Cheltenham Gold Cup 2002 – Best Mate

The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002 had the distinction of being the first renewal for two years after the 2001 event, along with the Cheltenham Festival in its entirety, was first postponed and then cancelled, after the whole of Cheltenham Racecourse fell within a foot-and-mouth. Unsurprisingly, it was a competitive renewal, numerically, with a total of eighteen runners facing the starter. Looks Like Trouble and Florida Pearl, first and second in 2000, and See More Business and Go Ballistic, first and second in 1999, were back again, while other leading fancies included Best Mate and Bacchanal, who had filled the places behind Florida Pearl in the King George VI Chase at Kempton the previous Boxing Day.

Defending champion Looks Like Trouble was sent off favourite, at 9/2, and set out to make all the running under Richard Johnson. However, ten-year-old weakened from the third-last fence and finished a tailed off thirteenth, and last of the finishers, over 80 lengths behind the winner. The 1999 winner, See More Business, by now a doughty twelve-year-old, ran a highly creditable race in defeat, racing prominently throughout the second circuit and only surrendering the lead at the second-last fence.

However, thereafter See More Business was outpaced by two younger horses, the nine-year-old Commanche Court, trained by Ted Walsh and ridden by his son, Ruby, and the seven-year-old Best Mate, trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Jim Culloty. Former Triumph Hurdle winner Commanche Court was headed by Best Mate on the run to the final fence and, although he rallied under pressure on the run-in, could make no impression on his rival in the closing stages and eventually went down by 1¾ lengths. See More Business finished a respectable third, a further eight lengths away.