Which Cheltenham Gold Cup winner started and ended his career by falling at Kempton?

Without wishing to give away too much too soon, the horse in question made his racing debut in a novices’ hurdle at Kempton, on January 21, 1983. Having made the running, he crashed, exhausted at the final flight and took so long to get to his feet that it appeared, for a time, as if he might not do so. Thankfully, he did.

He went on to win 34 of his 70 starts over hurdles and fences and over £650,000 in prize money, but on his final start, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, 1991, again fell, when beaten, at the third-last fence. On that occasion, though, he was quickly back on his feet and received a heartwarming round of applause as he galloped, riderless, past the packed grandstands. Two seasons previously, he had enjoyed what was probably his finest hour, overcoming bottomless ground and racing left-handed – he was two stone better going left-handed, according to his regular jockey – to win the ‘Blue Riband’ event of steeplechasing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

You may well have guessed by now that the horse in question is Desert Orchid who, despite an inauspicious start and end to his career, not only won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but also the King George VI Chase, four times, the Irish Grand National and the Whitbread Gold Cup, to name but a few of his major successes. He was awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of 187, inferior only to such luminaries of National Hunt racing as Arkle, Flyingbolt, Sprinter Sacre, Kauto Star and Mill House.

How many fences do horses jump in the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race of the National Hunt season and has been run, over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, on the ‘New’ Course at Prestbury Park, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire since 1959. It’s a prime betting opportunity for serious and casual punters alike, and there are plenty of free bet opportunities on sites like freebets.ie.  Nowadays, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of the fourth, and final, day of the Cheltenham Festival, held annually in mid-March.

The New Course is a left-handed oval, approximately a mile and a half in circumference and constantly on the turn. Although sharper than widely believed, with pronounced undulations, the New Course is essentially galloping and testing in character, with ten, notoriously stiff fences per circuit.

From the start position, horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup jump two plain fences – which will become the second-last and last in two circuits’ time – in the home straight before continuing uphill out into the country. The fourth fence is the water jump and the fifth and seventh fences are open ditches, the first of which is jumped uphill. The uphill ditch can prove problematic as horses can see the rising ground on the landing side, which alters their perception of the fence. The second open ditch is followed by two more plain fences and a pronounced downhill run, with another plain fence, back to the point of departure.

The fence after the turn at the top of the hill, which is jumped as the ninth and nineteenth, or fourth-last, has been resited for safety purposes in the past, but still provides its fair share of incident, as does the fence on the downhill stretch; this is especially true on the second circuit, as horses come under pressure. At the end of the second circuit, horses jump the two fences in the home straight for a third, and final, time, making a total of 22 fences in all. With further knowledge of the Gold Cup course, you’re well positioned to take advantage of betting opportunities on bettingsites.ie . You’ve got to be in it to win it!

How many winners did Steve Smith-Eccles ride at the Cheltenham Festival?

Former National Hunt jockey Steve Smith-Eccles retired from race riding in 1994 and is best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years running on See You Then, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 1985, 1986 and 1987. However, seven years prior to winning the two-mile championship for the first time, Smith-Eccles had already recorded his first victory at the Cheltenham Festival, when landing the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase aboard Sweet Joe, trained by Harry Thomson ‘Tom’ Jones, in 1978.

Sweet Joe suffered a career-ending injury early in the 1978/79 season, but aside from a notable hat-trick in the Champion Hurdle, Smith-Eccles also won the Triumph Hurdle twice, in 1985 and 1987, the Grand Annual Chase in 1985 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1986, for a career total of eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Six of those eight winners – First Bout (1985), See You Then (1985, 1986 and 1987) River Ceiriog (1986) and Alone Success (1987) – were trained by Nicky Henderson, at whom Smith-Eccles once threw a punch during an argument, while Alan Jarvis rowed in with Kathies Lad (1985). Indeed, the three winners Smith-Eccles rode at the 1985 Cheltenham Festival were sufficient to win him the leading jockey award for the one and only time.

Can Al Boum Photo win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2021?

In March, 2019, Al Boum Photo had the distinction of becoming the first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for County Carlow trainer Willie Mullins, who had previously saddled the runner-up in the ‘Blue Riband’ event on no fewer than six times. Only the third-least fancied of four Mullins-trained runners, at 12/1, on that occasion, Al Boum Photo stayed on strongly under Paul Townend to win by two-and-a-half lengths. Al Boum Photo returned to Cheltenham, as defending champion, in 2020 and, although sent off clear favourite, at 100/30, had to dig deep to fend off Santini and Lostintranslation by a neck and one-and-a-quarter lengths.

Obviously, whether or not Al Boum Photo can join the likes of Golden Miller, Arkle and Best Mate by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running depends, in large part, on his well-being by the time March 19, 2021, rolls around. However, provided he is fit and well, as a lightly-raced nine-year-old, he must have every chance of defending his title for a second time. Of course, aside from Santini and Lostintranslation, Al Boum Photo could face several other progressive, young steeplechasers, including Champ and Minella Indo, who finished first and second in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, and the returning Topofthegame, winner of the same race in 2019. Whether the 6/1 currently on offer ante post represents value is debatable, but, as a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner already, Al Boum Photo needs to be taken very seriously indeed.

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