Cheltenham Gold Cup 1994 – The Fellow

The 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured the previous winner, Jodami, and The Fellow who, at least for a time, looked destined to go down in history as the unluckiest horse in the history of the ‘Blue Riband’ event. Trained in France by François Doumen and ridden by Polish-born Frenchman Adam Kondrat, The Fellow had recorded back-to-back victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton in 1991 and 1992, but in both years had suffered agonising defeats in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In the 1991, as a largely unconsidered 28/1 outsider, The Fellow had been beaten a short head – which was, at the time the narrowest margin possible – by Garrison Savannah. In 1992, as second favourite, at 7/2, in a field of eight, was headed in the final strides by Cool Ground and beaten the same margin. Consequently, The Fellow started favourite, at 5/4, for the 1993 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but could manage only fourth, beaten 9½ lengths.

So, when The Fellow lined up, as a nine-year-old, for his fourth and final attempt in the premier steeplechase, he was still attempting to become the first horse trained on the opposite side of the English Channel to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was sent off third favourite, at 7/1, behind reigning champion Jodami, at 6/4, and Bradbury Star, who had beaten him 10 lengths when narrowly touched off in the King George VI Chase at Kempton the previous December.

Nevertheless, redemption was at hand for The Fellow; under a well-judged ride from Adam Kondrat – who had received scathing criticism for his effort, or lack of it, the previous year – challenged, travelling well, from the third-last fence. At the final fence, which he jumped notably better than Jodami, he tackled long-time leader Young Hustler, a 20/1 chance trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, and ran on well to win by 1½ lengths from the rallying favourite.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011 – Long Run

The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011 featured thirteen runners, including Imperial Commander, Kauto Star and Denman, who had won the last four renewals of the ‘Blue Riband’ event between them. Favourite, though, was Long Run, a six-year-old owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson, who arrived at Prestbury Park fresh from a comfortable 12-length victory over stable companion Riverside Theatre in the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton the previous January. Long Run had been beaten on both previous appearances at Cheltenham, including when third in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010, but was nevertheless sent off at 7/2, ahead of reigning champion Imperial Commander at 4/1 and Kauto Star at 5/1.

Of the market leaders, Imperial Commander was the only one who failed to run his race, weakening out of contention after blundering at the fourth-last fence and eventually being pulled up and dismounted. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ ten-year-old was subsequently found to be lame on his left-fore and in a distressed condition.

Kauto Star, ridden by regular partner Ruby Walsh, attempted to take the race by the scruff of the neck just after halfway and, turning in, was involved in a protracted duel with stable companion Denman. However, the Paul Nicholls-trained pair was joined at the second last by Long Run, who hit the front on the approach to the final fence and stayed on strongly to beat Denman by 7 lengths. Kauto Star faded on the run-in to finish third, a further 4 lengths way.

Victory for Long Run was a first in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson and made winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, son of owner Robert, the first amateur rider to win the prestigious race since Jim Wilson, aboard Little Owl, in 1981. Furthermore, Long Run became the first six-year-old since Mill House, in 1963, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

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.

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.