As the countdown continues to the Cheltenham Festival, one race often sticks out for creating some of the best memories ever at the four-day meeting.
The Gold Cup, the highlight of the final day, and arguably the race all jockeys, trainers and owners want to win, has sparked some incredible moments.
Last year it was Al Boum Photo coming home in front, while Santini is the favourite in the betting for this year’s renewal.
Here is our look back on some of the best runnings in recent memory.
Best Mate – 2004
In 2004, the Henrietta Knight-trained Best Mate became the first horse since the legendary Arkle to win three Gold Cups – an achievement bettered only by Golden Miller.
Of his three Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup triumphs, the 2004 event was the most exciting race for the neutral. After winning well in 2002 and even more comfortably a year later, but in 2004 the ground was much softer than the horse liked and connections had real doubts. Despite this, he was sent off at odds-on; the shortest price of any of his three Gold Cup wins.
Best Mate travelled well throughout the race and his jumping was exemplary. However, he looked in trouble two out as he became boxed in against the rail and third successive victory looked in serious doubt.
However, Jim Culloty kept his cool, steered Best Mate wide and jumped the penultimate fence in fine style – to a deafening roar from the appreciative Prestbury Park crowd.
Though this win wasn’t Best Mate at his best, it showed how dogged and determined the mighty horse was and it will certainly go down as one of the great Gold Cup moments.
1st – Best Mate (8/11F)
2nd – Sir Rembrandt (33/1)
3rd – Harbour Pilot (20/1)
Denman – 2008
The magical rivalry between Denman and Kauto Star really captured the public’s imagination and was one of the great battles in recent horse racing memory. The latter had won his first Gold Cup in 2007, while the former was an impressive 10-length winner of the RSA in the same year.
Both wins set-up a mouth-watering first-time clash between Paul Nicholls’ star duo in the 2008 Gold Cup. Kauto Star went into the race under a slight grey cloud having returned lame from his win at Ascot a month earlier, but Denman went in to it in sparkling form. He’d won three from three that season, including winning off top-weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup.
The battle did not disappoint. Denman put his rival to the sword thanks to one of the finest rounds of jumping Prestbury Park has ever seen. He had Kauto Star in trouble a long way out and just galloped his opposition into submission to win his only Gold Cup by seven lengths.
1st – Denman (9/4)
2nd – Kauto Star (10/11F)
3rd – Neptune Collonges (25/1)
Lord Windermere – 2014
The 2014 Gold Cup produced one of the most memorable finishes in the race’s history as Lord Windermere pulled victory from the jaws of defeat under a brilliant Davy Russell ride.
He’d won the RSA Chase previously, but his build-up to the Gold Cup was poor having been soundly beaten in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Lexus Chase and the Irish Gold Cup. Such poor displays saw him go off one as one of the race’s outsiders at 20/1.
After travelling poorly and hanging about towards the rear of the field, he kept in touch with the leading pack from four out and soon made his move. However, he was still a few lengths behind the leaders jumping the last, but powered up the Cheltenham hill to edge out God’s Own by a short-head.
The drama didn’t end there though as Jim Culloty’s charge had to survive a steward’s enquiry, but kept the race much to the delight of the former Gold Cup winning-jockey turned trainer.
1st – Lord Windermere (20/1)
2nd – On His Own (16/1)
3rd – The Giant Bolster (14/1)
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