Cheltenham Gold Cup 2006 – War Of Attrition

Alongside the 1982 renewal, won by Silver Buck, the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup jointly featured the most competitive field in the history of the ‘Blue Riband’ event. Remarkably, while just four of the 22-strong field were trained in Ireland, one of them started favourite and the other three filled the first three places; indeed, since the Cheltenham Gold Cup was inaugurated, as a steeplechase, in 1924, Irish trainers had never before managed a 1-2-3.

Despite having tried, and failed, to win the Gold Cup on three previous occasions and never having won outside Ireland, Beef Or Salmon, trained by Michael Hourigan and ridden by Paul Carberry, was sent off favourite at 4/1. Monkerhostin, trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson, was the pick of the home contingent at 13/2, with the bookmakers laying 15/2 bar the front pair at the ‘off’. Sadly for his connections, Beef Or Salmon once again failed to produce his best form at Prestbury Park and was beaten a long way from home, eventually trailing in eleventh of the eighteen finishers.

By contrast, the other three Irish-trained runners dominated the finish. War Of Attrition, trained by Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, was steered wide by jockey Conor O’Dwyer but, nevertheless, took the lead at the bypassed third-last fence and stayed on strongly on the run-in to win by 2½ lengths. The 2005 Grand National winner, Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, finished second, while Forget The Past, trained by Michael O’Brien and ridden by Barry Geraghty, finished third to complete a clean sweep for Irish trainers.

Indeed, Forget The Past was only beaten 9½ lengths in total and may well have finished closer to the front pair but for hitting three of the last four fences. Nevertheless, winning jockey Conor O’Dwyer reflected on his comfortable victory, saying, “It was an easy ride; he pinged the last two fences when he just stood off and he loves racing.”