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Cool Dawn team pay tribute after death of Gold Cup hero at age of 30

Cool Dawn (left) jumps the last alongside Strong Promise in the 1998 Gold Cup
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Cool Dawn, who provided a memorable rags-to-riches Gold Cup success for jockey Andrew Thornton, trainer Robert Alner and owner Dido Harding 20 years ago, has died at the age of 30.

Bought by then 24-year-old Harding from an extension on her business school loan, Cool Dawn won five of his 12 points and finished second in the 1996 Foxhunter at Cheltenham with his owner in the saddle.

After missing a year through injury, he struck up a fine partnership with Thornton, winning three times at Ascot before making all in the Gold Cup as a 25-1 shot, holding off the strong travelling Strong Promise and the favourite Dorans Pride.

Cool Dawn spent his retirement hunting with his owner, now Baroness Harding, who said: "When I spoke to Andrew about him I said there aren't many horses that give you 17 consecutive seasons hunting. He was an awesome hunter, it was a bit like taking a Formula One car for a tootle on the motorway.

"I actually took him out three weeks before the Gold Cup and he jumped a barbed-wire fence. Robert wasn't very happy with me and I was sent home pretty soon afterwards, but Dawn just loved it.

"He was a bit of an alpha male, loved being the head of the pack, but he was a quirky horse and he might not have taken so well to the routine of a conventional big yard."

She added: "I used to get called 'the passenger' in MacKenzie and Selby when I pointed him and it's true I couldn't hold on to him. Maybe that's why he was so headstrong."

Dido Harding: 'The enormity of it just didn't sink in at the time'
Harding, who is a former CEO of telecomms firm TalkTalk and now chairs NHS Improvement, reflected: "What Dawn gave me in my 20s and 30s was proof that no dream is too big. You have to take the chance in life and I still sometimes emphasise that when I give business talks: dreams can come true, because they did for me."
Cool Dawn with his trainer, Robert Alner


His jumping won it: jockey Andrew Thornton relives the 1998 Gold Cup in his own words

The first day I rode Cool Dawn at Ascot, my agent Dave Roberts rang to tell me he was carrying 10st, and I could only do 10st 2lb. I told Robert and he said if I could do 10st 2lb I could ride him. It was a stretch for me, even then, but I'd have regretted it for the rest of my life if I hadn't.

As it happened, I very nearly put him on the floor at the last there. Dido told me if I'd come off she'd have taken the ride back!

They say it's difficult to make all in a Gold Cup, but I reckon three times in 20 years [Coneygree and Native River] isn't bad going. We went over the first couple and I heard Adrian Maguire, who was on Barton Bank, say, 'We're going quick enough here.' I got an easy lead after that.

I was remembering what John Francome told me about riding at Cheltenham: give them a breather after the last ditch for 100 yards then kick on down the hill. He absolutely flew five out for me and every fence from there. His jumping won it.

Norman Williamson got upsides me on Strong Promise, but never past me. I was glad when I saw it was him, because his was a three-miler and all Cool Dawn did was stay. If you watch the replay, he puts himself right at the last, just changes legs four strides from the fence. He was so clever. I rode him about six times, he made just three mistakes and two were my fault.

It would be the highlight of my career, no doubt, the highlight of any jockey's. For pure emotion, when Miko De Beauchene won the Welsh National when Robert was in hospital would have been up there, but the Gold Cup is just the ultimate. 


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He was an awesome hunter, it was a bit like taking a Formula One car for a tootle on the motorway
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