Cheltenham Gold Cup 1991 – Garrison Savannah

The 1991 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured 14 runners, including the last two winners, Desert Orchid and Norton’s Coin, and two future winners, in the form of Cool Ground and The Fellow. Favourite, though, was Celtic Shot, trained by Charlie Brooks and ridden by Peter Scudamore; the nine-year-old had finished a remote, 24-length fourth to Desert Orchid in the King George VI Chase at Kempton the previous Boxing Day, after blundering at halfway, but had returned to winning form with a 4-length victory over Toby Tobias in his preparatory race at Cheltenham a month later.

In the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Celtic Shot weakened after a mistake at the third-last fence, when still in the lead, and eventually trailed in seventh, beaten 22¼ lengths. Ironically, victory in the ‘Blue Riband’ event went to Garrison Savannah, whom Celtic Shot had beaten by 8 lengths, in receipt of just 2lb, in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock the previous December.

Trained by Jenny Pitman in Lambourn, Berkshire, Garrison Savannah had won what is now the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1990, after stable companion, and favourite, Royal Athlete fell, but had raced just once since. Consequently, he started at odds of 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nevertheless, under regular partner Mark Pitman, Garrison Savannah raced prominently and, having taken over from the weakening Celtic Shot at the head of affairs three fences from home, soon established what appeared to be a commanding lead.

However, The Fellow, who had made progress from the top of the hill, summoned a tremendous run from the final fence and, at the line, Garrison Savannah was all out to hold on. Despite running on well in the closing stages, The Fellow was agonisingly denied by just a short-head. Desert Orchid, by now a twelve-year-old, stayed on gamely from the second-last fence, but a respectable third, beaten 15 lengths, was the best the iconic grey could manage on what would be his last appearance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.