This is the big one. The showstopper. The pinnacle of National Hunt Racing. The one everyone is striving to win – it just had to be the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It is seen as a true test of a steeplechaser’s ability. Run over three miles and two and a half furlongs, but run at the speed of a two-mile Champion Hurdle, the winning horse needs to have the perfect mix of natural speed, impeccable jumping ability and the heart to forge his way up the Cheltenham hill.
The roll of honour is a who’s who of National Hunt racing and includes some legendary horses that have gone a long way to raise the profile of this wonderful sport.
Golden Miller holds the record for the most Gold Cup victories, with five consecutive wins from 1932-36. Since then legendary horses such as Cottage Rake (1948, 1949, 1950), Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966) L’Escargot (1970, 1971) Best Mate (2002, 2003, 2004) and the evergreen Kauto Star (2007, 2009) have all become multiple winners of the race.
Tom Dreaper won five Gold Cups with three separate horses – Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964-66) and Fort Leney (1968) while Paul Nicholls is the most successful current handler with four victories to his name – See More Business (1999), Kauto Star and Denman (2008).
Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips
Midnight Chase looks a cracking bet to finish each way at 16/1 while Kauto Star should follow up his beatings of Long Run at the Betfair Chase and King George with victory at 7/2 Take advantage of a Cheltenham saver bet with a free bet of £50/€50 from Betfred for all visitors of Footybunker.com to spend on any race! Claim here!
Last years’ renewal was a case of if you hadn’t seen it you wouldn’t have believed it.
Turning for home both former champions Kauto Star and Denman, were locked together with eventual winner Long Run, who was just a yearling in the year that Kauto Star ran in his first Gold Cup and Denman won the RSA Chase.
The youthful legs of Long Run took over the final strides and he roared to victory but in behind, Denman, who finished second for the third time in the race, and Kauto Star, who was the first horse to regain the Gold Cup in 2009, both received a spine-tingling reception in the winners’ enclosure –perhaps, some might say, more so than the winner was given.
That said it was a monumental achievement from Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old who became the first horse of that age to win the race since Mill House in 1963. Additionally it was a real family affair with owner-Robert Waley-Cohen witnessing his first Gold Cup win with the horse being ridden by his son Sam, who became the first amateur jockey to be in the saddle of a winning Gold Cup horse.
Write him off at your peril Paul Nicholls said. Did we listen? Well, plenty of us didn’t.
That’s what the trainer of two-time Gold Cup hero Kauto Star said when the legendary chaser was pulled up at Punchestown at the end of last season.
It seems as his previous achievement of finishing third behind Long Run in the Gold Cup was the last memory many of us would have of Clive Smith’s gallant chaser.
However, what has transpired this year has been nothing short of mesmerizing. At 11-year-old Kauto Star has come back, arguably, better than ever and won both the Betfair Chase at Haydock by eight lengths before going on to win an unprecedented fifth King George Chase.
On both occasions Long Run was left trailing in his wake and the two are set to renew their rivalry in the Gold Cup. If Kauto Star can win then he would become the first horse to regain the Gold Cup on two occasions and probably would become the greatest steeplechaser of all-time.
The main challenger standing in his way from entering untouchable territory is Nicky Henderson’s Long Run, who beat Nicholls’ star by 11 lengths on route to his Gold Cup win last season.
As mentioned the seven-year-old has been put in his place twice this season by Kauto Star this year but many are expecting him to frank the 2011 form when returning to a stiff track like Cheltenham. He did record his first win of the season at Newbury but bookmakers weren’t overly convinced by the half length win over Burton Port and eased him out further in the betting.
However, Long Run is still the favourite.
It is highly likely that the winner will come from the top two in the betting but as an outsider Midnight Chase looks the type to run into a place. The ten-year-old has a wonderful strike-rate at Cheltenham (five wins from eight starts) and with the field this season lacking in depth should have the heart to forge up the hill into the place money.