Which horse won the ‘substitute’ Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2001?
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.