Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011Robert Waley-Cohen’s King George VI chase winning gelding, Long Run, was the 7-2 favourite heading into the 83rd running of this famous face. The horse and his jockey, Robert’s son, Sam Waley-Cohen managed to lived up to this billing in style, beating a stellar field by 7 lengths.

Tough Competition

A field of 13 that contained no fewer than three previous Gold Cup winners stood waiting for the off with the always-feverish Prestbury Park baying for the action to start.

And They’re Off

From the off, it was 9-1 shot Midnight Chase ridden by Tom Scudamore that made the pace with the assembled field all vying for position in behind. Midnight Chase led for the whole of the first circuit as the mounts of Ruby Walsh, Paddy Brennan and Sam Thomas, back riding Denman again, all jostled for the best position from which to strike.

Final Stages

Even as late as the 3rd fence from home, all of the major threats were still in with a shout of winning the race, as 2010 winner Imperial Commander, Ruby Walsh on double-winner 5-1, 3rd favourite Kauto Star and stablemate Denman, the 2008 winner were all neck and neck.

Heading to the last, fierce rivals Denman and Kauto Star threatened to turn it into a 2 horse race for the line, but Sam Waley-Cohen on Long Run was having none of it. Jumping the last fence the better of the three contenders, the way was clear for Robert Waley-Cohen’s young horse to take the £270k prize.

A Brace of Records

In claiming the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, two new records were set. The first was being the youngest gelding to win the prestigious race since Mill House in 1963 and the second was Sam Waley-Cohen becoming the first amateur jockey to become Gold Cup champion since Jim Wilson on Little Owl in 1981.

Jockey Waley-Cohen was ecstatic in the winners’ enclosure:

That’s a very special feeling and he’s a very special horse. He’s a whole lot better than I thought he was. I want to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and the horse.”

Champion Trainer

It was also a momentous day for the winning trainer, Nicky Henderson, who enjoyed his first Gold Cup win and his 39th festival success in total, making him the all-time leading trainer at the meeting.

Friday March 18, 2011 had witnessed one of the most exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup chases in history and it was won in style by the 7-2 favourite, much to the joy of trainer, owner, jockey and the huge 65,000 Cheltenham crowd.

It would be remembered for some years to come.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2010

cheltenham gold cup 2010This race was billed as the third part of the battle of Gold Cup champions – Ruby Walsh on two-time winner Kauto Star and 2008 champion, Denman, this time ridden by Tony McCoy.

Kauto Star was the punter’s favourite going into the race.

Early Drama

The Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star made heavy running of the early stages of the race and almost paid the price of some badly timed jumping when he narrowly missed falling at the 8th fence. Only a miraculous recovery by Ruby Walsh kept the horse in the race, but he lost a few lengths on the leaders in the process.

Jostling for Position

Midway through this 22 fence race, it was Carruthers, the 33-1 shot, ridden by Mattie Batchelor that was heading the field, tracked closely by Denman. As the chase for the line gathered pace, the leading pack included Carruthers, Imperial Commander, Denman and Kauto Star who was beginning to labour.

Kauto Star Falls

Having struggled for much of the race, the 8-11 favourite’s luck ran out, as both horse and rider hit the floor at the 19th fence. Walsh had been trying to get more and more out of the pre-race favourite to keep up with the pace, but it was all in vain, as his mount just didn’t have enough to challenge.

Race for the Line

Denman, Carruthers and Imperial Commander were neck and neck, as they raced down the hill towards to the awaiting crowd. For a moment, Denman looked like he might avenge his defeat to Kauto Star, as he looked strong over the final fences.

However, it was Imperial Commander who had the most to offer, hitting the front 3 out as Paddy Brennan guided the Twiston-Davies trained horse to a Gold Cup win by 7 lengths over Denman in 2nd. The front two were well clear of the rest, as Grand National winner Mon Mome trailed in 3rd, a full 23 lengths behind.

Jockey Brennan was on cloud nine after clinching the crown and the £270k in the process:

It’s by far the best day of my life. I’m speechless. It was a dream the whole way”.

Owner, Nigel Twiston-Davies was always confident going into the race, claiming that most couldn’t see past Kauto Star and Denman:

It’s just absolutely brilliant. It’s been very hard for us sat there with the third-favourite, when all the talk was about Kauto and Denman, but we always knew we were going to win”.

Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star would live to fight another day, as both were mercifully seen cantering back to the paddock, but this day firmly belonged to Imperial Commander and Paddy Brennan.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2009

kauto starThe 81st running of this prestigious horserace featured something of a grudge match between the Paul Nicholls trained pair – Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh and Denman, last year’s Gold Cup champion ridden by Sam Thomas. Both 9 year old geldings were much fancied, but it was Kauto Star who was the bookies’ 7-4 favourite going into this 22 fence spectacle.

Denman Heart Problems

The Paul Barber-owned Denman was a 7-1 shot, despite winning the race just 12 months ago, but after some well-publicised heart problems that required surgery, was not seen as a particularly safe bet. Denman’s only race that season had been at Haydock and had not shown anything like the form that led him to Gold Cup success in 2008.

Early stages

Another of Paul Nicholls’ stable mates, Neptune Collonges lead the field for the majority of the race. However, the competition became more serious approaching the final turn as Denman and Kauto Star drew level with the Christian Williams mount and heading over the third fence from home, overtook him, looking full of energy.

Once he had hit the front, there was no stopping Ruby Walsh, who simply was not going to let anyone pass him, romping away to a 13 length victory over Denman in 2nd. In doing so, he had gained revenge for the reversal he suffered in 2008 and also had become the first ever to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup after having lost the crown.

Ruby Walsh Delight

Having looked like a different proposition to the pairing that came second so agonisingly in 2008. Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star looked confident throughout. He hadn’t felt totally confident despite the appearance, as he revealed after the race:

When Sam Thomas (on Denman) moved up alongside me, I didn’t know what was going to happen off the bend. But in all fairness to him he has picked up, winged the second-last and galloped all the way to the line”.
Walsh rated Kauto Star very highly:
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.

Incredible Race for Trainer, Nicholls

Having had an amazing 1-2-3 in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Paul Nicholls achieved a similar feat in 2009, training 4 of out of the first 5 horses across the line, with the only exception being Exotic Dancer, who came in third at 12-1 ridden by A.P. McCoy.

Owner, Clive Smith couldn’t believe his luck, as this was his second big win of the week, having already bagged the Champion Chase with Master Minded, adding:

I’m staggered. What a wonderful run. The best he’s ever run I think. I can’t believe it”.

The 2010 Decider?

Having experienced a year plagued with health problems, Denman had done well to place 2nd in this years race. With another good year behind him, we were perhaps looking at a decider next year between him and Kauto Star with the current standings at one Gold Cup win apiece.

No doubt, the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup would be every bit as exciting as this one. Denman or Kauto Star? Injuries and form allowing, it was going to be one hell of a rematch.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2008

A memorable Paul Nicholls trained 1-2-3 in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup saw Denman partnered by Sam Thomas leave stablemate, last year’s champion and 10/11 favourite Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh, a full 7 lengths behind to take the title and the quarter of a million pound winner’s prize at Prestbury Park on Friday 18th March.

Going, Good to Soft

A field of 12 runners stood waiting for the off and with the going reported as ‘Good to Soft’, this heavyweight clash between stablemates and the most fancied horses in the betting for this years Gold Cup was an eagerly awaited spectacle.

First Meeting

As both horses had never raced against each other, despite having arrived in adjoining horse boxes, debate about the eventual winner was merely conjecture. Some felt that the ‘nimbleness’ and guile of Kauto Star would prevail, whilst others that the sheer brutish power of Denman would leave his rival behind.

Both were fancied and the 65,000 packed into the grandstand were certainly in the mood for a great race.

Early Running

The third horse from the Paul Nicholls stable, Neptune Collonges, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald set the pace during the early part of the race, and would go on to make real fist of overtaking Kauto Star for the runners up spot, only missing out by a short head to Ruby Walsh’s mount.

It was 9-4 2nd favourite Denman however, that strode away in the latter stages and his trainer was full of praise for him after the race:

Denman was awesome. He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really. The moment I first saw the horse with Paul Barber (joint-owner) we said ‘wow’

He had 3 reasons to celebrate after this race, talking proudly about the 2 runners up, also from the Paul Nicholls stable. He continued:

Neptune Collonges has been improving all the time and Kauto ran a good race too, but they were beaten on the day by a better horse. It was a great performance, good for the whole team. Just brilliant.”

This hotly anticipated race had been an exciting contest throughout, with the shear strength and smooth jumping of Denman winning out. The 80th running of this most prestigious race had witnessed another classic and it marked the end of another great festival meeting.

The feeling around the racecourse was jubilant and a number of punters interviewed after the last race simply said “roll on next year”.

We couldn’t agree more.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2007

kauto starAfter coming so close in 2006 to his first Cheltenham Blue Riband event win when he ran in 2nd on Hedgehunter, Ruby Walsh finally steered home his first Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, Kauto Star, the pre race 5-4 favourite in 2007. The 7 year old, trained by Paul Nicholls ran in two and a half lengths in front of 2nd placed 9-2 2nd favourite, Exotic Dancer, ridden by Tony McCoy.

 

Prestbury Park Buzzing

As is customary at this most prestigious of race meetings, there was a large crowd and an ‘electric’ air anticipation in the air prior to the off. The decibel level was cranked up another notch as they got under way and in the early stages, as the 18 strong field headed down the first straight.

2nd Last

The mid part of the race saw the eventual winner tucked into the pack, making his move coming round the final bend. There were a few hearts in mouths as a loose horse, Idle Talk who had unseated rider Jason Maguire at the 5th fence, threatened to be cause problems, but he eventually made way, leaving the course clear for the front runners.

Kauto Star stormed into the lead over the 2nd last and had a straightforward run to the line afterwards to take the Gold Cup title and the £200,000 prize money.

The Betfair Million

The good news just kept on coming for owner Clive Smith, as having already won the King George VI chase and the Betfair chase earlier in the season, this third triumph netted a cool £1m bonus for completing the ‘Betfair Million’ treble.

Ruby Delight

Trainer Paul Nicholls was over the moon with his winning pair after the race, extolling their virtues of his champion horse and rider during a TV interview:

Ruby knew what he had to do and I just told him to go out there and do what he does best.
I told him to just have faith in him and that is what he did. It feels brilliant

Walsh was equally ecstatic, but was keen to point out how calm he had been when it mattered.
He was settled in the parade ring and during the race, so it was just a matter of when I pressed the button. I completely forgot about all the pressure during the race, despite everybody having an opinion on Kauto Star. This is the greatest race and he has won it easily.

The assembled Cheltenham race crowd had witnessed an impressive turn of pace from Kauto Star, with many predicting a bright future for the 7 year old french horse. Only time would tell if he could go on to emulate the greats, but this had been one heck of a win and one heck of a season for this wonderful gelding.

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