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Dark horse

刊登日期: 2016.04.16
作者: Grace Tse  

There was a Marathon race馬拉松賽跑) last Saturday. When everyone expected John to be the winner, Kay, a little-known runner, unexpectedly won the race. The next day, a news headline said, 


The idiom “dark horse”黑馬;出人意表的勁敵)is someone whose abilities are a mystery to others, but who surprisingly wins in a contest. 

As you may have guessed, the origin of this idiom comes from horse racing. Why is the horse “dark”? A “dark horse” does not mean that it is black in colour. In English, “dark” means not only “the lack of light” but also “mysterious and not fully known about”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a “dark horse”實力未明的馬;冷門馬)is “a horse about whose racing powers little is known”. Since bettors may not know the potential and capabilities of this particular horse in the race, they find it hard to place the bet. 

It is believed that this idiom was first used in 1831 in print by Benjamin Disraeli, a British politician and writer. His novel, “The Young Duke”,《年青的公爵》)described a surprise result in a horse race: 

“… a dark horse, which had never been thought of …, rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph.” 

Eventually, this idiom became popular in United States politics in the 19th century. James Polk詹姆士.波爾克)was called the first “dark horse” candidate for the US presidency. Compared with other candidates, Polk was a relatively unknown politician. However, it took many people by surprise that he won the presidential election in 1844 over a number of well-known candidates. Historians regarded him as one of the greatest US presidents because he was able to achieve what he had promised on his presidential platform

In US history, other examples of dark horse candidates who won the presidency are Abraham Lincoln亞伯拉罕.林肯)in 1860 and Jimmy Carter吉米.卡特)in 1976. 

In Hong Kong, the election of the fifth term of the Chief Executive(行政長官)is scheduled to take place next year. Do you think that there will be any dark horse candidate?



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