After 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.
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?