Dubai-born Saeed bin Suroor has been associated with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, founder of Godolphin, since 1992. He was officially appointed Godolphin trainer in 1995 and made an immediate impact, winning the first three of his twelve British Classics, the Derby, Oaks and St. Leger, with Lammtarra, Moonshell and Classic Cliche, respectively. Indeed, Lammtarra also won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and was named Cartier Champion Three-year-old Colt.
Lammtarra was retired to Dalham Hall Stud, Newmarket at the end of his three-year-old campaign, but the following year, 1996, bin Suroor won another British Classic, the 2,000 Guineas, with Mark Of Esteem, who also won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot later in the year. All told that season, bin Suroor saddled just 48 winners, but a host of high-profile victories, including in the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International with Halling and the Racing Post Trophy with Medaaly, yielded £1.96 million in prize money. In only his second year in charge, he became Champion Trainer for the first time and would win the trainers’ title again in 1988, 1999 and 2004.
Nowadays, the longest-serving Godolphin trainer splits his year between Al Quoz Stables in Dubai and Godolphin Stables, formerly Stanley House Stables, in Newmarket. Indeed, he has enjoyed spectactular success in one of the most prestigious and valuable races in the the world, the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, winning nine times between 1999 and 2019.
Jenny Pitman will always be remembered as the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National. However, the year winning the National, with Corbiere, in 1983, she also became the first woman to train the winner of the other premier steeplechase in Britain, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Her second landmark victory in as many years came courtesy of the hugely talented, but fragile, eight-year-old Burrough Hill Lad, ridden by Phil Tuck, who also would win the Hennessy Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase later in1984 . Seven years later, in 1991, ‘Mrs. P.’ won the Cheltenham Gold Cup again, with another eight-year-old, Garrison Savannah, ridden by her son, Mark, who prevailed by just a short head.
Less than a month later, Garrison Savannah was sent off 7/1 co-favourite for the Grand National, as he attempted to become the first horse since the legendary Golden Miller, in 1934, to win both races. He jumped the final fence with a healthy lead and, although weakening in the closing stages, eventually finished an honourable second, beaten 5 lengths.
Historically, the maximum ‘official’ winning distance – that is, the maximum, meaningful distance that racecourse judges could record – was 30 lengths; anything beyond that was simply recorded as ‘a distance’. However, when Kauto Star swept clear of his nearest pursuer, Madison Du Berlais, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, 2009, the racing public was, understandably, keen to know the actual winning margin. Shortly afterwards, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) increased the range of distances available to racecourse judges to 99 lengths.
The next change to the maximum official winning distance was implemented, ‘in the interests of greater accuracy’, on New Year’s Day, 2018. At that point, the BHA extended its computerised ‘lengths per second’ (LPS) tables to 200 lengths. Thus, to quote one recent example of a relevant, wide-margin victory, the result of the open hunters’ chase at Bangor-on-Dee on February 7, 2020 is recorded for posterity as a 107-length win for Bob And Co, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by David Maxwell.
In 2001, with the Cheltenham Festival blighted by foot-and-mouth disease, the Tote Gold Trophy Chase, billed only as ‘a substitute Gold Cup, of sorts’, was run at Sandown Park in late April. However, the race ‘lacked any strength in depth’, according to the Racing Post, and attracted just seven runners. First Gold, winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton the previous December, was sent off favourite, at 8/13, with Marlborough, who was a decent handicapper, but a handicapper nonetheless, at 5/2 and 16/1 the front pair.
The complexion of the race changed significantly when First Gold blundered and unseated jockey Thierry Doumen at the tenth fence, leaving Go Ballistic, who had finished second, beaten just a length, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup ‘proper’ two seasons previously, to make the best of his way home. Belying odds of 33/1, Go Ballsitic took the lead on the railway straight and, although joined by Marlborough at the second last fence, battled on gamely in the closing stages. Nevertheless, Marlborough, who had looked held on the run-in, dug deep up the famous Sandown hill to snatch the spoils in the final stride, eventually winning by a short head.