Monday, 4 November 2019

Most Competitive Cheltenham Gold Cup


The Cheltenham Gold Cup is, of course, a ‘conditions’ race, in which entire horses and geldings carry the same weight, regardless of their previous form. Consequently, while it would be unfair the ‘Blue Riband’ contest ‘uncompetitive’ on occasions – it is, after all, the most valuable steeplechase of its kind run in Britain – only twice in its history has the number of runners ever approached the maximum allowed field of 24. With the festival just around the corner, which brings to mind these free bets from YesBets, let's take a look at the most competitive Cheltenham Gold Cup.


On the most recent occasion, in 2006, despite, or perhaps because of, the absence of Best Mate and Kicking King, 22 runners went to post. They were headed by Beef Or Salmon, trained by Michael Hourigan, who, despite being tailed off when pulled up behind Kicking King in the 2005 renewal, was officially the highest-rated horse in the field and was sent off 4/1 favourite.


According to the official handicapper, Beef Or Salmon had just 1lb in hand of the 169-rated Kingscliff, trained by the late Robert Alner, who started at 12/1, following two disappointing runs since beating Beef Or Salmon in the Betfair Chase at Haydock the previous November. Michael Hourigan’s 10-year-old likewise had 4lb in hand of the 166-rated Monkerhostin, trained by Philip Hobbs, who had only just failed when beaten a neck by Kicking King in the King George VI Chase, run at Sandown, the previous December, and started 13/2 second favourite.



The Cheltenham Gold Cup looked an unusually open race on paper and, from flagfall, was notable for its generous pace, thank in large part to several runners who liked to race on, or close to, the pace. Ollie Magern and Lord Of Illusion, both 33/1 outsiders, took the field along until the water jump on the circuit and, although only one horse came to grief – Celestial Gold, who unseated Timmy Murphy at the tenth fence – on going officially described as ‘good’, plenty of them found things happening just a shade too quickly.



The race was littered with costly mistakes and blunders. The well-backed Forget The Past, trained by the late Michael O’Brien, who had taken up the running at the end of the back straight, proceeded to spoil his chance by hitting the next fence and the fourth-last, while Cornish Rebel, trained by Paul Nicholls, was still well in contention when brought to a standstill by a shuddering blunder at the latter fence.


Meanwhile, another well-backed Irish raider, War Of Attrition, trained by Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, put in an exemplary round of jumping, taking the lead at the bypassed third-last fence and staying on strongly to eventually beat Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, by 2½ lengths. The winning time was 6 minutes and 31.70 seconds, 5.30 seconds faster than the standard time for 3 miles 2½ furlongs on the New Course at Prestbury Park.

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