The countdown of our favourite Cheltenham Memories is over the last, and the battle up the hill is being fought out in earnest, but who will come out on top?
The Prestbury Park extravaganza has delighted fans with stories of comebacks, repeat champions, sublime rides and plenty to ponder over the years.
And we think our top five Festival moments bring a bit of everything to the party…
- 5. Hardy Eustace leaves Carberry blushing
Paul Carberry probably gets a lot of stick for his ride on Harchibald in the 2005 Champion Hurdle, some of it perhaps unfair.
The truth is that his mount in that race was the very incarnation of a bridle horse, downing tools as soon as any pressure is applied.
So then, when the pair entered the final furlong full of running between the duo of Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca travelling like they weren’t in a race, Carberry had to time it right.
What wasn’t accounted for was a combination of the sheer determination of Hardy Eustace and the down-right stubbornness of Harchibald.
Bad ride or the best he could manage? You decide…
- 4. Moscow Flyer shows that age is no boundary
After taking the 2003 chase, it seemed unlikely that Moscow Flyer was to regain his title at the age of 11 two years later.
But Jessica Harrington’s horse was one of the greatest two milers in history.
Taking up the lead three out, Barry Geraghty’s partner was not for catching up that Cheltenham Hill, seeing off his to younger rivals in Well Chief and Azertyuiop.
It was to be the finale in a series of battles between these three top class horses in the middle part of the 2000s, as the elder statesman retired the following season.
Such was Moscow Flyer’s achievement that he remains the only horse older than 10 to have won a Championship race at the Festival this century.
- 3. Dessie delights the Cheltenham crowd
Few horses reach the popularity of Desert Orchid.
If you want proof of that, then just listen to the crowd’s reaction when he comes home in front in the 1989 Gold Cup.
But Cheltenham wasn’t to be a happy hunting ground for the ever-loved grey, with Kempton being his preferred choice to strut his stuff, evident with his trio of King George successes.
And with just one previous win to his name going left handed, and the ground looking bottomless, something David Elsworth’s star would have hated, doubts would have been creeping in about the 5/2 favourite.
No one told Dessie.
Through sheer guts and determination the horse of a lifetime got up to take the biggest prize there is in front of a delighted watching audience.
- 2. The greatest ride from the greatest rider?
Whether AP McCoy was hanging up his whip at the end of the season or not, he was going to be a regular feature in this countdown, although this prize is one he has been pipped to top-spot for.
Nevertheless, his ride on Wichita Lineman at the 2009 Festival has gone down as one of the best ever.
Coming down the hill, the well backed jolly looked beat.
He was falling through the field, despite the urgings of that famous McCoy drive.
But turning in, something clicked and the horse began to pick up.
Anyone thinking that clearly hadn’t seen AP McCoy in action before as he carried his mount up the hill, to deny Maljimar on the line and send the crowd into raptures.
- 1. King Kauto reigns again
He may now be doing his thing in the dressage ring but on a racetrack, few could touch Kauto Star when he was at his best.
After winning the 2007 Gold Cup, he was somewhat of a disappointment when failing to cope with the might of Denman the following year, when sent off the 10/11 favourite.
But 2009 was to be different.
Having won his fourth King George in the preceding December, Paul Nicholls’ charge came into the race in flying form, and that’s how he continued up the Cheltenham home straight, flying.
Whether it’s for the impressive distance he puts between himself and Denman, for Simon Holt’s commentary or simply the hair-raising roar from the crowd as Kauto lands over the final too fences, he tops our list of Festival memories.
Let’s face it, which other horses get a victory parade on the way back through their home village?
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