Cheltenham Gold Cup 1983

The form book records that in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup Bregawn, trained by Michael Dickinson and ridden by Graham Bradley, made all the running to beat stable companion Captain John, ridden by David Goulding, by 5 lengths. As taking a performance as it was from Bregawn, who had finished runner-up to another stable companion, Silver Buck, in the 1982 renewal, it was his trainer who would ultimately take the plaudits.

Aged just 33, Michael Dickinson saddled five runners or, in other words, nine percent of the horses in his care at Poplar House in Harewood, West Yorkshire, and achieved a clean sweep by filling the first five places. Aside from Bregawn and Captain John, the so-called ‘Famous Five’ was completed, in finishing order, by Wayward Lad, ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, Silver Buck, ridden by Robert Earnshaw, and Ashley House, ridden by the subsequently disgraced Dermot Browne.

Dickinson later admitted feeling guilty about sending what he described as his ‘two best horses’, Silver Buck and Wayward Lad, to contest the ‘Blue Riband’ event when they were knowingly under-prepared. He also admitted, with the benefit of hindsight, that there was a ‘real chance’ of none of his quintet finishing in the first three.

He need not have worried, though; four of his quintet filled the first four places turning for home and approaching the final fence it became clear that, barring accidents, the result would be what BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan called ‘an unprecedented Michael Dickinson quartet’. Wayward Lad momentarily looked dangerous, but was outstayed by Captain John in the closing stages and had to settle for third, 6½ lengths behind the winner. Silver Buck faded, but still finished fourth, albeit well-held and, as the television cameras focussed on the winner, Sir Peter O’Sullevan announced to Ashley House had run on to finish fifth.

Bregawn bounced back from finishing runner-up in the 1982 Gold Cup to land the race in impressive fashion in ’83 but it was wasn’t his performance that warranted his place in the list.

His trainer, Michael Dickinson, trained the first five horses’ home that day, earning himself a place in the history books and a feat that may never be matched again.

he jumped the last with a fair advantage before battling up that famous hill, little paid attention to what was happening in behind.

Four horses had jumped the second last together with Bregawn, Captain John, Wayward Lad and Silver Buck all in contention coming up the hill.

Commentators realised the Dickinson connection however when the front three pulled clear, no-one knew what was about to happen.

The previous year’s Gold Cup winner finished a distant fourth and Ashley House, who faded extremely badly in the run-in, managed to cling onto fifth to send the crowd into raptures.

The fifth horse was given special dispensation to go into the winner’s enclosure (usually restricted to the first four) and Bregawn had to share his plaudits with his trainer and an unbelievable achievement.

It was Bregawn, and a fresh-faced Graham Bradley, that won the race for the then Harewood trainer, with stablemates Captain John, Wayward Lad, the 1982 hero Silver Buck and Ashley House completing the next four places.

After commentating on a pulsating finish between Bregawn and the unheralded Captain John, there was bewilderment – almost astonishment – in the voice of Sir Peter O’Sullevan,

the BBC commentator, as Ashley House, the Dickinson stable’s Grand National prospect that year, emerged from a different county to finish fifth.

The pressure on Dickinson, then champion trainer in conjunction with his parents Tony and Monica, was immense.

“I was only aged 33, and with five horses in the race, I was nervous,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“I was even more nervous because Silver Buck and Wayward Lad were the two best horses and neither of them were at their best.

safe and sound enough to run in a Gold Cup is hard enough, but getting them home in the first five places is almost inconceivable.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2004

Prior to the 2004 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the list of horses to win the ‘Blue Riband’ event three times or more was limited to Golden Miller, Cottage Rake and Arkle. Consequently, the build-up to the 2004 renewal focused on Best Mate, trained by Henrietta Knight, who was attempting an improbable hat-trick, but was nonetheless sent off as 8/11 favourite to do so.

Ridden by Jim Culloty, Best Mate tracked the leaders, travelling and jumping well, for most of the way. Having made headway approaching the third-last fence, he was briefly short of room on the bend approaching the second-last but, once switched outside, quickened to challenge and soon took a narrow lead. It soon became apparent that Best Mate had the measure of the eventual third, Harbour Pilot, but Sir Rembrandt belied his 33/1 starting price by delivering a strong late challenge that carried him with half a length of Best Mate. In another stride or two, Sir Rembrandt may have won, but Best Mate held on to win his third consecutive Gold Cup and write his name into Cheltenham folklore. Winning trainer Henrietta Knight said, with justification, ‘He’s had the toughest race of his life today.”

Immediately after his dogged win, Best Mate was offered at 2/1, generally, to become the first steeplechaser since Golden Miller, in the Thirties, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup four years running. However, he was a late withdrawal from the 2005 renewal with a burst blood vessel and on his reappearance at Exeter the following November, collapsed and died from a suspected heart attack. His Timeform Annual Rating of 182 was the equivalent to that award to follow Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Captain Christy, See More Business and Kicking King, among others.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 1966

The 1966 Cheltenham Gold Cup, run on St. Patrick’s Day, featured just five runners, Arkle, Dormant, Hunch, Sartorius and Snaigow. Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on the reigning champion, Arkle, as he attempted to emulate Golden Miller and Cottage Rake by winning the ‘Blue Riband’ event three years running.

Owned by Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster and trained by Tom Dreaper in Co. Meath, Ireland, Arkle had already beaten the 1963 Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner, Mill House, by 5 lengths and 20 lengths, respectively, in the 1964 and 1965 renewals of the March showpiece. By 1966, his popularity had transcended horse racing, at home and abroad, and he was often revered simply as ‘Himself’. In the absence of ‘The Big Horse’, as trainer Fulke Walwyn liked to refer to Mill House, who was sidelined with tendon trouble, a third consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup looked a formality and Arkle was duly sent off the shortest- priced favourite in the history of the race, at hugely prohibitive odds of 1/10.

Indeed, it appeared that the only things standing between Arkle and Cheltenham folklore were the twenty-two notoriously stiff fences around Prestbury Park. One of them very nearly did; at the eleventh fence – the final fence on the first circuit, in front of the stands – Arkle was reportedly distracted by the crowd and barely took off. He ploughed straight through the fence and, for one brief, heart-stopping moment, it looked as though Arkle and his jockey, Pat Taaffe, might part company. However, much to the astonishment, and dismay, of his rivals, Arkle barely broke stride and galloped on relentlessly. Arkle eventually sauntered home in splendid isolation, 30 lengths clear of the smart, but vastly inferior Dormant, with Snaigow a further 10 lengths further back in third place.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2009

The joint-fourth highest-rated steeplechaser since the early Sixties, according to Timeform, and hailed by regular partner Ruby Walsh as ‘the greatest horse I’ve ever ridden’, Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time in 2007. On that occasion, as a seven-year-old, he started 5/4 favourite and, despite hitting the final fence, stayed on strongly to beat Exotic Dancer by 2½ lengths.

The following season, Kauto Star started favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup once again, at 10/11, but jumped less than fluently and, although staying on gamely in the closing stages, went down by seven lengths to stable companion Denman. However, by the time the Cheltenham Gold Cup rolled around again in 2009, Kauto Star had returned to the peak of his powers and was again made favourite, at 7/4, to beat Denman, who ahd been treated for a heart condition in the interim.

Unlike the previous year, Kauto Star jumped immaculately; so well, in fact, that rather than following stable companion Neptune Collonges over the second-last fence, as Ruby Walsh had originally intended, Kauto Star was already in front at that point. He came clear before the final fence for an impressive, 13-length win over Denman, with his old rival Exotic Dancer a further 2½ lengths back in third place. Kauto Star became the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup – no mean feat considering two dozen horses had previously tried, and failed, to do so – and his performance was described by Timeform as ‘the best Gold Cup-winning figure since the Arkle era’. Delighted winning jockey Ruby Walsh said, ‘He’s magic. He’s a wonder horse.’