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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

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

Norton's Coin and Graham McCourt en route to their 100-1 Gold Cup victory
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1924 Red Splash

The first 'modern' Gold Cup provided one of the most thrilling finishes the race would see, with three horses – Red Splash, Conjuror and Gerald L – landing in unison over the final fence. Red Splash was away the swiftest and maintained his slender advantage to the line, pipping Conjuror by a head with Gerald L a neck away in third.

1935 Golden Miller

The great five-time winner Golden Miller was never pushed as hard as in his fourth year, when he and the high-class Thomond locked horns from the back of the third last and gave no quarter until the Miller nosed ahead 100 yards out, his stamina seeing him home by three-quarters of a length.

Dorothy Paget leads in her five-time Gold Cup winner Golden Miller

1951 Silver Fame

The elderly Silver Fame – he was 12 – showed no sign of age wearying him as he fought out a terrific duel with Greenogue, winning the race on the 'bob' by a short head. No photo-finish cameras in those days, and many thought that Greenogue had won, but the judge – backed up by the racecourse manager – ruled in favour of the hot favourite.

1960 Pas Seul

Pas Seul was a 'good big 'un' and Lochroe a 'good littl'un', and we know what usually happens there, but halfway up the hill Lochroe was three-parts of a length up and keeping on strongly. Then Bill Rees asked Pas Seul for all he had and got a hearty response, Pas Seul hunted down the front-runner, passed him and stormed away to win by a widening length.

1964 Arkle

This was not close, but in terms of a battle of words and deeds there have been none more gripping or decisive. The unbeatable Mill House and the unbeatable Arkle met in a Gold Cup where something had to give. On the run to the final fence Arkle delivered the most stunning coup de grace ever seen at Cheltenham, leaving the mighty Mill House toiling five lengths adrift without seeming to exert himself overmuch. It changed the racing world.

1973 The Dikler

Pendil was going to win this Gold Cup, that was certain. He was the best horse in the land, fleet of foot, springy of heel, aristocratic of class. But when he had to face the final hill alone he was found wanting. The Dikler caught him halfway to home and for all Pendil's gallant tenacity his rival was the better stayer, and stayed in front to steal the race by a short head.

1989 Desert Orchid

The grey horse had battles to fight on more than one front – against the horribly soft ground, his dislike for right-handed tracks, and over the last two fences against the dour stayer Yahoo. He saw them all off one by one, reaching deep into his huge reserves to eyeball Yahoo on the run-in and inexorably pull away, the muddy marvel prevailing in a race voted by Racing Post readers to be the greatest of all.

1990 Norton's Coin

100-1 shots don't win the Gold Cup. Norton's Coin was bizarrely overpriced, though, and when the gloves came off after the final fence he had the knockout blow in store. Toby Tobias had first run but the outsider ground him down, poking his head in front 100 yards out and keeping it there to shock the sport by three-quarters of a length.

1992 Cool Ground

Once again three horses jumped the last as one – Cool Ground, The Fellow and Docklands Express. The latter gave way first but Cool Ground and The Fellow went hammer and tongs all the way to the line, with an inspired Adrian Maguire driving the 25-1 outsider to a short-head victory that was not enhanced by some very poor BBC camerawork.

Cool Ground (right) wins the 1992 Gold Cup in a driving finish from The Fellow and Docklands Express

2014 Lord Windermere

It would take more than a paragraph to illustrate the shenanigans that went on after the final fence. Six jumped the last with claims, but Silviniaco Conti threw his chance away by drifting and it was left to Lord Windermere – whose erratic progress prompted a stewards' inquiry that may not have come to the right conclusion – to hang on grimly by a short head from On His Own, with The Giant Bolster just three-quarters of a length back in third.

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Arkle delivered the most stunning coup de grace ever seen at Cheltenham. It changed the racing world
E.W. Terms
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