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The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the Cheltenham Festival and has often propelled the winner into the mainstream spotlight. Over the years, several horses have become legends of the festival. This year, Native River looks to write his name in Gold Cup folklore by successfully defending his Gold Cup title. In PayPal casino, Native River is the third favourite, at a price of 11/2, with Clan Des Obeaux and Presenting Percy the joint favourites to win.
Creating a legendary status at Cheltenham is a hard thing to achieve, but here, we look at five horses who have done just that.
One of the most successful horses to compete at Cheltenham, Desert Orchid, or Dessie, as some liked to call him, had already built up a reputation for being an attacking and versatile horse prior to his 1989 Gold Cup win.
Although he won four King George VI Chases and three Gainsborough Chases, it was his victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup which really solidified his reputation in the sport. Richard Dunwoody rode Desert Orchid to two of the King George VI Chase victories, but it was jockey Simon Sherwood who was on him when he raced home to glory in the Gold Cup.
The Irish-bred Best Mate was one of the finest horses to take to the track at the Cheltenham Festival. He won his first Gold Cup at the age of seven, where he edged out Commanche Court by one-and-three-quarter lengths. In winning the 2002 Gold Cup, he became the first horse to win the prestigious race since the outbreak of foot and mouth, which had cancelled the 2001 meeting.
He followed this victory up with two further Cheltenham Gold Cups to produce a hat-trick of wins in consecutive years. In all three Gold Cup races it was jockey Jim Culloty who rode him to victory.
A year and a half after winning his third Gold Cup, Best Mate collapsed and died from a suspected heart attack while competing in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. His ashes were buried by the winning post at Cheltenham.
Arguably most famous for winning the 1975 Grand National, where he prevented Red Rum from winning three consecutive Grand Nationals, L’Escargot has also had considerable success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
His successive Cheltenham Gold Cup victories in 1970 and 1971 provided just two of his 12 victories. Although 12 wins in 53 races is a poor return, his victories at Cheltenham as well as his win in the Grand National can propelled him to legendary status.
After winning a hat-trick of Gold Cups in succession, it is no surprise that Arkle had a race named after him. The Challenge Trophy replaced the Cotswold Chase and in 1969, following Arkle’s success at the festival that decade, the race was renamed the Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Arkle didn’t just experience success at Cheltenham, as he raced home to victory in the King George VI Chase and the Irish Grand National among many other major races. After passing away in 1970, Arkle’s skeleton was put on display at the Irish National Stud.
Despite having only won six major races, the fact that five of those were the Gold Cup ensure Golden Miller’s reputation as one of the most famous horses to have ever won at the Cheltenham Festival. He didn’t just win five races though, he won five consecutive Gold Cups, from 1932 until 1936 and even managed to win the Grand National in 1934, completing an incredible double that season.
Weather prevented the race from taking place in both 1931 and 1937, but if they had gone ahead, perhaps this legendary horse would’ve had seven Gold Cup wins in a row. A truly incredible horse who holds the record for the highest number of consecutive Gold Cup wins, a record which looks unlikely to be beaten any time soon.