Which horse did Dawn Run beat in (i) the Champion Hurdle & (ii) the Cheltenham Gold Cup?
The remarkable racemare Dawn Run has several claims to fame, not least that she remains the only horse in history to have won both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. She also remains the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle, Irish Champion Hurdle and Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (a.k.a. the French Champion Hurdle) in the same season and the highest-rated mare in the history of Timeform.
Owned by Charmian Hill and trained by Paddy Mullins, Dawn Run made her debut at the 1983 Cheltenham Festival, finishing second behind Sabin Du Loir in what is now the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. On her return to Prestbury Park the following year, she was sent off 4/5 favourite for the Champion Hurdle ahead of none other than Desert Orchid. However, the dashing grey started to struggle approaching the third last and it was Buck House and Cima who appeared as her nearest pursuers over the final two flights. Buck House came under maximum pressure on the home turn and, although a flat-footed jump at the final flight allowed Cima to renew his challenge, Dawn Run came home three-quarters of a length ahead of the 66/1 outsider.
Fast forward to the 1986 Cheltenham Festival and Dawn Run, despite lacking experience over fences, was sent of 15/8 favourite for a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Reunited with jockey Jonjo O’Neill for the first time since winning the Champion Hurdle, she faced ten rivals, including Forgive ‘N’ Forget, Wayward Lad and Run And Skip. Dawn Run led, narrowly, over the second-last fence, but was joined, and passed, by both Wayward Lad and Forgive ‘N’ Forget approaching the final fence. However, galvanised by O’Neill in the closing stages – and accompanied by Sir Peter O’Sulllevan’s classic ‘…the mare’s beginning to get up…’ commentary – she overhauled the tiring veteran Wayward Lad to win by a length.