|Wednesday 20th February 2019|
Top Winners in Cheltenham History
Horseracing is all about nail-biting tension and the Cheltenham Festival is one event that never fails to deliver its share. Nobody who was lucky enough to witness it is ever going to forget the 1964 Gold Cup, when Ireland’s finest chaser – Arkle – came up against the best that the UK had to offer in the shape of Mill House – and grabbed the glory for the Emerald Isle.
Another memorable moment in Cheltenham folklore came when Dawn Run became the only horse in the history of the festival to win both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, after one of the most thrilling races ever. To get you in the mood for The Festival, these are some of the greatest winners in its history.
Desert Orchid finally claims the cup
Desert Orchid is a horse that even those who know absolutely nothing about racing have heard of and one of the moments that made him a legend was the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Despite numerous successes on grounds such as Kempton, glory in the Gold Cup had always eluded the brilliant chaser until then. Adding to the sense of drama on the day was the horrible weather conditions, which made the track wet and soggy, and Dessie almost didn’t race at all because of that. Thankfully the decision was made to let him run though, as he won his only Gold Cup with the crowd almost pulling him up the hill with their roars of support.
Norton’s Coin upsets all the odds
The Cheltenham Festival betting was at its most dramatic the following year, when Norton’s Coin defied odds of 100/1 to win the Gold Cup. The jockey was Graham McCourt and a farmer and hobbyist called Sirrel Griffiths was the trainer, but with Desert Orchid looking to retain the cup, the very average-looking Norton’s Coin wasn’t even on the radar of most pundits or punters. Dessie was in front for much of the race, with Ten Of Spades just behind him, but Norton’s Coin was well positioned within the pack. After Ten Of Spades fell and Desert Orchid dropped back, the rank outsider battled with Toby Tobias up that punishing last hill, producing a stunning finish to win by a length.
Istabraq makes it three in a row
The Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is a tough course to win once, making those horses that manage to best it multiple times something truly special. When Charlie Swan rode Istabraq to victory in the Champion Hurdle in 2000 it was the third time in a row that they had achieved this feat – and his fourth win at Cheltenham in as many years. Despite his amazing record in this race, Istabraq was only 15/8 with bookies to complete his treble due to doubts about his fitness. He ran with blood coming from a burst blood vessel in his nose, but clinched the title with a surge of speed and power after the final hurdle that took him four lengths clear of runner-up Hors La Loi III.
Sprinter Sacre shows his heart
Nobody would expect a horse that suffers from an irregular heartbeat to race at all, let alone secure a major victory at Cheltenham, but that is what Sprinter Sacre did in 2016. The horse, with Nico de Boinville in the saddle, was competing in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He had won this title by a stunning 19 lengths back in 2013, but had then been diagnosed with the heart condition that threatened to end his career as a racer. Going into the 2016 race, he was second favourite at 5/1 and recovered from a slip three fences from the end to move into the lead ahead of the penultimate fence, before leaving the rest behind to win by seven lengths from Special Tiara and Un de Sceaux.Whether it is the Gold Cup, the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Champion Hurdles, the Cheltenham Festival guarantees thrills and spills for horseracing fans. We only have to wait until next month for this year’s event and one thing that we can bet on with absolute certainty is that it will be well worth that wait.