Dark horse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Dark Horse (disambiguation).

A dark horse is a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort[1] or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed.[2]


The term began as horse racing parlance for a race horse that is not known to gamblers and thus is difficult to place betting odds on.

The earliest-known mention of the concept is in Benjamin Disraeli's novel The Young Duke (1831). Disraeli's protagonist, the Duke of St. James, attends a horse race with a surprise finish: "A dark horse which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph."[3]

In the political arena[edit]

The concept has been used in political contexts in such countries as Iran,[4] Philippines,[5] Russia,[6] Egypt, and the United States.

Politically, the concept came to America in the nineteenth century when it was first applied to James K. Polk, a relatively unknown Tennessee Democrat who won the Democratic Party's 1844 presidential nomination over a host of better-known candidates. Polk won the nomination on the ninth ballot, and went on to win the presidential election.

Other famous dark horse candidates for the United States presidency include:

Outside of the United States, the dark horse status also attributed to Alberto Fujimori, who rose to the Presidency in Peru and Jejomar Binay, who rose to the Vice Presidency in the Philippines.[citation needed]

In a 2011 article about possible successors for Hugo Chávez, Sarah Grainger for the BBC News website referred to former army officer Diosdado Cabello, who helped Hugo Chávez to stage a failed coup in 1992, as a dark horse.[7]

Several government ministers, who were appointed to the third cabinet of Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev on 21 May 2012, were also described as "dark horses" due to lacking experience, for instance, Olga Golodets, Vladimir Medinsky and Alexander Novak.[6] Some of the candidates for the presidency of Iran in 2013 were labelled as dark horse, including Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mohsen Rezai, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Mohammad Saeedikia[4] and Mohammad Gharazi.[8]

Use in music, film and television[edit]

In addition, surprising or unlikely nominations for such prizes as the Academy Award (awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) are referred to as dark horses.

Guitarist and singer-songwriter George Harrison was nicknamed the "dark horse" of The Beatles, as his visibility as a songwriter and vocalist increased later in the Beatles' career, particularly on Abbey Road. Harrison went on to name his solo label Dark Horse Records, and to release both an album and a song named "Dark Horse."

The blues band Savoy Brown have been called the "Dark Horse" band before, because of how under-appreciated they were in the United States.[citation needed]

American folk band Bowerbirds released an album titled "Hymns for a Dark Horse," featuring a song titled "Dark Horse."

American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen was coined as the "dark horse" of the competition as he went on to win the competition and defeat the crowd favorite and front-runner Adam Lambert.[citation needed]

Jai McDowall was described as a dark horse of the show before beating hot favorite Ronan Parke in Britain's Got Talent.[citation needed]

Switchfoot's song, "Dark Horses" was inspired by an organization called StandUp For Kids that aids homeless and street children (The "Dark Horses") across America.

Converge has a song named "Dark Horse" in their album Axe to Fall.

The first episode of the second season of Frisky Dingo is called "Behold A Dark Horse."

In the song "Western Biographic" by Bound Stems, the term Dark Horse is used throughout the song in the lyrics "Sometimes a dark horse dies" and "Even a dark horse wins".

"Dark Horse" is the third single from Katy Perry's third studio album Prism.

"Dark Horse" is the sixth track from the metalcore band The Ghost Inside's third studio album Get What You Give which speaks about a dark horse "finding its way to the top".

"The Dark Horse (2014)" is the title of the 2014 comeback album by rap artist, Twista.

Use in publishing[edit]

Dark Horse Comics is an American comic book publisher.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A dark horse". The Phrase Finder. 
  2. ^ "Dark horse". Merriam Webster. 
  3. ^ "Origins of Sayings - A Dark Horse". Trivia Library. 
  4. ^ a b "Who Will Be Iran's Next President?". Radio Free Liberty. 6 January 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Invest in Philippines, the 'Dark Horse' of Asia". CNBC. 17 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Tikhomirov, Vladimir (22 May 2012). "Putin names a technocrat Cabinet". Equity. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Grainger, Sarah (28 July 2011). "Who could succeed Hugo Chavez as Venezuela's leader?". BBC News. 
  8. ^ "Profiles: Iran's presidential candidates". Al Jazeera. 11 June 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 

External links[edit]