Cheltenham Gold Cup 2005 – Kicking King

The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005 had the distinction of being the first renewal to be run on the final day of a four-day Cheltenham Festival, after the programme was extended to include a total of twenty-eight races, seven on each day. The complexion of the race changed significantly when Best Mate, chasing a fourth successive win in the Gold Cup, was withdrawn eight days beforehand, after breaking a blood vessel. In the absence of the reigning champion, Kicking King, trained by Tom Taaffe and ridden by Barry Geraghty, was heavily backed into 4/1 favourite, just ahead of Celestial Gold at 9/2 and Beef Or Salmon and Strong Flow, both at 5/1.

Once the race was underway, 15/2 chance Grey Abbey made the running and, on the second circuit, he and the eventual third, 12/1 chance Sir Rembrandt, stretched the field out. However, Sir Rembrandt could only keep on at one pace from the fourth-last fence and, once headed by Kicking King at the next fence, Grey Abbey weakened out of contention. Kicking King was challenged, albeit briefly, by the largely unconsidered 25/1 chance Take The Stand at the penultimate fence, but soon asserted, staying on strongly in the closing stages to win by five lengths. Take The Stand kept on well for second place, eight lengths ahead of Sir Rembrandt, who stayed on again from the second-last fence to finish third.

String Flow fared best of the other fancied runners, weakening after three out to finish fifth, beaten 23½ lengths, one place and half a length ahead of Celestial Gold. Beef Or Salmon ran no race at all, though, and was ridden with no response before halfway before eventually being pulled up before two out, when tailed off; he was later found to have an airway infection.