There’s always something special in the air when Cheltenham rolls around. In particular, the Gold Cup always creates a buzz, with punters clamouring for the best horse racing tips.
We have borne witness to some incredible performances in this blue-riband event. While the trophy isn’t impressive in terms of size, it shouldn’t take anything away from the stature of this National Hunt race.
But which moments evoke the most memories? We’ve picked out five iconic Gold Cup winners that will resonate most with racing enthusiasts.
Kauto Star (2007)
This seemed like a natural inclusion, and what a great way to kick off this celebrated list. Kauto Star was a phenomenal chaser. Starting as the 5/4 favourite in the 2007 edition, Kauto Star lived up to his billing with Ruby Walsh guiding him to a brilliant victory ahead of AP McCoy and Exotic Dancer. Walsh and his team pocketed a £1million bonus.
The following year Kauto Star lost, but he came back stronger than ever in 2009, and he sealed another win to endear himself to the British public.
If that wasn’t enough, Kauto Star won the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park five times, which is a record. A truly remarkable horse!
Best Mate (2002)
He may not have been the most flamboyant horse, but he found a way to get the job done. But for a short period, Best Mate was imperious and the envy of those on the track.
In 2002, he won the Gold Cup for the first time. He then enjoyed back-to-back triumphs in 2003 before completing an unprecedented ‘three-peat’ in 2004.
Best Mate was flawless – he never fell at a fence or hurdle, and of his 22 starts, he won 14 of them.
Long Run (2011)
It was going to need something special to deny Denman and Kauto Star, but Long Run came up trumps. Sam Waley-Cohen was on board, and he became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Gold Cup.
Denman and Kauto Star finished second and third respectively, but Waley-Cohen and Long Run set a new course record with a time of six minutes and 29.7 seconds.
Native River (2018)
Richard Johnson enjoyed a magnificent career, and in 2000, he landed the Gold Cup on board Looks Like Trouble, which was a second Gold Cup for trainer Noel Chance.
Little was Johnson to know that there would be such a wide gap between his first and second Gold Cup, but in 2018, Native River took the spoils. In a dramatic finish up the famous Cheltenham hill, Native River fended off a strong challenge from the favourite Might Bite to clinch the title.
Lord Windermere (2014)
Davy Russell was on the winner’s rostrum in 2014, but there was so much drama and intrigue surrounding the race.
There was a delayed start, and the main contenders veered off to the right. A stewards’ inquiry followed, and there was an anxious 15-minute wait before the result was confirmed.
But Lord Windermere was confirmed as the winner, and trainer Jim Culloty became the fifth man to win the Gold Cup as a trainer and jockey. As a jockey, Culloty rode three Gold Cup winners and had 394 professional winners before he retired in 2005.