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.

Which are the biggest outsiders to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Unlike, say, the Grand National, which has been a handicap for most of its existence, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a conditions, or weight-for-age, steeplechase. Horses aged six years and upwards carry 11st 10lb, five-year-olds carry 11st 8lb and mares receive a 7lb allowance so, as might be expected, the ‘Blue Riband’ event of the British National Hunt calendar is rarely won by an outsider.

Far and away the biggest outsider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since it was first run, as a steeplechase, in 1924, was Norton’s Coin, who defied odds of 100/1 when defeating Toby Tobias and Desert Orchid by three-quarters of a length and four lengths in 1990. Owned and trained by Sirrell Griffiths, a dairy farmer and permit-holder based in Nantgaredig in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales, Norton’s Coin was described, justifiably, as the ‘Shock of the Century’ on the front page of the ‘Racing Post’ the following day.

Indeed, in the entire history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup no other horse has won at odds longer than 33/1; the two 33/1 winners were Gay Donald, trained by Jim Ford, in 1955 and L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore, in 1970. Cool Ground, trained by Toby Balding, prevailed at odds of 25/1 in 1992, as Cool Dawn, trained by Robert Alner, in 1998, but the only other winners that could be classified as ‘outsiders’ were the 20/1 winners Mr. Mulligan in 1997 and Lord Windermere in 2014.

Which horse holds the course record for the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

The Cheltenham Gold Cup, run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs on the New Course at Prestbury Park, is the most prestigious steeplechase in Europe. Consequently, the race is usually contested by a competitive, double-figure field of the finest staying steeplechasers in training and invariably run at an end-to-end gallop, which offers no hiding place for any horse lacking jumping ability and/or stamina.

With that in mind, the 2011 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup produced one of the strongest fields ever assembled, including Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander who, between them, had won the last four renewals of the Gold Cup. Favourite, though, was the six-year-old Long Run, fresh from victory in the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton in January and vying to become the first of his age group to win the ‘Blue Riband’ event since Mill House in 1963.

Indeed, it was Long Run who justified his billing, putting in a superb display of jumping and powering away in the closing stages to beat Denman by 7 lengths, with Kauto Star a further 4 lengths behind in third place. Fittingly, his winning time, 6 minutes 29.70 seconds, set a new course record for the Cheltenham Gold Cup since it was transferred to the New Course in 1959.

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