Saturday, 10 August 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011

cheltenham gold cup 2011
The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, was a vintage renewal of the “Blue Riband” event, with three previous winners – Kauto Star, Denman and defending champion Imperial Commander – among the 13 runners. However, it was Long Run, winner of the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton in January, who started favourite at 7/2.

Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson, Long Run had been less than foot perfect when beaten in the RSA Chase and the Paddy Power Gold Cup on two previous visits to Cheltenham. However, despite again making mistakes, the six-year-old delivered his challenge at the second last and quickly put daylight between himself and his nearest pursuer. Denman finished second, beaten 7 lengths, while Kauto Star faded to finish third, a further 4 lengths adrift.

Kauto Star had taken the lead with a circuit to run, but was headed at the third last by fellow 11-year-old Denman and, turning into the straight, it appeared briefly that the “old guard” had the race between them. That was, of course, until Long Run, who’d been under pressure for a while, appeared on the scene between the last two fences and quickly put the result beyond doubt. The other “big gun”, Imperial Commander, was tailed off when pulled up and dismounted before the last fence and was found to be lame after the race.

Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who became the first amateur jockey for 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, said afterwards, “That's a very special feeling and he's a very special horse. He's a whole lot better than I thought he was.”

Long Run was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for Nicky Henderson and the first six-year-old to win the race since Mill House 48 years earlier. Henderson later reflected on the race, saying, “This horse is still only six, so there is a lot to look forward to with him yet. Kauto Star was probably at his best today, but Long Run is a very good young horse.”

Friday, 26 July 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2010

cheltenham gold cup 2010
The 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured ten runners and produced a dramatic finish, with odds-on favourite Kauto Star taking a crashing fall at the fourth last fence. Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009 and started 8/11 in his bid for a third Gold Cup victory.

However, the ten-year-old blundered badly at the eighth fence and appeared to be struggling long before parting company with his jockey. He was niggled along heading out on the second circuit and, although only 3 lengths down, was labouring in fifth place when falling at the fourth last, soon after the turn at the top of the hill. Ruby Walsh acknowledged that fact, saying, “His first one was a bad mistake. It knocked me out of position and I could not get him on an even keel.”

In any event, the race was won, in convincing style, by 7/1 third favourite Imperial Commander, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Paddy Brennan. The seven-year-old was always prominent and, having taken the lead at the second last fence, was driven clear to win by 7 lengths, going away. The 2008 winner, and 4/1 second favourite, Denman finished a tired second under A.P. McCoy, but was still 23 lengths clear of 2009 Grand National winner Mon Mome who, at 50/1, stayed on strongly in the closing stages to deny Carruthers of third place in the dying strides.

Imperial Commander was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for trainer and jockey. Twiston-Davies was bullish about his charge, saying, “It’s just absolutely brilliant. It’s been very hard for us sat there with the third-favourite when all the talk was about Kauto and Denman, but we always knew we were going to win.”

Brennan, too, was cock-a-hoop, saying, “It's by far the best day of my life. I'm speechless. It was a dream the whole way.”

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2009

cheltenham gold cup 2009
The 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 16 runners, but was billed as a rematch between stable companions Denman and Kauto, who had finished first and second in the race in 2008. On that occasion, Denman had fared better of the pair, staying on well in the closing stages to win by 7 lengths. However, after surgery for an irregular heartbeat the following September and a heavy defeat, at odds-on, on his reappearance at Kempton in February, “The Tank”, as he was affectionately known, was sent off 7/1 second favourite, despite being defending champion. Kauto Star, ridden, as usual, by Ruby Walsh started 7/4 favourite.

In race dominated by the market leaders, Paul Nicholls’ apparent third string Neptune Collonges led his stable companions Kauto Star and Denman coming down the hill for the final time, but was quickly joined, and passed, at the third last. From the home turn, at least for a stride or two, it appeared that the long-awaited rematch might develop, but it soon became clear that Kauto Star was travelling, by far, the better of the pair.

The favourite held a 5-length advantage jumping the second last and went further clear in the closing stage, eventually winning impressively by 13 lengths, the widest winning margin for 24 years. Although outpaced by the winner, Denman stayed on strongly to finish second under Sam Thomas, with Exotic Dancer, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by A.P. McCoy, 2½ further back in third place.

Having previously won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007, Kauto Star became the first horse in history to regain his crown. Winning trainer Paul Nicholls was ebullient in his praise of Kauto Star, saying, “He’s fit, he’s fresh, he was never going to get beat today.” Winning jockey Ruby Walsh was no less delighted, saying, “He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever ridden. Two miles, three miles, now two Gold Cups. He’s magic, he's a wonder horse.” 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2008

cheltenham gold cup 2008
The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured twelve runners, three of which were trained by Paul Nicholls, and a lopsided market, in which bookmakers offered 16/1 bar the first three in the betting at the off.

The race was billed, quite rightly, as a match between the defending champion, Kauto Star, and stable companion, Denman, hitherto unbeaten over fences and a 10-length winner of Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the previous year. In fact, 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup was arguably the most anticipated since Arkle met “The Big Horse” Mill House for the first time in the 1964 renewal.

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh, understandably started favourite at 10/11, with Denman, ridden by Sam Thomas, second favourite at 9/4 but, having tracked his other stable companion, Neptune Collonges – a largely unconsidered 25/1 chance – for most of the way, it was Denman who took the race by the scruff of the neck heading out on the second circuit.

Jumping economically, Denman gradually wound up the pace and, coming down the hill for the final time, opened up a lead of three or four lengths over his nearest pursuer, Neptune Collonges, with Kauto Star toiling back in third. By the second last, Denman was 10 lengths in front. Kauto Star ran on gamely in the closing stages to snatch second place from Neptune Collonges by a short head, but he could never make any real impression on the winner and was eventually beaten 7 lengths.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said, “Denman was awesome. He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really,” adding, “Your first win in a race is always the best and I’ll never forget See More Business winning in 1999, but it doesn’t get any better than saddling the one-two-three in the Gold Cup.” Winning jockey Sam Thomas was less verbose, saying simply, “I don’t know what to say. I’m lost for words again. What a horse.”

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Blast From the Past!

queen mother at the races

Horse racing stalwarts Queen Mother and the Queen in the paddock at The Cheltenham Festival way back in 1957!