Sunday 9 June 2019

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.” 

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