Which Horses Have Recorded the Fastest Gold Cup Times?

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is regarded as one of the ultimate tests of stamina in horse racing. Not only must horses tackle over 3 miles of course and 22 fences; they must also battle an energy-sapping uphill finish to claim the prize. Moreover, they must do this in the company of the best long-distance chasers in the business.

We know, of course, that winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup is an incredible feat, but what about doing so in record time? Due to the different tactics employed and the impact of the ground, horse racing doesn’t look at finishing times in the same manner as, say, Olympic sprinting. Nevertheless, it’s pretty impressive when a horse goes hell for leather in a race designed to defeat those without true stamina.

Below we are going to look at some of those fastest and most-notable Gold Cup times. MansionBet has a quiz on the most-recent Gold Cup winners if you want to refresh your memory on the subject, but we are going to examine the fastest winners of the biggest prize jumps racing.

Poet Prince Holds the Old Course Record

The record finishing time actually goes to a little-known horse, Poet Prince, who clocked in at an incredible 6:15.60 in 1941. This was run on the Old Course at Cheltenham, and the 1941 renewal was not seen as a quality race for various reasons, including the fact that the Second World War was casting a shadow over proceedings. Still, Poet Prince, owned by the legendary Dorothy Paget, will always have this claim to fame.

In 2011, Long Run became the first horse to complete the race on the New Course in under six and a half minutes, clocking in at 6:29.70. When you think about it, Long Run almost had to do it quicker than usual as he faced a field containing Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander. In the end, Nicky Henderson’s 6-year-old finished 7 lengths ahead of Denman, completing the quickest Gold Cup time for the New Course (since 1959).

Other horses have come pretty close to breaking the 6:30 mark before. The closest before Long Run and Poet Prince was none other than Golden Miller in 1935, who clocked in at 6:30.00 exactly when winning his fourth Gold Cup. Golden Miller only squeezed home by ¾ of a length ahead of Thomond II and 5 lengths ahead of Kellsboro’ Jack. So, you’d imagine that both of those horses did enough in terms of time to win a Gold Cup in a normal year. It’s just unfortunate that their careers coincided with that of one of the greatest in history.

L’Escargot Crawled Home in 1971

Generally speaking, the times have got faster over the years. Over seven minutes was the norm in the early years. Easter Hero was the first to break the seven-minute mark when winning in 1929 with a time of 6:57.00. Once the switch to the New Course happened in 1959, clocking times of between 6:30 and 7:00 seemed to be the norm, with a few exceptions.

As for the slowest Gold Cup winner? It’s the aptly named L’Escargot, who finished the race in 8:00.60 in 1971. Remarkably, L’Escargot was a considerable distance ahead of the field. The time was a full one minute 15 seconds longer than L’Escargot’s 1970 victory. As for the last winner? Al Boum Photo clocked in at 6:50.38 when taking his second Gold Cup in March 2020.