Countdown to Cheltenham: Five unforgettable Cheltenham moments
One of the most prestigious festivals on the sporting calendar is less than three weeks away, so it’s about time we looked at some of the most memorable moments from the history of the great horseracing spectacle.
It’s seen many a magical moment and every year promises more memories for every fan. With AP McCoy, one of the most successful jockeys in Cheltenham history, pencilled in at odds of 6/1 to snatch the Top Jockey crown this year, it looks set to be another cracker.
In anticipation of an all-round great week of racing, running from 12th-15th March, let’s take a look at five moments that shook the world of horseracing and imprinted themselves into the memories of every viewer:
Best Mate completes a successive hat-trick of Gold Cups
One of the most successful runners ever at Cheltenham, Best Mate made history nine years ago by snatching the Gold Cup for a third time in a row, despite late threats from outsider Sir Rembrant, who sat on odds of 33/1 before the race.
In 2004, ridden by Jim Culloty, Best Mate shone once again to go down in Cheltenham folklore, having won as 13/8 favourite by 10 lengths the previous year and stole the thunder of Looks Like Trouble in 2002.
Looks Like Thunder was the favourite to take a second Gold Cup in a row at 5/1, but was beaten down by a runner that probably didn’t turn out to be his Best Mate.
Arkle upsets the apple cart to down arch-rival Mill House
Pat Taaffe rode the great Arkle to an unexpected victory in one of the most exciting, memorable and hotly anticipated races of all time in 1964.
In a sporting duel that predated the likes of Senna and Prost, Taylor and van Barneveld, Arkle went up against Mill House a year after the latter had wiped the floor with him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and surprised everyone by beating the runner that everyone expected and most had backed to win.
Victory for Mill House looked inevitable after just a few fences, but Arkle stormed back to recover a five-length deficit to eventually win by five lengths, creating history in the process.
Nicky Henderson sets two records in one day
In 2012, Nicky Henderson became the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history by reaching a remarkable 44 winners, with four winners in the same day.
That in itself was a record and it took Henderson four wins past the previous record-holder, Fulke Walwyn in a matter of hours.
The success marked what is widely regarded as the most successful day for any trainer in history and has even led Henderson himself to declare that he has no chance of repeating such heroics at this year’s festival.
Norton’s Coin brings in the coins for the punters
The 1990 Cheltenham Festival saw one of the biggest shocks horseracing has ever seen when Norton’s Coin clinched a victory in the Gold Cup at odds of 100/1.
It is a moment remembered fondly by many, particularly those who took a chance on the dark horse.
Michael Dickinson pens the new ‘Famous Five’
The ‘Famous Five’ was completed by trainer Michael Dickinson at the 1983 Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup, cementing the Yorkshireman’s place in horseracing history.
Remarkably and unforgettably, the trainer saddled home the first five horses in the Cup, with Bregawn taking first, Captain John in second, Wayward Lad in third, Silver Buck grabbing fourth and Ashley House finishing the pack in fifth.