A Tribute to the Flat Horses That Died in 2023 – Creative Force, Danedream, Danedream, Desert Crown, Kalanisi, Marsha

As 2023 draws to a close, the world of flat racing has, as ever, provided us with a highlights reel to live long in the memory. From the erratically brilliant displays of Auguste Rodin to the sensational Ace Impact and on to the emergence of new superstars, headlined by the latest to roll off the Aidan O’Brien production line, City of Troy.

Sadly, as with any year, 2023 has also suffered its share of losses on the racing front, with several stars having now set sail for the pastures in the sky – some who were well into retirement and others who were taken long before their time. All will be missed, and, here, we pay tribute to six of the most talented.

Creative Force

  • Died – 17th May 2023, aged five
  • Major Wins – British Champion Sprint Stakes (2021)

Tragically, whilst some entries on our list went on to enjoy a full and happy retirement, not all did. The first example of the latter scenario is the Godolphin-owned, Charlie Appleby-trained sprinter Creative Force. A winner of seven of his 18 career starts, the gelding’s finest hour came when powering home to master a high-class field in the 2021 edition of the British Champion Sprint Stakes. Amongst the favourites at the Appleby yard, he will be a great miss to the sprint division, having fatally broken down in the Duke of York Clipper Stakes.


  • Died – 21st August 2023, aged 15
  • Major Wins – Grosser Preis Von Berlin (2011), Longines Grosser Preis Von Baden (2011,2012), Qatar Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe (2011), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2012)

This Peter Schiergan-trained star developed into one of the most brilliant German racehorses ever. Eight career successes included five in Group 1 company, including the King George at Ascot and a simply awesome performance when slamming the cream of the continent in the 2011 Prix De l’Arc De Triomphe. Subsequently standing as a stallion in Japan, Danedream developed Laminitis – a degenerative disease of the hoof and foot – which led to his euthanasia at the age of 15.


  • Died – 5th April 2023, aged 28
  • Major Wins – Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1997), Coral-Eclipse (1998), Man O’War (1998), Coronation Cup (1999), King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (1999), Irish Champion Stakes (1999), Breeders’ Cup Turf (1999)

The late 1990s represented a golden period for Godolphin handler Saeed bin Surroor, and few horses flew the blue flag so impressively as this son of Doyoun. A regular at all the top middle-distance events from 1997 to 1999, Daylami won 11 of 20 career starts – racking up over £2 million in prize money. Highlights abound in what was a glittering career but rarely was he so impressive as when turning the 1999 edition of the Irish Champion Stakes into a procession. Going on to a hugely successful career at stud, Daylami was humanely euthanized, having succumbed to the frailties of old age.

Desert Crown

  • Died – 23rd August 2023, aged four
  • Major Wins – Epsom Derby (2022)

The only Classic winner on our list winner lit up the racing seen all too briefly but did so to dazzling effect. Raced only four times, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Nathaniel hinted at brilliance when landing the 2022 Dante Stakes before his date with destiny in the Epsom Derby. The world looked to be his oyster on the back of that display, but sadly, that was a solitary Group 1 success for the ill-fated star. Only sighted once more at the track, complications resulting from a fractured fetlock in August of 2023 led to the difficult decision to end his suffering later that year.


  • Died – 25th May 2023, aged 27
  • Major Wins – Dubai Champion Stakes (2000), Breeders’ Cup Turf (2000)

But for the misfortune of belonging to the same generation as Montjeu, Giant’s Causeway, Fantastic Light, and Dansili, this teak-tough Sir Michael Stoute runner would likely have accumulated far more than two Group 1 triumphs. In 11 career starts, he never finished outside of the first three. Having finished as the unfortunate runner-up in two epic clashes with Giant’s Causeway in 2000, his finest hour came when mastering the magnificent Montjeu in the 2000 Champion Stakes at Newmarket. Kalanisi died suddenly in the comfort of his paddock at the grand old age of 27.


  • Died – 2nd October 2023, aged 10
  • Major Wins – Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (2016), Nunthorpe Stakes (2017)

Going in the familiar black spots on white silks of the Elite Racing Club, this magical mare earned herself a place in the hearts of racing fans thanks to her considerable talent and never-say-die attitude. Expertly trained by Sir Mark Prescott, Marsha sparkled on both sides of the English Channel. Her first Group 1 came when causing a 16/1 shock in the biggest sprint on the French calendar in the Prix de l’Abaye, but the mare’s most iconic moment came when getting up by a nose to deny Lady Aurelia in the 2017 Nunthorpe Stakes.

Frankie Dettori thought he had held on aboard the favourite, but Marsha’s late thrusting head thought otherwise. Fetching a world record fee for a broodmare when sold for 6 million Guineas at the Tattersalls December Sale, Marsha produced one foal before passing away at the age of 10.