Why the Cheltenham Gold Cup still enjoys great prestige

23 Mar 2021 | Sport
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Few races in the National Hunt calendar stoke quite so much excitement as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This is the marquee steeplechase that traditionally takes place on the final day of the Festival, capturing the imaginations of punters and racegoers alike as they try to predict which thoroughbred will take all the glory.

According to the history books, the first ever horse race called the Gold Cup was actually held back in 1819. However, this was a flat race rather than a steeplechase, held on a three-mile course at Cleve Hill, which overlooks the modern-day venue for the Cheltenham Festival. The first running over jumps didn’t commence until March 1924, with the inaugural race won by a chestnut gelding named Red Splash, over what is now referred to as the Old Course.

The 2020 Gold Cup was won for the second year in a row by Al Boum Photo, ridden by champion jockey Paul Townend, and trained at the famed Closutton stables of Irish racing legend Willie Mullins. This remarkable trio will be aiming for a third consecutive Gold Cup triumph this year, supported by tipsters and bettors following all the odds on the Cheltenham Festival, tipped as hot favorites for another triumphant run over the New Course.

Utmost Prestige & Cherished History

Often considered to be the Blue Riband event of the British jump-racing season, the Cheltenham Gold Cup has always featured the best horses of each era in the sport. It is also the most valuable non-handicap chase in the United Kingdom, offering a prize fund worth around £625,000 and roughly half of that sum for the winner. 

That said, for many of the competing jockeys and trainers, the prestige of winning is often worth far more than the prize money awarded. Riding or training a Gold Cup winner has been the absolute peak of many equestrian careers, fulfilling lifelong ambitions and granting memories that can be cherished for life.

Given the huge popularity of the Cheltenham Festival, making the honors list of great Gold Cup gains victors bestows a legendary status, fondly remembered by time and history. The most famous past winners have even been immortalized by statues, which still grace Cheltenham Racecourse with their presence to this very day.

Legendary & Unbeaten Gold Cup Records

Amongst the pantheon of legendary winners in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there are records that have stood the test of time and many decades, yet to be equaled or beaten. Perhaps the most impressive of all is that of the most successful horse, still held by Golden Miller, having won five consecutive races between 1932 and 1936.

Irish National Hunt champion Pat Taaffe remains the most successful Gold Cup jockey, riding iconic Arkle to three consecutive wins from 1964 to 1966, then a fourth triumph on Fort Leney in 1968. Those two horses also contributed towards Tom Draper being the most successful trainer, as four of his five Gold Cup winners along with Prince Regent in 1946.

Finally, nothing perhaps matches the pride of owning a famous racehorse, watching such a beautiful creature make its way from fowl to becoming a champion. One can only imagine how Dorothy Paget must have felt when Golden Miller won those five Gold Cups in a row before she experienced further success with Roman Hackle in 1940 and Mont Tremblant in 1952.

Unrivalled Sense of Occasion

Steeped in so much history and prestige, it’s hard not to become absorbed in the sense of occasion surrounding the Cheltenham Festival, especially when the crowd roars as the Gold Cup race begins on the final day. This year will be no different, just like almost 100 previous years and hopefully, that will remain the same for countless years into the future.