Festival throwback: Relive Irish success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup


National Hunt racing's greatest prize is a roll call of Irish legends

Friday, February 14, 2020
The peerless Arkle was a three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 1960s

The peerless Arkle was a three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 1960s


Raced over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, 22 fences separate the field from a place in history.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband of jumps racing and the most valuable non-handicap chase.

With a history dating back to 1819, it has been won by some of the greatest names in racing, including legendary Irish heroes Cottage Rake and Arkle.

Al Boum Photo gave Willie Mullins his first success in the race in 2019 while Jessica Harrington became the third woman to train a Gold Cup winner with Sizing John in 2017, 12 months after Don Cossack gave Gordon Elliott his first win.

Irish trainers, jockeys and owners have a proud history in this most storied of races with Ballinode, known as the Sligo Mare, the first Irish-trained horse to win the race in 1925.

READ: Festival throwback: Relive Irish success in the Champion Chase

 

Dawn Run, 1986

 
A brilliant hurdler trained by Paddy Mullins, Dawn Run is the only horse to complete the hat-trick of the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle victories.

And she's the only horse to win the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup double.

Controversially, and against the wishes of the trainer, Tony Mullins was replaced for the Gold Cup by the top jockey of the time, Jonjo O'Neill.

The race was a rollercoaster, O'Neill overcoming an early mistake to time a charge to the line, overhauling rivals just yards from the finish.

They won in record time and a huge crowd then invaded the winners' enclosure to join in the celebrations. 

Arkle, 1964, 1965 & 1966

 
Legend says three-time winner Arkle got his strength by drinking Guinness twice a day, while 'Arkle for President' was famously written on a wall in Dublin.

The horse was referred to as 'Himself' and often received fan mail addressed to 'Himself, Ireland'.

His rating is the highest ever given to a steeplechaser and authorities even took the unprecedented step of devising two weight systems — one to be used when Arkle was running and one when he was not.

Few question Arkle's status as the all-time number one of jump racing, a horse that redefined and transcended his sport.

Trainer Tom Dreaper and jockey Pat Taaffe had a career of many successes but Arkle's glories, nothing beats that.

READ: Festival throwback: Relive Irish success in the Triumph Hurdle

Cottage Rake, 1948, 1949 & 1950

"Aubrey's up, the money's down.
The frightened bookies quake.
Come on my lads and give a cheer
Begod, 'tis Cottage Rake!"
 
Bred in County Cork, Cottage Rake failed three different vets examinations before started his jumping career.

But young handler Vincent O'Brien believed he had a good one and the horse put him on the training map.

He became only the second horse to win a hat-trick of Gold Cup titles – after the incomparable Golden Miller notched five on the spin between 1932 and 1936 – with jockey Aubrey Brabazon his trusted partner.

His 1949 victory was arguably the most dramatic, with Cottage Rake overhauling rival Cool Customer in the final strides of an epic race.

Check out our Road to Cheltenham microsite with the best of the Irish challenge at the Festival

Aubrey's up, the money's down.
The frightened bookies quake.
Come on my lads and give a cheer
Begod, 'tis Cottage Rake!

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