The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, but it is perhaps unfair to let two Fridays in March, six years apart, define the career of Paddy Brennan.

Brennan hit the ultimate height in 2010 when Imperial Commander took advantage of the fall of Kauto Star to storm up the Cheltenham hill and beat off the other Ditcheat legend of the era, Denman.

However, the fences got their own back in 2016 when Brennan and the smooth-travelling Cue Card came to grief as a mouthwatering battle with Don Cossack was about to come to a head.

It was also at that obstacle where Cue Card was to fall in his final appearance in the Gold Cup in 2017, but 2016 was the year the nose-banded Colin Tizzard superstar was primed to a peak.

Brennan has ridden over 1,500 winners over jumps and has been in the weighing room for nearly a quarter of a century.

One of the characters among the riding fraternity, he cut his teeth at the cut-throat finishing school of Jim Bolger. And it was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire when moving to the UK at the turn of the century, joining Paul Nicholls as a conditional.

His time at Ditcheat was followed by a move to Philip Hobbs, where he rode as second jockey to Richard Johnson and was champion conditional in 2004/05.

It was during that season that Brennan recorded his first Grade One success when partnering Kevin Bishop’s Ashley Brook to a 16-length romp over War Of Attrition in Aintree’s Maghull Novices’ Chase.

Before triumphing at Aintree, the duo had finished second in the Arkle at Cheltenham and it was a further 12 months before the Irishman broke his duck at racing’s Olympics when landing the Fred Winter with 40-1 shot Shamayoun.

A move up north to become Howard Johnson’s stable jockey brought further Festival glory in 2007 when Inglis Drever won the second of three World Hurdles in the gold and black silks of Graham and Andrea Wylie.

Brennan’s time trawling the northern circuit was brief, as he was cut adrift by Johnson after one season with the County Durham handler.

But a safety net was provided by Nigel Twiston-Davies and so began a four-year partnership that would take both men to the very top of the sport.

He passed 100 winners in a season during his first campaign as the Twiston-Davies number one – but the Brennan era at Naunton Downs will forever be associated with Imperial Commander.

They first hit the headlines when landing a gamble in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham and in the spring an inspired Brennan produced a majestic ride as Imperial Commander claimed the scalp of Voy Por Ustedes in the Ryanair.

That signalled a Gold Cup mission for the 2009-10 season and the first stopping point on the journey back to Cheltenham was Haydock, where Ruby Walsh picked Brennan’s pocket in the dying strides on Kauto Star to prevail by a nose.

Back at his favourite course at Cheltenham in March and with Kauto Star struggling when falling, Brennan and Imperial Commander stormed up the Cheltenham hill for a second successive Festival win – and this time in the blue riband itself.

Imperial Commander’s Gold Cup was leg one of a memorable treble for the Twiston-Davies team on the final day of the 2010 Festival and Brennan brought up his own Gold Cup day double when his beloved Pigeon Island landed the Grand Annual that drew the action to a close.

Around this time, Brennan was also forging a partnership with Tom George’s bold front-running grey Nacarat. The pair combined twice for big-race success, with their finest hour coming when making all to win the Bowl at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in 2011.

The emergence of Twiston-Davies’ son Sam as one of the weighing room’s hottest prospects saw Brennan jump before he was potentially pushed in April 2011, although the handler was said to be shocked by the decision.

Although he was never far away from Naunton Downs, as he helped Fergal O’Brien set up his fledgling base on the same gallops used by his former employer, Brennan spent four years in the big-race wilderness before being handed the call-up to ride Cue Card by Colin Tizzard.

Despite the earlier mentioned lows in the big one, there were plenty of highs, with the dynamic duo linking up for victory six times from the 15 occasions they were united on course.

Taking over from Daryl Jacob at the start of the 2015-16 season, Brennan and Cue Card got off to the perfect start when winning Weatherby’s Charlie Hall Chase.

Cue Card then went on to claim the second of three Betfair Chase wins at Haydock before the duo made it a hat-trick of victories when an inspired Brennan hauled Cue Card home to down Vautour in the King George – a triumph that was to be the combination’s finest hour and one of the rider’s most notable achievements in the saddle.

A decisive victory in the Aintree Bowl in 2016 offered some consolation to their Gold Cup despair, as the pair continued to pick up Grade One staying chases – including another Betfair Chase in November of that year and an Ascot Chase in February 2017.

The upward curve of the O’Brien stable has seen Brennan make regular appearances in the winner’s enclosure during the latter stages of his career and a further Grade One was added to the CV when he drove home Poetic Rhythm for his great ally in the 2017 Challow Hurdle.

However, that was the last top-table success for five years until the battle-hardened juvenile Knight Salute took the Irishman back into the limelight at Aintree in April 2022.

Initially, Knight Salute had dead-heated with Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper following a thrilling finish, but was then awarded first place outright in the stewards’ room, despite Brennan’s protestations that there was no case for Davy Russell aboard Pied Piper to answer.

That sportsmanship has been the hallmark of Brennan’s latter years in the saddle, along with a steadfast loyalty to both his colleagues in the weighing room and trainer O’Brien.

Scriptwriter followed in Knight Salute’s footsteps with a Triumph trial success and Dysart Enos ensured Brennan remained a big-race player right until the very end of his decorated career when landing the Grade Two bumper at Aintree in 2023, before making a successful switch to novice hurdling.

O’Brien’s Kamsinas was another late Grade Two victor for Brennan at Haydock last November and the jockey reached 1,500 winners on Teorie at Catterick the following month, having passed the 1,000 milestone just over seven years earlier.

There was to be no fairytale final success at the Cheltenham Festival last month, but Brennan fittingly bowed out at the home of National Hunt racing a month later aboard the O’Brien-trained and aptly-named Manothepeople.

It was Henrietta Knight who first identified I Am Maximus’ star quality and she is now backing the Randox Grand National hero to go on and win a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup-winning trainer was in her role as racing manager to the late Michael Grech when she first laid eyes on I Am Maximus as a yearling and it was a clear case of love at first sight for Knight, who relished every moment of the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old’s Aintree triumph.

The 77-year-old now feels course winner I Am Maximus has all the capabilities to emulate her own Best Mate and capture the blue riband at the Cheltenham Festival.

Knight said: “I think he could win a Gold Cup. I’m not sure how Willie will cope with all his horses for the Gold Cup and which one he would consider the best, but he is a real stayer, Maximus, and he likes Cheltenham – he loves the hill.

“I really enjoyed watching the National and after he jumped the first two fences I said ‘he’s loving it, he’s got the hang of it and loves these fences’.

“We were just watching him creeping and creeping and he made that one mistake at The Chair, where he rather caught Paul (Townend, jockey) by surprise and he had to call a cab, but then Paul was very good as he didn’t rush him.

“He just let him get his confidence again and on he went on the second circuit, I thought it was fantastic to watch.”

I Am Maximus spent his first few summers with Knight at her West Lockinge Farm in Wantage and after the early stages of his racing career were overseen by Nicky Henderson, he switched to Mullins, who Knight credits with helping the burgeoning talent fulfil his destiny of winning Grand Nationals.

“I had the horse here a lot for two summers and parts of winter as well and he won a bumper and a novice hurdle for Nicky Henderson,” continued Knight.

“Mike wanted to move all his horses to Ireland and it was my idea to move him to Willie’s. I doubt anyone else would have won a National with him and he has trained him so well.”

She added: “I felt sorry for Jody McGarvey not riding him because he has done a good job on him this year, but that is how it goes in racing and you have to have your stable jockey on your top horse. Paul’s riding fantastic and I would want him on board.”

The son of Authorized is the latest champion off the Tom Costello production line that had been the source of Knight’s very own great, Best Mate.

The Costellos have been Knight’s go-to family when searching for high-quality new stock and I Am Maximus was an instant hit with not just Knight herself, but the horse’s original owner, who sadly died before his former charge reached his peak.

“I picked him out as a yearling and then I went back and bought him for Mike Grech as a three-year-old from the Costellos, from whom I bought Best Mate. He came from a fantastic place and all my best horses have come from them, not just Best Mate, but Calgary Bay, Racing Demon and Somersby as well.

“They produce good horses and they bought him from France as a yearling. I always loved him.

“Mike adored the horse and he was named after his wife Maxine, it was his favourite horse. It was unfortunate he had to give up his racing interests and when that time came, Willie thought he was an ideal candidate for JP (McManus).”

Shifting to the left at his fences has always been a trademark of I Am Maximus’ chasing career, while he has always been regarded as a touch ‘quirky’ by those who have dealt with him on the racecourse.

However, Knight – a known master on the schooling grounds – has nothing but praise for his jumping ability and explains how he always had the hallmarks of an exceptional staying chaser in the making.

“Most of the best horses are a little quirky and he has a little bit of his own ideas,” she said.

“He’s very straightforward to train but he has his own ideas about jumping. He was always a very, very good jumper and a careful jumper, but he just likes to measure his jumps up by going left-handed.

“In the Olympics, you will see the high jumpers go off sideways to measure the jump and it is what I Am Maximus has always done. That’s his mark and how he likes to do it.”

She went on: “He was always destined to be a chaser and he was unbelievable when he was here as a youngster – we would jump him a lot. He doesn’t want to fall, he always wants to get it right and that means he sometimes takes some rather strange jumps that catch the jockeys by surprise.

“I have some fantastic pictures of Maximus jumping all kinds of poles and everything else here, he could showjump, he is that careful, and he has got the time to be careful over staying trips. He’s good at conserving his energy and he doesn’t waste any in a race.

“He’s a very good horse and he would have gone round again in the National!”

There were no fallers in this year’s Grand National, as 21 of the 32-strong field completed the marathon course.

That is the highest number of finishers since 2005 and with the first four home all previous Grade One winners, Knight concedes the race is a far different proposition to the test her late husband Terry Biddlecombe would have encountered as a jockey, but a change that is necessary to adapt with the times.

“The first four home were all class horses and it just shows that cream comes to the top in races like that now,” explained Knight.

“It’s no longer a race where you will get a huge outsider from the bottom of the weights crop up, I don’t think. They skipped round a lot of the horses yesterday, they all looked fresh and everything looked good.

“The only thing is I think on the second circuit there is hardly anything to jump at as they’ve kicked all the top off – I think you could canter round on your pony and jump those. They are not what they were, but that is what the sport is now and people want to see a race without accidents.

“It’s just adapting to the times and it’s not like the brave riders of old who hunted round sitting on the back of their saddles on a long rein, with pot luck and huge fences. It’s more of a professional race now.”

Galopin Des Champs was once again welcomed home by an adoring crowd as the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner paraded before locals in the village of Leighlinbridge in County Carlow on Tuesday evening.

Victorious in the pinnacle of National Hunt racing last year, this time the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was able to take his career to the next level when becoming one of a select few to retain the title.

The 11-10 favourite under Paul Townend, Galopin Des Champs never looked threatened by any of his rivals and it was only the loose Fastorslow that ever threatened to thwart a repeat of last year’s triumph.

Victorious by three and a half lengths from Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe, the Audrey Turley-owned eight-year-old has put his name among the greats of the race and next year could join the likes of the mighty Arkle and Best Mate as a three-time winner.

Galopin Des Champs was joined by State Man, winner of the Champion Hurdle in a another memorable meeting for Mullins, with his nine-winner haul including his 100th Festival success when Jasmin De Vaux took the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to ride a Gold Cup winner with her victory on A Plus Tard on this day in 2022.

A year after her trailblazing success in the Grand National, the Irish rider grabbed another slice of history at Cheltenham on the 3-1 favourite.

Blackmore had finished second on the same horse a year earlier, unable to get past stablemate Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Indo.

This time she turned the result on its head, biding her time to come from four lengths behind into the penultimate fence to chase down Indo and sprint clear.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m so lucky to be getting to ride all these kind of horses,” she said in the aftermath.

“You can’t do this without the horses and being attached to Henry’s yard is just absolutely phenomenal. To give me this horse is unbelievable. I don’t know what to say.

“I’ve had so many special days. I wouldn’t swap the Grand National for anything, but this is the Gold Cup!

“You have all these plans about how things are going to work out. Racing doesn’t let that happen all the time and for some reason it’s happened to me today. I just can’t explain how lucky I feel.”

De Bromhead put it down to more than luck, adding: “Rachael was so brave, the way she went about
it, it was brilliant.”

Winning the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup remains right at the top of Nicky Henderson’s priorities as he prepares to saddle Shishkin in the latest instalment of the Cheltenham Festival’s marquee event.

Henderson is no stranger to staring on the opening day of the Festival, winning day one’s feature Champion Hurdle a record nine times. But the Gold Cup has proved a tougher beast to tame for the Seven Barrows handler throughout his long and decorated career.

Nevertheless the Gold Cup has managed to find its way to Henderson’s Lambourn base twice in the race’s 100-year history, with the quest for a third success in the blue riband still paramount in his thoughts each passing season.

“As we’ve given up on the Grand National we may as well concentrate on the Gold Cup,” said Henderson.

“The Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup are the most important races as far as I’m concerned because it means you have the best horse and that’s what a race is about.

“After I’ve had a horse a week I have owners asking which race I’m going to run it in at Cheltenham.”

It was not until 2011 that Henderson broke his duck in the Gold Cup when the heir apparent of the staying division, Long Run, slayed the mighty Ditcheat stalwarts Kauto Star and Denman and the baton of power was handed over to the keeper of Seven Barrows and his then multiple Grade One-winning six-year-old.

Long Run would fail to defend his title 12 months later, but Henderson had another Gold Cup winner steadily brimming away, and two years after a first victory in the final-day showpiece, Bobs Worth would prove to be the ultimate model of a staying chaser as he stormed up the Cheltenham hill in the hands of Barry Geraghty.

Those two treasured champions will always hold a special place in Henderson’s affections and are the gold-standard to which future Gold Cup candidates will be measured – with this year’s contender meeting his guvnor’s approval ahead of his date with destiny.

Henderson said: “I think Shishkin compares very favourably to Long Run and Bobs Worth and if you are only judging them on home work, well Bobs Worth was just an amazing character because he showed you nothing and was as laid back as Constitution Hill – he was just the nicest horse.

“On the racecourse he would just gallop and gallop and gallop until he could gallop no more.

“Long Run was a very classy horse, a very talented horse. Bobs Worth though was a trojan, a proper horse. Just a trier and what he lacked in ability he made up for in just heart.”

Like his handler, Shishkin himself has plenty of Cheltenham T-shirts hanging in the wardrobe and from four Festival starts has two victories and a silver medal to his name.

However, the one-time shining star of the speedy two-mile divisions now sees himself staring in the stamina-sapping three-and-a-quarter-mile Gold Cup endurance test.

Henderson, though, is not surprised he has ended up plying his trade in the staying ranks and said: “I think lots of horses have done the same, if you take Desert Orchid for example, he looked a two-miler to start with and plenty of them have done it and gone up in trip.

“You could say why didn’t we realise it earlier, but I think we did and Altior was the same – he got pigeon-holed as a two-miler and was the best, so we left him there.”

Shishkin’s journey to leading British Gold Cup hope has been far from straightforward since the days of his youth when Supreme Novices’ Hurdles and Arkles were a mere formality.

Always one to keep his handler on his toes – as shown when refusing to race at Ascot in his disastrous seasonal return – it seems Henderson has had to utilise all his years of experience to hack into the mindset of the 10-year-old.

That includes the King and Queen’s primary jumps trainer calling on a member of the royal family for assistance, with Shishkin spending his summer with Zara Tindall, blowing away some cobwebs before the serious business on the Lambourn schooling grounds begins.

Henderson explained: “He can be a bit of a ‘boyo’ and we actually sent him away to Zara Tindall for the first month to get him going and get his mind on the job instead of doing some easy trotting and build-up work here, because that is when he can be a bit silly.

“Once you get a run under his belt he is probably in our hands, while before that we are probably in his. That’s what he was like at Ascot but after that he’s been as good as gold. He’s always been like that.”

There has been no repeat of his Ascot misdemeanours in both of Shishkin’s outing since as he enhanced his Gold Cup claims firstly when unseating from a winning position in the King George VI Chase and then getting a confidence-boosting success under his belt in the Denman Chase.

Few would argue he would be even shorter in the betting lists if not for unseating Nico de Boinville shortly after the second-last at Kempton and Henderson has full confidence he will last the distance in his toughest assignment to date.

“He’s come out of Newbury really really well,” added Henderson.

“I think we are confident he will stay and Nico was happy enough in the King George to say ‘we’re not going quick enough, I’m going on’ and that was against proven stayers, so he was pretty confident he was going to stay.

“I think it’s an open Gold Cup and open enough to be in it. He deserves to be in it. He would have been first or second in the King George and I honestly think he would have won and that was a hell of a performance for his first run of the year, even if he finished second that is one hell of a trial.”

J J Slevin is doing his best to keep his feet on the ground as he prepares to shoot for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory aboard Fastorslow.

The County Wexford-born rider already has a couple of Festival victories on his CV, breaking his duck aboard Champagne Classic in the 2017 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle before doubling his tally two years later after steering Band Of Outlaws to success in the Boodles.

He has enjoyed Grade One success on home soil both before and since those Cheltenham triumphs, as well as securing an Irish Grand National verdict, but could take his career to new heights if he can strike blue riband gold on his return to the Cotswolds.

It could all have been so different for Slevin, who earned himself a degree in journalism before the pulling power of riding horses proved all too much. One fancies he made the right call.

“It was a back-up really, I knew how hard riding horses was and how hard it was to make a living out of it,” said Slevin.

“History and English were my best subjects in school and I thought I’d go for journalism. I suppose to say I really loved it would be stretching it, but I got through it.”

In the past 12 months, Slevin appears to have come across his horse of a lifetime, with Fastorslow elevating himself from high-class handicapper to a major contender for the sport’s highest honours.

Even his rider admits to having been surprised by his rise through the ranks, saying: “He always felt like a nice horse, but the unfortunate thing is there’s loads of horses that feel like a nice horse but don’t get there.

“It would have been hard to envisage he’d get to where he’s got to, in all honesty.”

Fastorslow has twice been narrowly denied a Cheltenham Festival win, going down by just a short head to Commander Of Fleet in the 2022 Coral Cup and pushing subsequent Grand National hero Corach Rambler to a neck in last season’s Ultima Handicap Chase.

It was after that second effort at Prestbury Park that he really found another gear, as he inflicted a shock defeat upon the Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup – and he proved that was no fluke by beating the same horse again on his comeback in the John Durkan at the same venue.

Galopin Des Champs comprehensively turned the tables when they clashed again in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, but Slevin is optimistic his mount can make more of a race of it at Cheltenham.

“It was a good run (at Leopardstown), hopefully we’ll have a different scenario in the Gold Cup and hopefully we can turn the tables on him. It won’t be easy, but we’ll see,” he said.

“I got upsides him and made him work and I was hoping he might not pick up, but he did. For a minute, I thought it might be on, but your man found another gear and he’s a very good horse, isn’t he?

“Galopin probably likes a bit softer ground and our lad is versatile enough. I’d say Leopardstown really suits Galopin as well, any track suits him, but he really likes Leopardstown.

“I think a different scenario of the race is probably going to be a big thing, I’d imagine it’ll unfold a good bit different to Leopardstown, with a bigger field and flowing along, with a few more going forward – and we can use his jumping and use his travelling.”

It is this perceived mixture of speed and stamina that Slevin views as key to Fastorslow’s chances of charging up the famous Cheltenham hill in front, a scenario he is keen to put to the back of his mind until the moment of truth arrives.

“Very few horses would give you a feel like him, he’s pure class, all quality and a real athlete,” he added.

“He’s loads of speed and Galopin is the same. Those Gold Cup horses, they could turn up against the top two milers and probably give them a race, that’s the sort of horse you need. They’re the best beasts over fences in these isles at the moment.

“It would be massive to win a Gold Cup, you don’t even dream about it really, it’s that sort of stuff.

“I don’t even let myself think about it at the moment, to be second-favourite for a Gold Cup. We just take it day by day.”

It is certainly not a one-horse show as far as Slevin is concerned, with Ryanair Chase favourite Banbridge, Triumph Hurdle hopeful Nurburgring and Stayers’ Hurdle outsider Home By The Lee also among his likely rides.

To be heading to the sport’s showpiece meeting with a handful of live chances is not something the jockey takes for granted.

He said: “You did dream growing up and then as you get older, you think it’s never going to happen, so I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s been a while since my last Cheltenham winner, they’re hard to come by and another one would definitely be nice.”

The Cheltenham winner’s enclosure has staged many famous celebrations over the years. But there may be scenes like nothing witnessed before if Hewick can complete his remarkable rags-to-riches story by claiming the sport’s ultimate prize.

Seven years ago genial trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon, whose larger than life personality is matched by his formidable frame, made the best business decision of his life when leaving the nearby Goresbridge sales ring with an unraced two-year-old for a paltry €850. The rest, as they say, is history.

“The whole story from the start is brilliant, as he only came from down the road. You could travel the whole world to get a horse like him and I got him five minutes down the road,” said Hanlon.

“There are plenty of quality horses slip through the net at the sales and there’s plenty of quality horses go through Goresbridge.

“I know it’s only five minutes down the road, but I would never miss it – you never know where your next bargain is and I like bargains!”

Hewick is no oil painting to look at. Unlike his trainer he cuts a fairly diminutive figure when compared to the jet black reigning Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs for instance. But what Hewick can do is gallop hard and fast – and for a long way.

The nine-year-old failed to complete in each of his three starts in the amateur point-to-point sphere, a fairly inauspicious start to say the least, and while he won four times from 21 attempts over hurdles not even Hanlon himself could have anticipated his subsequent meteoric rise.

As if plundering one major handicap in the form of the 2022 bet365 Gold Cup was not enough, he went on to land the Galway Plate and the American Grand National at Far Hills, where the locals probably did not know what had hit them when ‘The Shark’ rolled into town. A bigger boat, indeed.

On their return to Ireland both horse and trainer popped into the local pub for a pint of Guinness – as you do – making headlines both good and bad, although it was all good fun. And he is clearly a hugely popular horse, in an area where Willie Mullins is king.

“Any race we’ve put to him, he’s always there and never let us down,” Hanlon added.

“To have such a consistent horse like him makes such a difference to the yard, there’s a buzz everywhere.

“I was in Bagenalstown there the other day and they were all wishing me well and they’ve got Willie over the road, but they are talking to me, so that’s great.”

After living the American dream Hewick was readied for his first tilt at Gold Cup glory last March. He was running a fine race, too, albeit probably booked for minor honours, when tipping up two fences from home.

Far from that being the final chapter in this extraordinary tale, Hanlon’s pride and joy has only enhanced his reputation since, bouncing back from his Prestbury Park spill with a Grade Two victory at Sandown before finishing an honourable fourth in the French Champion Hurdle.

Hewick’s defence of the Galway Plate during the summer was a little underwhelming, but yet again he roared back over the Christmas period, coming from the clouds to win a thrilling renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton, another big-race triumph that was thoroughly enjoyed by his trainer.

He said: “It was absolutely brilliant to win a King George. I knew before leaving here that there was going to be serious pace as there were six runners in it and five were front runners. I remember saying to Gavin (Sheehan) that going down the back he could be 10 lengths off them but not to stop riding him, keep going because your last two furlongs are going to be your best in the race.

“Frodon for the last five years has gone out at 100 miles per hour and I was delighted to see Paul Townend go out and take him on (aboard Allaho). When that was happening they were going too hard.

“We’ve made the running in the Gold Cup last year and in a Galway Plate and he couldn’t lie up with them – that is how hard they were going.”

With connections immediately deciding to give Hewick another break following his King George heroics, he will return to the Cotswolds fresh and seemingly in peak condition as he goes for gold once more.

Just as was the case at Kempton, Hanlon is hopeful that granted suitable conditions no horse will be coming home stronger than Hewick.

“I’ve never seen a Gold Cup yet where there isn’t plenty of pace and the extra two furlongs will be a big, big help for us,” he said.

“He’s not a big horse and he’s easy enough to get fit. After Kempton he had two or three weeks off and he’s back there working now.

“He ran well in the race last year and there is no reason why he won’t run well again in it this year.

“Hopefully this year, with a clear round of jumping, he won’t be too far away.”

If Hewick does come up the famous hill in front, bars across Cheltenham and beyond should ready themselves for a Shark attack so fierce even Jaws would be quaking in his boots.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup celebrates its centenary this year and to mark the occasion, we look at 10 memorable renewals of National Hunt racing’s blue riband event.

Golden Miller (1935)

Golden Miller’s place in jumping legend is secure. He is the only horse ever to have won five Gold Cups, and he also won the Grand National in one of those years, 1934.

His most famous Cheltenham victory came in 1935, when he just got the better of Thomond after a great battle.

Having been denied the chance of a six-timer in 1937 due to flooding, Golden Miller led at the last as a 12-year-old the following season but eventually had to settle for second on that occasion.

Owned by the eccentric Dorothy Paget, Golden Miller’s reputation remains intact despite the passing of the years and the exploits of contemporary heroes, and it is highly unlikely that his Gold Cup record will ever be equalled.

Arkle (1964)

Near-hysteria surrounded the clash of two of the greatest chasers in history, Arkle and Mill House.

Although both horses were Irish-bred and ridden, it was a classic England versus Ireland tussle. Mill House had been brought across to Fulke Walwyn’s stable, while Arkle remained on the Emerald Isle with Tom Dreaper.

‘The big horse’, as Mill House was known, had won the previous year’s event and had beaten Arkle in that season’s Hennessy Gold Cup, although jockey Pat Taaffe reported that his horse had slipped three from home and claimed Mill House would never beat him again.

Snow threatened to ruin the big day, but it cleared in time as Willie Robinson made the running on Mill House until Arkle began to close going down the final hill.

Battle commenced at the second-last, but Robinson had to go for his whip first, and Arkle started to forge ahead before taking the final fence in front and bounding away up the hill to land the spoils by five lengths. A legend was born in that moment and he would go on to win two more Gold Cups.

Bregawn (1983)

This race will always be remembered for Michael Dickinson’s ‘famous five’, as the Yorkshire handler enjoyed total domination.

Market leader Bregawn made all the running under a 22-year-old Graham Bradley and was followed home by his stablemates Captain John, multiple King George winner Wayward Lad, defending champion Silver Buck and Ashley House.

Bradley said: “Michael was brilliant in preparing them and it was a magical moment, the man was an absolute genius.

“You have to remember that he only had 60 boxes, not 200 like some of them today. The quality of horse he assembled was quite amazing really. Bregawn won it out of stamina more than anything – and guts.”

Dawn Run (1986)

Paddy Mullins’ wonder mare became the only horse to complete the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double in dramatic fashion.

Everything looked to be against the inexperienced Dawn Run as a couple of early mistakes went against her and Jonjo O’Neill was hard at work to maintain the lead as they rounded the top of the straight.

It looked to be game over as Wayward Lad and Forgive ‘n Forget swept past but Dawn Run found a little bit extra to land after the second-last in front, only for Wayward Lad to put on his own spurt.

He was set for glory just 100 yards out but his questionable stamina began to wane and Dawn Run dug even deeper to claw back the lead and win by three-quarters of a length in a record time.

All set to the soundtrack of a memorable commentary by Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who cried: “The mare’s beginning to get back up… and as they come to the line, she’s made it.”

Desert Orchid (1989)

Possibly the most popular triumph in the whole history of this great race, as the flying grey was an icon who transcended the sport!

Simon Sherwood could not say enough in praise of Desert Orchid’s bravery following his thrilling duel with Yahoo in desperate conditions.

‘Dessie’ was left in front three fences from home but it looked all over bar the shouting as confirmed mud-lover Yahoo kicked on for victory.

However, Desert Orchid gave every ounce of effort on the heavy ground, finally overhauling Yahoo for a length-and-a-half verdict.

It was also another O’Sullevan masterpiece: “He’s beginning to get up, Desert Orchid is beginning to get up… Dessie has done it!”

Norton’s Coin (1990)

Although a better horse than he is given credit for, Norton’s Coin provided one of the biggest upsets in racing when he landed the Gold Cup from Toby Tobias at odds of 100-1.

Desert Orchid was sent off the odds-on favourite and made most of the running, but by the second-last he was weakening, and it was Graham McCourt aboard the nine-year-old who was travelling the best. He just outfought Jenny Pitman’s Toby Tobias in a bitter struggle up the run-in.

Norton’s Coin had won the odd decent race, but did not appear in the best form, finishing only third in an average Newbury handicap the month before.

It was an extraordinary result also for his trainer, Carmarthenshire dairy farmer Sirrell Griffiths, who had been up milking his cows that morning.

Best Mate (2004)

It may not have been the strongest renewal but nothing should be taken away from Best Mate as he became the first horse in 38 years to win three successive Gold Cups.

His two previous wins may well have been more impressive but Henrietta Knight’s charge showed plenty of courage as he outbattled three rivals up the hill.

Sir Rembrandt pushed him every yard to the line but Best Mate’s willpower saw him edge it by just under a length to join the Cheltenham greats.

Denman (2008)

A blockbuster showdown between Denman and stablemate Kauto Star was billed as the most eagerly-awaited Gold Cup battle since Arkle and Mill House – and it lived up to the hype!

‘The Tank’ galloped reigning champion Kauto Star into the ground, powering away up the hill to prevail by seven lengths, with Paul Nicholls also saddling the third-placed Neptune Collonges.

“Denman was awesome,” declared Nicholls. “He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really. Kauto didn’t jump as well as he can and the ground may have been a little tacky for him.

“We are not going to make any excuses, as he got beat by a better horse on the day. But Kauto will be back here and will win plenty more races.”

Those words proved correct, as 2007 hero Kauto Star gained his revenge when hammering Denman by 13 lengths a year later, becoming the first horse to regain the trophy.

Coneygree (2015)

The unheralded husband and wife training partnership of Mark and Sara Bradstock pulled off an incredible coup as Coneygree became the first novice to win the Gold Cup for over 40 years.

Sent off as a 7-1 shot, the eight-year-old soon had matters his own way up front and Nico de Boinville settled his mount into a steady rhythm to ensure the race would be a thorough test of stamina.

Attacking each fence with great enthusiasm, the pair maintained a relentless gallop before repelling the late charge of Djakadam by a length and a half.

Sara Bradstock said: “It’s only his fourth run over fences, but he had so much time off and he’s wise in his own way. He is a freak, he has got ridiculously long legs.”

Unfortunately, those legs proved fragile and the horse, who was bred by the late Lord Oaksey, Sara’s father, failed to reach the same dizzy heights in the future.

A Plus Tard (2022)

Rachael Blackmore etched herself further into racing folklore as she added Gold Cup glory to her two Champion Hurdle victories and the previous year’s Grand National triumph in guiding A Plus Tard to a runaway success.

Stuck behind a wall of horses turning in, Blackmore was patient and came between Protektorat and dual winner Al Boum Photo to hunt down defending champion Minella Indo, jumping to the front over the last before drawing clear.

“I’m so lucky to be getting to ride all these kind of horses,” said Blackmore. “I’ve had so many special days. I wouldn’t swap the Grand National for anything, but this is the Gold Cup.”

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead added: “Rachael was brilliant on him. Rachael was so brave, the way she went about it, it was brilliant.”

Tributes have been paid to Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Mark Bradstock, who has died aged 66.

Along with his wife Sara, Bradstock trained Coneygree to become the first novice since Captain Christy 41 years earlier to land the blue riband at Prestbury Park in 2015.

The Old Manor Stables handler also saddled Carruthers to win the 2011 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, while Step Back was another big-race victor in the 2018 bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

Coneygree was ridden at Cheltenham by Nico de Boinville, who is now established as one of the top riders in the sport.

He wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Thinking of the Bradstock family. I owe them all so much, they played an integral part in getting me going. Mark will be hugely missed.”

Bradstock’s final runner Mr Vango won the Devon National at Exeter on February 23 by 60 lengths and could now line up in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival later this month.

Retired jockey Mattie Batchelor, who was on board Carruthers for his Hennessy triumph and also steered Coneygree to two Grade Two victories over hurdles, posted: “Thank you very much for the memories!!!! We had some great times and more importantly some great laughs!!!!! Condolences to Sara, Alfie (son) and Lily (daughter).”

Long Run can lay claim to many astonishing achievements throughout his stellar career, but he will always be remembered best for the day he ended an era in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, bursting through the clouds to slay the great Ditcheat duo of Kauto Star and Denman.

Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, Nicky Henderson’s first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was for a long while considered the heir apparent of the staying division and had already marked his territory by winning the King George earlier that season.

But it was the moment he crossed the Gold Cup finishing line that was seen as the passing of the torch moment and a victory made all the more remarkable by the fact the man in the plate going toe-to-toe with Ruby Walsh and Sam Thomas up the Prestbury Park hill was in fact an amateur in the owner’s son, Sam Waley-Cohen.

Of course, the by-day dentist was far from plucked off the streets to partner a horse who was already a multiple Grade One winner. But it added to the mystique of this brilliant French import, who at the tender age of six had climbed to the top of racing’s mountain.

“Winning the Gold Cup has to be classed as his best performance ever – you can’t beat that,” said Waley-Cohen senior.

“You had multiple Gold Cup winners in that race and they were the ones coming down hill who looked like they were going to do it all over again.

“Sam was brilliant on him that day and he was not an easy ride – he did thump some fences on the way round.

“I still treasure the front cover of Owner Breeder magazine that has a picture of him coming over the last in front of Kauto Star and Denman and says ‘The Greatest Gold Cup’.”

Even though only six when storming up the Cheltenham hill to claim National Hunt racing’s greatest prize, Long Run had already cemented his place in his owner’s affections.

For this was a horse that had seen the winner’s enclosure eight times in France before he burst onto the British scene aged only four.

Long Run’s Feltham Novices’ Chase success would be the first of three magnificent victories at Kempton, with the gelding returning a year later to claim the King George VI Chase and then adding a second victory in that contest in 2012.

That second King George, when rallying to collar Captain Chris in the shadow of the Kempton winning post, would be the final top-level success of Long Run’s decorated career, but by that point he had already accomplished things his connections could only dream about.

Waley-Cohen continued: “He achieved things no other horse has ever done. He’s the only horse to win the Grade One three-year-old hurdle and the Grade One four-year-old chase in France and the only four-year-old to win a Grade One chase in the UK when he won the Feltham.

“The shortest race he ever ran in was the Kingmaker over two miles and he won that – and there isn’t many horses who would have won a Kingmaker and a Gold Cup.

“He was unbelievable in the Feltham and after the race he walked into the winner’s enclosure and looked around as if to say ‘ah, my subjects have come to admire me, how nice’. He was imperious, totally imperious and only four years old.

“What he achieved as a youngster was astonishing and when he won a Gold Cup, he was only six. He won Grade Ones for five consecutive years, not many horses can do that.

“They say French horses don’t last and they are right, but if you can win Grade Ones over five straight years, it doesn’t matter. Not many stay at the top that long.”

Waley-Cohen has since added a Grand National to Long Run’s Gold Cup triumph thanks to the exploits of Noble Yeats in 2022 and although there may have been 11 years between those two big-race successes, the one constant was his son in the saddle, adorned in the family’s orange and brown silks.

Sam may have hung up his saddle after sprinkling Aintree glory on his decorated amateur CV, but the part he played in many special days – especially aboard Long Run – will live long in his father’s memory.

“He really was an amazing horse and gave us an enormous amount of pleasure. Doing everything with Sam on board only added to the pleasure,” explained Waley-Cohen.

“You can’t match winning Grade One races at the highest level with your son on board. You would be thrilled to win them anyhow, but when your son is on board – which we were quite strongly criticised for – it is special. In the end, the jockey didn’t do too bad.

“To my mind, he only ran one disappointing race in the whole time we had him and that was in the Gold Cup the following year (2012), where Sam rode him impeccably and produced him at the exact right moment, but for whatever reason he didn’t spark and finished third. Something didn’t fire that day, but horses are horses.”

Long Run is now very much part of the furniture at the Waley-Cohen family farm in Warwickshire, where he enjoys a well-earned retirement and serves as a constant reminder that just sometimes, racing dreams do come true.

“He is in great order and he’s out in the field at 19 years old and very happy,” said Waley-Cohen.

“He had a very good time after he retired from racing, we used to ride him round the farm and the great thing about him, like so many horses, he completely understood when Sam wanted to put his very small daughter on a leading rein, he would behave impeccably. Now he’s fully retired and out at grass.

“He’s been with us a long time and we’ve owned him for 16 years now and we bought him as a three-year-old, so we’ve had him a long time.”

Connections of L’Homme Presse are putting thoughts of the Cheltenham Gold Cup to one side as he heads to the Betfair Ascot Chase for a race that has been likened to the FA Cup Final.

Venetia Williams’ nine-year-old has already tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival as a novice, but he missed out on a shot at the blue riband in 2023 as an injury following his run in the King George VI Chase curtailed his season.

After a long and arduous 391-day absence L’Homme Presse returned in style to claim the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield last month and having suffered the heartbreak of missing out on Grade One opportunities during his time on the sidelines, connections are excited to head to Ascot on Saturday for a race won by some of the sport’s greats over the years.

“We’re very calm and relaxed and looking forward to it,” said Andy Edwards, who co-owns L’Homme Presse with Peter and Patricia Pink.

“The horse is well and it’s exciting to be in a Grade One chase at Ascot.”

He went on: “When I was young and thought about owning a racehorse, days like Saturday are what dreams are made of. Footballers want to play in the FA Cup Final at Wembley and for me to be in a Grade One chase at Ascot is a privilege. Although everyone wants to talk about the Gold Cup, this is its own race in its own right and deserves proper merit.

“Cheltenham is obviously his end goal, but it is not the be all and end all. It may be the Olympics of our sport and where we want to get to, but there are lots of fantastic opportunities on the way and as we found out last year, you have to take your opportunities, because your dreams could be cut short very quickly – you can’t put your eggs in one basket.”

A select field of four will head to post, and Edwards has enormous respect for both Pic D’Orhy and Ahoy Senor, believing spectators at the Berkshire track could be in for a thrilling contest – similar to when L’Homme Presse went toe-to-toe with Protektorat in his Lingfield comeback.

“It might be a small field, but there are some very good horses in there – they have speed and like to run from the front” he continued.

“When we beat Pic D’Orhy in the Scilly Isles, that horse wasn’t himself and didn’t suit the heavy ground and track maybe. Ascot will suit him much better and he’s already won there earlier on this season.

“Ahoy Senor is a Grade One winner who beat us at Aintree and he came second to us in the Brown Advisory. He clearly goes better after Christmas and it is his time of year to start coming to himself.

“I think it will end up a proper race, just like Lingfield. There might only have been two horses in contention from eight fences out, but the race between L’Homme Presse and Protektorat was full on – it wasn’t an easy sprint finish like Galopin Des Champs had at Leopardstown recently. I’m sure Saturday will be the same.”

One who knows his way round every inch of Ascot is Pic D’Orhy, who had the misfortune of bumping into an on-song Shishkin in this race 12 months ago, but took advantage of that rival’s refusal to start when picking up Grade Two honours at the track in the autumn.

A top-table winner at Aintree last spring, a return to Merseyside is on the cards after this assignment, with champion trainer Paul Nicholls confident his consistent nine-year-old can take a hand in the finish here.

He said: “Consistency is his big thing and he runs in some good races, he won his Grade One at Aintree last year, and I’m sure he will run another solid race again on Saturday. He’s just a high-class horse who always runs to a high level.

“He’s not slow and he’s never been further than two and a half or two-mile-five – it suits him very well.

“Ultimately L’Homme Presse is en route to the Gold Cup and stays very nicely and Ascot is a stiff two-mile-five and the ground is not going to be quick at the moment, so I imagine stamina will come into it a little bit. But this is the ideal trip for us.

“Shishkin beat him in the race last year and funnily, even though he has won at Ascot a few times, he seems happier on a flatter track – he seems to keep his best form for a flatter track. But he’s good at Ascot and touch wood he jumps nicely and hopefully he has a nice chance.

“He will probably go to Aintree after this. I wouldn’t have thought he would go to Cheltenham and we’re quite keen to do what we did last year. If he has a hard race, which undoubtedly it will be a tough race, then it’s soon enough to Cheltenham and he will better off going to Aintree.”

Lucinda Russell drops Ahoy Senor back in distance as connections contemplate a tilt at the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Little has gone right for the dual Grade One winner this term, but Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, feels he is beginning to show his best at home on the gallops.

He said: “We feel we have probably got it wrong and things haven’t come quite right this season, his form figures will tell you that.

“I thought he ran well last time at Cheltenham and feels right now. It’s obviously a very competitive race and if he can run a big race we can see where we go at Cheltenham with him.

“I’m very happy with him like I was last time when he went to Cheltenham and hopefully this will just put him spot on for Cheltenham this time.”

Dan Skelton’s Sail Away completes the line-up.

Paul Nicholls is relishing the prospect of taking on Cheltenham Gold Cup fancy L’Homme Presse with course regular Pic D’Orhy in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

The nine-year-old Grade One winner won the Noel Novices’ Chase at the Berkshire track in 2021 and was also the beneficiary of Shishkin refusing to start when claiming the 1965 Chase earlier in the season.

Second to a resurgent Shishkin in this Grade One event 12 months ago, Pic D’Orhy will now attempt to deal a blow to the Cheltenham Festival ambitions of not only L’Homme Presse, but also Ahoy Senor, who along with Dan Skelton’s Sail Away makes up the select quartet heading to post.

The champion trainer is full of respect for Venetia Williams’ Gold Cup hopeful and the way he has returned him from a long setback. But Nicholls believes there is still enough in Pic D’Orhy’s favour to be confident of a bold bid.

“It’s a good race with L’Homme Presse in the race and it will be interesting,” said Nicholls.

“He is a good horse and ran very well the other day at Lingfield off the back of a setback and they will be hoping he will carry on forward again. He’s a smart horse.

“However, he did only beat Protektorat and Protektorat couldn’t beat Hitman the other day in the Denman Chase so you could look at the form and think maybe he was flattered a bit at Lingfield.”

He went on: “It was an impressive performance from Venetia to get him back fit and well first time out and he did look very good, so we just have to hope we can find the chink in his armour.

“L’Homme Presse is obviously a smart horse and they are on the way to the Gold Cup. We’re doing a different route, but hopefully Pic D’Orhy will run a good race and hopefully he will run very well.”

Helping fuel Nicholls’ positivity is Pic D’Orhy’s performances this term, in particular his narrow second in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, where he bumped into on-song Irish raider Banbridge.

The Ditcheat handler regards that Kempton display as one of his charge’s best-ever performances and he will now head to Ascot bidding to give Nicholls a record fifth win in a race he has won with the likes of Kauto Star and Cyrname in the past.

“It’s a good race and good horses win it and Pic D’Orhy is right up with those,” said Nicholls when comparing Pic D’Orhy to his previous champions.

“It would be nice to win it again, of course it would, and it would set him on his way to Aintree.

“He ran at Kempton sort of 35/36 days ago which is the same as last year and since then everything has gone good and he worked this morning and I was very happy with him.

“He’s produced two good runs (this season), he won at Ascot first time when he probably wasn’t at his best then and I would say it was nearly a career best last time giving nearly 3lb to Banbridge – that was a good run. He’s in good form and always runs to a really consistent level.”

Pic D’Orhy runs in the colours of one of Nicholls’ biggest backers, owner Johnny de la Hay, who as well as enjoying a plethora of proven stars, saw one of his brightest new recruits Teeshan excel on rules debut at Exeter recently.

The wide-margin point winner soared seven-lengths clear of the opposition, with that taking performance enough to see him cut to single-figure odds for the Champion Bumper with most firms, currently as low as 5-1 with Boylesports.

However, Nicholls is yet to commit to the Cheltenham Festival, and although Teeshan is poised to be given an entry for Prestbury Park, his trainer would have no issue with waiting an extra month for Aintree.

He said: “He won nicely, what sort of race it was I don’t know, but he cantered round and won nicely.

“I’ve won two other bumpers there this year season with Quebecois and Joyau Allen and I would argue they were just as impressive as he was.

“He had quite a reputation because he won his Irish point-to-point very well, but he couldn’t have made a better start than what he did the other day and I was very happy with him.”

Nicholls went on: “He will have an entry (for Cheltenham) and we ran Captain Teague in it last year. We will just see how he is.

“He took time to acclimatise and come right from when he came over from Ireland in the autumn and I just want to make sure he’s all right. If he doesn’t go to Cheltenham he will undoubtedly go to Aintree.”

L’Homme Presse sets out to prove he very much remains a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender when he makes his eagerly-awaited comeback in the Fitzdares Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield.

The feature of Lingfield’s Winter Million Festival has attracted a field of six and it is Venetia Williams’ high-class staying chaser that sets the standard, despite being off the track for over a year.

He looked booked for second in the King George VI Chase before unshipping his big-race pilot Charlie Deutsch at the last while giving chase to Bravemansgame, and before that had built up an impressive chasing CV which includes victory at the Cheltenham Festival as a novice and a mammoth effort off top-weight in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase.

Following a long 13-month wait, L’Homme Presse – who is as short as 12-1 for the Gold Cup – now seeks to reaffirm his position towards the top of the staying chasing ranks, with connections optimistic of a bold bid in the two-mile-six-furlong affair.

“It’s been a long 13 months and a lot of effort has been put in to get him back,” said Andy Edwards, who owns L’Homme Presse in partnership with Peter Pink.

“This trip, for his comeback is ideal really, it’s an intermediate trip and it should suit him down to the ground.

“He doesn’t lack in pace and he certainly doesn’t lack in staying power as we saw in the Brown Advisory.

“He is ready to go, but he has had 13 months off. He’s run well fresh before, but whether he can run to the top of his form having had so long off we will find out.

“It’s no good looking at basic ratings because that is the best he has ever done and it’s unlikely he can achieve that first time out, but of course we are hopeful that he can.”

L’Homme Presse will be in receipt of 4lb from former Gold Cup third Protektorat, with Dan Skelton switching tactics to target this race after the nine-year-old’s failure to defend his Betfair Chase crown in November.

He has since run in handicap company at Cheltenham and his handler is confident he has his Grade One scorer in peak condition as he searches for a slice of the £165,000 prize-fund.

“He’s in good form and we were always coming here after the December race,” said Skelton.

“He’s got a job on giving weight away to a few, but it’s a race we’ve always had in mind and I’m very happy with him.

“If it’s not happening, you have got to change and we’re changing up. The trip is no issue and I’m really looking forward to running him.”

Fergal O’Brien’s Highland Hunter and Sam Thomas’ Welsh Grand National winner Iwilldoit are both 11 now and will attempt to land a blow for the veterans, while Kim Bailey won the inaugural running of this race with Two For Gold and attempts to repeat the dose with Does He Know.

The field is rounded off by Gary Moore’s Full Back, who is a long way adrift of his rivals on ratings and returns from 434 days off the track.

A Plus Tard, winner of the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been retired from racing.

Owned by Cheveley Park Stud and trained by Henry de Bromhead, A Plus Tard gave jockey Rachael Blackmore a historic victory in the Prestbury Park feature as she became the first woman to ride the winner of jump racing’s blue riband.

The 10-year-old rocketed to a 15-length success that day, supplementing three previous Grade One wins, including a 22-length verdict in the 2021 Betfair Chase.

However, A Plus Tard has struggled to make his mark since that Gold Cup win, pulling up on two occasions and finishing third at Aintree in April before bowing out when unplaced in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last month.

Richard Thompson, director of Cheveley Park Stud, paid tribute to the gelding who realised the dream of his late father, David, when winning at Cheltenham.

He said in a statement: “My father and I sat down in early 2018 and agreed a plan to buy some National Hunt horses to be trained in Ireland with the aim of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“Just over four years later, we achieved this objective when Rachael Blackmore rode A Plus Tard to victory in front of 70,000 people at the first Cheltenham Festival post Covid.

“My father watched A Plus Tard win the Savills Chase in a thrilling finish on television on December 28, 2020. He died the very next day. It was the last horse race he ever watched.

“A Plus Tard was also the first Cheltenham winner in the red, white and blue Cheveley Park Stud colours and also Rachael Blackmore’s first winner at Cheltenham in the 2019 Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Chase. Rachael rode him to five of his six victories and Darragh O’Keeffe rode him in the other one.

“For all of the above reasons, A Plus Tard will always be a very special horse in the history of my parents’ ownership of Cheveley Park Stud.

“A special thank you to Henry de Bromhead and all the team at Knockeen and to Rachael too. To win the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Holy Grail of National Hunt racing and we will never forget March 18, 2022.”

A Plus Tard will remain at De Bromhead’s Knockeen yard in the immediate future before returning to Cheveley Park in Newmarket to enjoy his retirement.

De Bromhead added: “A Plus Tard was our first horse to train for Cheveley Park Stud and the Thompson Family. He was bought from France by Alex Elliot and gave us many memorable days, culminating in the 2022 Gold Cup.

“He was sublime that day, not only visually impressive, but also one of the highest rated winners of the Gold Cup in the last 30 years, as well as being one of the best horses we have ever had in our yard.

“We were delighted when this very special horse won Cheveley Park Stud their first Gold Cup.”

A Plus Tard bows out the winner of eight of his 23 career starts, with over £957,000 in prize money.

A Plus Tard, winner of the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been retired from racing.

Owned by Cheveley Park Stud and trained by Henry de Bromhead, A Plus Tard gave jockey Rachael Blackmore a historic victory in the Prestbury Park feature as she became the first woman to ride the winner of jump racing’s blue riband.

The 10-year-old rocketed to a 15-length success that day, supplementing three previous Grade One wins, including a 22-length verdict in the 2021 Betfair Chase.

However, A Plus Tard has struggled to make his mark since that Gold Cup win, pulling up on two occasions and finishing third at Aintree in April before bowing out when unplaced in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last month.

Richard Thompson, director of Cheveley Park Stud, paid tribute to the gelding who realised the dream of his late father, David, when winning at Cheltenham.

He said in a statement: “My father and I sat down in early 2018 and agreed a plan to buy some National Hunt horses to be trained in Ireland with the aim of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“Just over four years later, we achieved this objective when Rachael Blackmore rode A Plus Tard to victory in front of 70,000 people at the first Cheltenham Festival post Covid.

“My father watched A Plus Tard win the Savills Chase in a thrilling finish on television on December 28, 2020. He died the very next day. It was the last horse race he ever watched.

“A Plus Tard was also the first Cheltenham winner in the red, white and blue Cheveley Park Stud colours and also Rachael Blackmore’s first winner at Cheltenham in the 2019 Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Chase. Rachael rode him to five of his six victories and Darragh O’Keeffe rode him in the other one.

“For all of the above reasons, A Plus Tard will always be a very special horse in the history of my parents’ ownership of Cheveley Park Stud.

“A special thank you to Henry de Bromhead and all the team at Knockeen and to Rachael too. To win the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Holy Grail of National Hunt racing and we will never forget March 18, 2022.”

A Plus Tard will remain at De Bromhead’s Knockeen yard in the immediate future before returning to Cheveley Park in Newmarket to enjoy his retirement.

De Bromhead added: “A Plus Tard was our first horse to train for Cheveley Park Stud and the Thompson Family. He was bought from France by Alex Elliot and gave us many memorable days, culminating in the 2022 Gold Cup.

“He was sublime that day, not only visually impressive, but also one of the highest rated winners of the Gold Cup in the last 30 years, as well as being one of the best horses we have ever had in our yard.

“We were delighted when this very special horse won Cheveley Park Stud their first Gold Cup.”

A Plus Tard bows out the winner of eight of his 23 career starts, with over £957,000 in prize money.

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