Cheltenham Gold Cup 2003

cheltenham gold cup 2003Going into the 2003 Tote Sponsored Cheltenham Gold Cup, Best Mate was the 7-4 favourite thanks to conquering the field in a narrow victory over Commanche Court just 12 months before.

Facing the 3 mile, 2½ furlong course and the 22 fences it comprises was a 15 strong field that contained a number of jockeys and racehorses that had previously tasted Cheltenham Gold Cup success.

At the Off

The going was good, field were under starters orders and they were under way.

Right away Behrajan, the 14-1 shot, ridden by Richard Johnson hit the front, followed closely by the 200-1 rank outsider, Modulor and See More Business, the 1999 winner of this race ably partnered by Joe Tizzard.

Fell At the First

Disaster for the fancied 5-1 Michael Hourigan trained Beef Or Salmon, who lost his rider and fell at the first fence, much to the consternation of the grandstand crowd, with groans echoing around the enclosure.

The camera would shortly after show a dejected Timmy Murphy in the green and yellow colours of owners Craig and McLarnon, trudging back to the paddock covered in mud and turf, but mercifully unhurt by his fall.

After One Circuit

After completing the first circuit of the picturesque Cheltenham Gold Cup course, Best Mate was well place in 7th, just a length or two behind the leaders with champion jockey AP McCoy way off the pace at the back of the field on 50-1 tip You’re Agoodun.

Coming to the 4th from home and it was all to play for, as the leader Chives, ridden by Richard Guest had pulled 5 lengths clear, but was starting to wane as Valley Henry and Best Mate pulled ever closer.

Turning Point

This race had reached a critical point, as Best Mate, chasing back to back Gold Cup wins, hit the front as the 8 yr Gelding jumped the 3rd from last in the lead. To the dismay of his competitors, Best Mate had the most left in the tank and strode clear to an historic win, a massive 12 lengths clear of the rest.

A huge cheer came from the grandstand when Jim Culloty safely guided Best Mate over the last fence to achieve a feat of back to back wins of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, something that hadn’t been achieved since L’escargot had done so in the early 70s.

Jim Lewis and Henrietta Knight will have been dancing to the winners enclosure to meet their amazing racehorse. Best Mate had answered all questions relating to his pedigree…except one – “Could this amazing gelding make it a hat-trick of wins in 2004?”

Only time would tell.


Continue Reading

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2002

cheltenham festival 2002After the disappointment of the cancellation of the 2001 Cheltenham Gold Cup due to the well documented outbreak of foot and mouth disease, race fans were eagerly anticipating the 2002 running of this famous race.

The going was ‘Good’ as previous winners See More Business and Looks Like Trouble were part of an 18 strong field that started the race, which all in attendance hoped would live up to all expectation.

Early Running

At the beginning of the 2002 Tote sponsored Cheltenham Gold Cup, the field was bunched together, with the early running being made by former winners: the Noel Chance trained Looks Like Trouble, the 9/4 favourite, ridden by Richard Johnson and the much less-fancied 40-1 shot, See More Business, ridden by Joe Tizzard.

The Race for Home

Coming to the 3rd fence from home, the field, which had been stretched, began to bunch up with the leaders being swallowed up by the chasing pack. Despite still leading the race, the field, which included the 25-1 Ruby Walsh mount Commanche Court, Marlborough ridden by Dean Gallagher and Jim Culloty on Best Mate, were breathing down their necks.

At this critical point, coming around the final turn, 2000 winner Looks Like Trouble faded badly to leave the Best Mate, Commanche Court and See More Business to fight it out over the final furlongs.

Over the Last

All three horses looked strong coming to the last, but it was Best Mate who took the initiative and ran strongly up Cheltenham hill with Commanche Court in close attendance. Try as he might though, Ruby Walsh couldn’t quite get enough out of the horse trained by his father Ted Walsh, as Best Mate strode home a couple of lengths clear to take the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown and the £174,000 in prize money.

Best Mate, this Irish-bred, english trained racehorse had played its part in restoring the magic and excitement that had been so sorely lacking after the race was cancelled the year before. Cheltenham was back with a bang as jubilant owner, Jim Lewis enthused:

“”I’ve had some good fun in my day but to win a Gold Cup with a horse so young – I could cry.”

There was certain to be celebration into the small hours after this momentous occasion for all associated with Best Mate…and who could blame them?

Continue Reading