Friday 4 January 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2004

The 2004 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured 10 runners, but was a one-sided contest, betting-wise, with Best Mate, trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Jim Culloty, sent off 8/11 favourite to become the first horse since Arkle, in 1966, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times.

French raider First Gold, trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by his son, Thierry, took the field along at a strong pace on rain-softened ground and put in an exhibition round of jumping until making a mistake at the tricky fourth last fence. Best Mate, who’d always been travelling comfortably in fourth or fifth place, moved closer to the leader at the fence after the water jump on the second circuit and was one of four in serious contention heading down the hill for the final time.

However, on the home turn, Best Mate was held in, on the inside, by Harbour Pilot, ridden by Paul Carberry and had to be pulled wide to make his challenge at the second last. However, to a crescendo of roars from the packed enclosures at a delirious Prestbury Park, Best Mate took the lead between the last two and was driven out up the hill to win by half a length. Sir Rembrandt, ridden by Andrew Thornton, finished well to take second ahead of Harbour Pilot, who finished 1¼ lengths further behind in third. Long-time leader First Gold weakened from the last to finish fifth, beaten 13½ lengths by the winner.

Best Mate became just the fourth horse, after Golden Miller, Cottage Rake and, of course, Arkle, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times. Henrietta Knight said, after his historic victory, “Today is today. We're looking forward, not back. Arkle was a great horse; Best Mate is a great horse. Let’s leave it like that.”

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