Going 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.
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.