Cheltenham Gold Cup 2006 – War Of Attrition

Alongside the 1982 renewal, won by Silver Buck, the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup jointly featured the most competitive field in the history of the ‘Blue Riband’ event. Remarkably, while just four of the 22-strong field were trained in Ireland, one of them started favourite and the other three filled the first three places; indeed, since the Cheltenham Gold Cup was inaugurated, as a steeplechase, in 1924, Irish trainers had never before managed a 1-2-3.

Despite having tried, and failed, to win the Gold Cup on three previous occasions and never having won outside Ireland, Beef Or Salmon, trained by Michael Hourigan and ridden by Paul Carberry, was sent off favourite at 4/1. Monkerhostin, trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson, was the pick of the home contingent at 13/2, with the bookmakers laying 15/2 bar the front pair at the ‘off’. Sadly for his connections, Beef Or Salmon once again failed to produce his best form at Prestbury Park and was beaten a long way from home, eventually trailing in eleventh of the eighteen finishers.

By contrast, the other three Irish-trained runners dominated the finish. War Of Attrition, trained by Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, was steered wide by jockey Conor O’Dwyer but, nevertheless, took the lead at the bypassed third-last fence and stayed on strongly on the run-in to win by 2½ lengths. The 2005 Grand National winner, Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, finished second, while Forget The Past, trained by Michael O’Brien and ridden by Barry Geraghty, finished third to complete a clean sweep for Irish trainers.

Indeed, Forget The Past was only beaten 9½ lengths in total and may well have finished closer to the front pair but for hitting three of the last four fences. Nevertheless, winning jockey Conor O’Dwyer reflected on his comfortable victory, saying, “It was an easy ride; he pinged the last two fences when he just stood off and he loves racing.”

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2000 – Looks Like Trouble

The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2000 was run on unseasonably fast, good to firm, going and, unsurprising, produced a winning time of 6 minutes 30.3 seconds, which shaved 0.6 seconds off the previous record, set by 100/1 outsider Norton’s Coin. See More Business, Go Ballistic and Florida Pearl, who had filled the first three places in the 1999 renewal, were once again in opposition and were joined by Looks Like Trouble, a wide margin winner of the Pillar Property Chase on his previous start, and the talented novice, Gloria Victis, in the twelve-strong field.

Indeed, it was the six-year-old Gloria Victis, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by A.P. McCoy, who set a frenetic pace and, despite jumping right, was still in front approaching the penultimate fence. However, the 13/2 chance took a crashing, and ultimately fatal, fall, as 9/2 joint-second favourite Florida Pearl quickened into the lead, only to be outjumped by the other 9/2 joint-second favourite Looks Like Trouble at the final obstacle. Thereafter, Looks Like Trouble stayed on gamely to win by five lengths from Florida Pearl, with 20/1 chance Strong Promise – previously runner-up to Cool Dawn in the 1998 renewal – a further neck away in third place.

Defending champion, and 9/4 favourite, See More Business ran creditably. According to trainer Paul Nicholls, the fast ground ‘was too much for him’ but, having lost his place when the race began in earnest from the third-last fence, the ten-year-old rallied in the closing stages to finish fourth, just six lengths behind the winner. Looks Like Trouble was a first for Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Richard Johnson, but a second in four years for trainer Noel Chance, who also saddled Mr. Mulligan, ridden by A.P. McCoy, to win the prestigious event in 1999.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 1999 – See More Business

The 1999 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup featured twelve runners, including Florida Pearl, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Richard Dunwoody, who started 5/2 favourite on the strength of a comfortable victory in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on his previous start. The highly-rated grey, Teeton Mill, trained by Venetia Williams and ridden by Norman Williamson, was next best at 7/2, with 11/2 bar the front pair.

However, neither of the market leaders was involved in the finish. Teeton Mill was pulled up lame before halfway and Florida Pearl, despite challenging, going well, at the third-last fence, ultimately failed through lack of stamina. Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old was beaten approaching the final fence and eventually finished third, beaten 18 lengths.

Go Ballistic, a rank outsider at 66/1, took the lead at the fourth last and was still ahead, albeit narrowly, at the final fence. However, at that point, David Nicholson’s ten-year-old was joined by 16/1 chance See More Business, trained by Paul Nicholls, and the pair knuckled down to fight out the finish. Go Ballistic, ridden by Tony Dobbin, kept on well, but See More Business, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, was not to be denied and stayed on gamely to win by a length, all out.

See More Business was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Nicholls and Fitzgerald. Indeed, the winning jockey – who had won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Call Equiname, also trained by Nicholls, earlier in the week – simply said, modestly, ‘All I have done is the steering, really’. Nevertheless, victories in two of the four main ‘championship’ races and another for Flagship Uberalles, ridden by Joe Tizzard, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, were sufficient to make Paul Nicholls the leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time.

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2007 – Kauto Star

The 2007 Cheltenham Gold Cup was a competitive renewal, numerically, with eighteen runners facing the starter. However, all eyes were on the seven-year-old Kauto Star, making his first appearance in the ‘Blue Riband’ event of British steeplechasing after winning all five starts since falling at the third fence in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, two of those wins had come in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton – the first two legs of the so-called ‘Betfair Million’ – so victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup would yield a bonus of £1 million, in addition to winning prize money in excess of £242,000.

Unsurprisingly, Kauto Star was sent off a short-priced favourite, at 5/4, to complete his lucrative treble and, in so doing, confirm King George VI Chase form with his old rival, Exotic Dancer, whom he had beaten by eight lengths at Kempton, despite a heart-stopping blunder at the final fence. Patiently ridden by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star improved from the rear of the field heading out onto the second circuit and moved into a challenging position after the fourth-last. Paul Nicholls’ charge quickened into the lead two out and although first Turpin Green, a 40/1 chance ridden by Tony Dobbin, and then Exotic Dancer, the 9/2 second favourite ridden by A.P. McCoy, gave chase, neither could make much impression in the closing stages.

At the final fence, Kauto Star made his one and only mistake to give his nearest pursuers renewed hope, but lost little momentum and stayed on strongly up the hill to beat Exotic Dancer by 2½ lengths, with Turpin Green the same distance further behind in third place. By adding a Grade One victory over 3 miles 2½ furlongs to previous wins at the highest level at distances ranging from 1 mile 7½ furlongs to 3 miles, Kauto Star confirmed himself as the best horse at all distances since Desert Orchid, and was still only a seven-year-old.