-rated horse of 1950.
In their book A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Abernant the best British sprinter of the century and the No. 20 horse in their global ranking, one place ahead of Man o' War.
Gordon Richards described Abernant as the fastest horse he ever rode.
Abernant sired the winners of over 1,000 races including Abermaid (1962 1,000 Guineas Stakes), Even Star (Irish 1,000 Guineas), Welsh Rake (1963 Queen Anne Stakes) Zahedan (1965 National Stakes) and Thin Ice (Sanford Stakes).
He died in 1970 at age twenty-four and is buried at Egerton Stud in Newmarket. In a recent interview with trainer Mark Tompkins, Julie Murless, the daughter of Abernant's trainer, recalled that the gentle horse loved children and as a child of five she would sit on his back.