On paper, the 1992 Cheltenham Gold Cup appeared to have an outstanding favourite, in the form of Carvill’s Hill, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Peter Scudamore. Following his transfer from Jim Dreaper in Co. Meath in June, 1991, Carvill’s Hill had won all three starts for Martin Pipe, including a runaway 20-length victory, under 11st 12lb on heavy going, in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow; the runner-up that day, in receipt of 19lb, was the subsequent 1992 Grand National-winner Party Politics.
Consequently, the ten-year-old was sent off at even money favourite, in a field of eight, for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. If Carvill’s Hill had a weakness, it was an awkward, ungainly jumping style and, once the race was underway, Michael Bowlby, jockey of Golden Freeze, a 150/1 chance trained by Jenny Pitman, seemed intent on unsettling that favourite. As noted by commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Bowlby was ‘clearly to bustle’ Carvill’s Hill by taking him on for much of the race and jumping upsides at every fence.
Whether intentional or not – Bowlby and Pitman were cleared of running a ‘stalking horse’ as a Jockey Club disciplinary hearing – the tactic worked; Carvill’s Hill made several notable blunders, including at the very first fence, and eventually trailed in a distant last of the five finishers, have been virtually pulled up. Injured in the process, Carvill’s Hill never raced again.
Notwithstanding the controversy, the race actually produced a thrilling finish, with the first three home covered by just over a length. Docklands Express, trained by Kim Bailey and ridden by Mark Perrett, led over the final fence, but was headed on the run-in by The Fellow, trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by Adam Kondrat, and Cool Ground, trained by Toby Balding and ridden by Adrian Maguire. The latter, a 25/1 chance, led in the last strides to win by a short head.