Friday 25 August 2017

The Top 5 Horses to Grace the Cheltenham Turf

A truly magnificent flat season is drawing to a close and it is time once again to turn our focus to the National Hunt. All eyes will be on Sizing John as we go into the new season, with fans keen to see if he can maintain his superb form. Earlier this year he became the first horse ever to win all three of jump racing’s Gold Cups – the Irish, Cheltenham and Punchestown. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the jewel in the crown and it will once again be the standout event of the season as it has delivered all manner of thrills over the years. Sizing John is a classy champion, but for all his pizzazz he does not trouble the list of the top five heroes ever to grace the Cheltenham turf. Here we run through the record books to present you with the five greatest horses in Cheltenham history:
5. Dawn Run
Dawn Run is the only horse ever to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, and her achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider she was a relative novice when she won at the Gold Cup in 1986. In perhaps the most thrilling battle in the race’s history went hell for leather against defending champion Forgive ’N Forget and triple King George winner Wayward Lad, and it was nail-biting stuff as she rallied to come from well behind and seize a win on the line. Dawn Run went on to become the most successful mare in National Hunt history.
4. Kauto Star
Kauto Star is an absolute legend among punters following his Cheltenham heroics. He went off as 5/4 favourite in the 2007 Gold Cup and overcame a poor jump on the last fence to secure a comfortable victory. The following year he was 10/11 favourite but looked out of sorts throughout, succumbing to a seven-length defeat to stablemate Denman. He was written off as a has-been by many going into the 2009 Gold Cup, but turned the tables on Denman to pull off a remarkable 13-length victory, making him the only horse to ever regain the Gold Cup. He could not add to his Gold Cup triumphs, but he won the King George five times, was the best steeplechase horse of the 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons, ranked joint third in the all-time Timeform ratings and achieved the highest Racing Post rating of all time.

3. Best Mate
Best Mate was another favourite among gamblers after he achieved a sensational hat-trick of Cheltenham Gold Cup wins between 2002 and 2004, costing the bookies a massive amount of money. It was believed such a feat was impossible in the modern era, but he pulled it off in style. He was sublime in 2002 and 2003, but in 2004 he put in a dogged, scrappy performance to hold off a spirited challenge from 25/1 shot Sir Rembrandt and win by half a length, causing the crowd to erupt with joy.
2. Golden Miller
The legendary Golden Miller won the Gold Cup five times in a row between 1932 and 1936 and enjoyed an astonishing career. In 1932 he was just five years old when he secured his maiden Gold Cup victory, and in 1934 he followed it up by winning the Grand National – a feat never matched throughout history. He would have been the favourite to win the 1937 race but it was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, so he retired with a fantastic record.
1. Arkle
It takes a special horse to knock Golden Miller into second place, but Arkle is the greatest of all time. This brilliant bay gelding ran with phenomenal power but also jumped with astonishing grace, and he was unstoppable. In 1964 he went off at 7/4 second favourite in the Gold Cup, while defending champion Mill House was 8/13, but Arkle made a mockery of that by securing a five-length victory. In 1965 he trounced Mill House by 20 lengths, establishing his dominance over the sport. The following year he was the shortest priced favourite this race has ever seen and he justified odds of just 1/10 as he won by 30 lengths, the most emphatic victory Cheltenham has ever seen. Later that year he was injured and never raced again, but he went down as officially the greatest steeplechaser in history with a Timeform rating of 112. Check out today's racing at Sun Bets and you will see many great horses listed, but none can hold a torch to Arkle, described as a freak of nature by many and cherished by anyone that saw him run.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horse racing correspondent and tipster.

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