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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Corinthian spirit: the amateur jockeys who beat the professionals

Golden Cygnet: an armchair ride for 'Boots' Madden
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1 Mr Niall 'Boots' Madden

It was a marvellous meeting for the young Irishman in 1978, when he got off to a scintillating start aboard the odds-on Golden Cygnet in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He doubled up at the other end of the meeting when driving home Flame Gun – trained like Golden Cygnet by Edward O'Grady – in the Stayers' Hurdle.

2 Mr Oliver Sherwood

On his first ride at the festival and partnering his father's wonderful and well-fancied campaigner Venture To Cognac, trained by his boss Fred Winter, he made the best of his way home against 28 rivals in the 1979 Sun Alliance Hurdle. He would within a decade win the same race as a trainer with The West Awake and Rebel Song.

3 Mr Ted Walsh

The trainer-broadcaster got his name on the scoresheet when winning the 1979 Champion Chase on the Peter McCreery-trained Hilly Way, who had also won the race the previous year under Tommy Carmody. Walsh's daughter Katie also won at the festival against the professionals in the 2010 County Hurdle, riding Thousand Stars.

Ted Walsh: TV pundit was a top amateur in his day

4 Mr Jim Wilson

His name will always be associated with the one-off Willie Wumpkins, on whom he won the Coral Golden Hurdle Final three years running (1979-81), but he is also one of the few amateurs to have his name on the Gold Cup roll of honour after winning in 1981 on Little Owl. To add to his laurels, he was the meeting's top jockey in 1980 when his victories also included the Ultima equivalent with Again The Same.

Willie Wumpkins: unique festival favourite was ridden by Jim Wilson

5 Mr Colin Magnier

The 1982 Champion Hurdle was nothing like a vintage rendition of the race, and moreover it was run in a quagmire, and even more moreover the favourite Daring Run slipped up after the fourth-last. It was wide open for an upset and 40-1 chance For Auction provided it, scampering home by seven lengths under only the third amateur ever to win the championship contest.

6 Mr Dermot Browne

Infamous for his role as the doping 'Needleman', he may have contributed to Browne's Gazette's defeat in the 1985 Champion Hurdle when he was left at the start, but 12 months earlier he rode the same horse to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for trainer Michael Dickinson. He added to his haul aboard The Mighty Mac in the now-discontinued Cathcart on the final day of the meeting.

7 Mr Ronnie Beggan

As a professional he won the 1986 Arkle Trophy on Oregon Trail, but 12 months earlier he won the opener on the second day, the Sun Alliance Hurdle, on Asir. The quietly fancied five-year-old raced for connections better known for their successes on the Flat, trainer Paul Kelleway and owner Prince Yazid Saud.

8 Miss Gee Armytage

Not the first woman to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival – that was Caroline Beasley on Eliogarty in the 1983 Foxhunter – but the first to do so against professionals, she partnered 33-1 chance Gee-A, trained by Geoff Hubbard, to victory in the 1987 Mildmay of Flete Handicap Chase.

9 Miss Nina Carberry

The fourth member of her remarkable family to ride winners at the festival – her father Tommy and brothers Paul and Philip have also done so – she rode the Paul Nolan-trained Dabiroun to victory in the inaugural running of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2005.

Nina Carberry: her first festival winner came on Dabiroun in the 2005 Fred Winter

10 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

Won against professionals in the 2005 Mildmay of Flete on the mare Liberthine and the 2013 Rewards 4 Racing Novices' Handicap Chase on Rajdhani Express, but left his biggest mark on the meeting in 2011 when becoming the first amateur to win the Gold Cup since the aforementioned Jim Wilson and only the fourth ever, emerging victorious aboard his father's Long Run.

Long Run and Sam Waley-Cohen: brilliant winners of the Gold Cup

If you enjoyed this, you might like: 

Suits you: the Cheltenham Festival winners who lived up to their names

Creme de la creme of the Cheltenham Festival: ten epic Gold Cup clashes


His name will always be associated with Willie Wumpkins, but he is also one of the few amateurs to have his name on the Gold Cup roll of honour
E.W. Terms
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