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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Near misses: the most heroic Cheltenham Festival defeats

Your extra dose of Cheltenham Festival buzz

Special Tiara (right) pips Fox Norton in the 2017 Champion Chase
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Fox Norton, 2017 Queen Mother Champion Chase

The total eclipse of odds-on Douvan dominated the headlines after last year's Champion Chase, but that was unfair on Special Tiara and Fox Norton, who served up a memorable finish.

Trained by Colin Tizzard, Fox Norton got outpaced after three out but made relentless progress after turning for home. Stretching every sinew, he was closing all the way up the hill, but the line came just too soon and he was beaten a head. The Ryanair may suit him better next month.


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Top Notch, 2015 Triumph Hurdle

Nicky Henderson trained the first three in this Triumph Hurdle and Top Notch went down fighting when headed by first-string Peace And Co in the last 100 yards, being beaten only a neck in a thrilling duel between the Munir/Souede horses.

In danger of being overshadowed among his stable's stars, Top Notch has since been fifth in the Champion Hurdle and second in the JLT Novices' Chase, and is now fancied for a first festival victory in the Ryanair Chase.

Monet's Garden, 2006 Arkle Chase

During his long career Monet's Garden became renowned for his guts and determination, and ran his heart out even when faced with a superior rival. He made most of the running in the Arkle and, after being headed by Voy Por Ustedes at the final fence, battled on to hold that subsequent Champion Chase winner to a length and a quarter.

Monet's Garden (left) and Voy Por Ustedes cross the line in the 2006 Arkle

The grey thus matched the courage and Arkle placing of another star of the Richards stable, the ill-fated Noddy's Ryde, who was beaten in a famous duel with Bobsline in 1984.

Mysilv, 1996 Stayers' Hurdle

If the Stayers' Hurdle had been Mysilv's sole target at the 1996 festival, she might have won it instead of finishing a close second, but it is possible she was feeling the effects of her sixth place in the Champion Hurdle two days before.

Even so, the Charles Egerton-trained former Triumph Hurdle winner showed her usual gameness in her first run at 3m and it was not until the last 100 yards that Cyborgo edged past her to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Mayotte, 1983 Stayers' Hurdle

The game mare Mayotte put in a sustained challenge in a sub-standard Stayers' Hurdle but, after being switched on the run-in, could not quite reach 50-1 outsider A Kinsman, who beat her by three-quarters of a length.

Trained by Richard Holder, Mayotte was on the small side and had to meet her male rivals at level weights. The sex allowance over jumps was not introduced until the next season, when Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle.

Summerville, 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup

In a Gold Cup to forget, the first two favourites departed after the ninth fence when the great hurdler Lanzarote slipped up (sustaining fatal injuries) and brought down Bannow Rambler.

Jim Joel's Summerville, an outsider whose best days had seemed behind him, was in the lead and going like a winner turning for home under Jeff King, but he then broke down. He bravely struggled home in third place behind Davy Lad and Tied Cottage, but never ran again.

Kinloch Brae, 1972 Kim Muir Memorial Chase

Unsung hero Kinloch Brae was the champion chaser of 1969-70 and would probably have justified favouritism in the Gold Cup had he not fallen when in the lead and going strongly three out.

Two seasons later he was past his best and ran in the Kim Muir. He led for much of the way, but on the run-in his crushing burden of 12st 7lb took its toll and he had to give best to The Ghost. Top weight in the race is now 11st 12lb.

Baulking Green, 1968 United Hunts' Chase

When attempting a fifth victory in the United Hunts' Chase, 15-year-old Baulking Green helped to set the pace but looked beaten in third place at the final fence. The old warrior – the first good horse trained by Tim Forster – refused to give in and put in a storming late rally, but the post came a stride or two too soon for his many fans and Snowdra Queen held him off by a head.

Jackie Brutton's Snowdra Queen had also won the race in 1966, becoming the first winner of any race in Britain to be officially trained by a woman.

Stroller, 1955 Champion Hurdle

The finish of this Champion Hurdle was fought out by two outstanding horses and jockeys, as Stroller (TP Burns) headed Clair Soleil (Fred Winter) on the final hill but, in a desperate scrap, just had to give best as his rival rallied close home; the margin was a head.

Trained by Vincent O'Brien, Stroller proved himself a champion the following year with an equally gutsy victory in the Spa (now Stayers') Hurdle.

Ferrans, 1939 Newent Selling Chase

The record for the oldest horse ever to win at the Cheltenham Festival was equalled by 15-year-old Ferrans in the opening Newent Selling Chase in 1937, and he went close to beating it at the age of 17 in the same race in 1939.

One of racing's old friends, Ferrans was running at his seventh consecutive festival and would have won the handicap again had he not carried a penalty; he came second, beaten a length and a half by Pendragon.


If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Pietro Innocenzi's essential betting tips for the Cheltenham Festival

Beware the Irish banker: five good things who failed to fire at the festival

Rating the bankers – the festival favourites the figures suggest we should back

One of racing's old friends, Ferrans was running at his seventh consecutive festival and would have won the handicap again but for carrying a penalty
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