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Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Ten of the best: we look at some of those who have repeated festival success

Truckers Tavern and Davy Russell (extreme left) chase home Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup
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10 Best Mate

Best Mate is the king of those to win the same race on three occasions as he did it in the hardest race of the lot, the Gold Cup. Successive wins from 2002 to 2004 pioneered the lighter modern day campaigns followed by many horses and made him the first horse since Arkle to achieve the feat. Cottage Rake (1948-1950) is another three time Gold Cup hero, while Hatton's Grace (1949-51) and See You Then (1985-1987) won three times at the festival in the Champion Hurdle, Badsworth Boy (1983-1985) is the only three-time winner of the Champion Chase and Stayers' Hurdle hero Inglis Drever, whose three wins were spread over four years.

9 Flyingbolt

In 1966 Flying Bolt became the first horse to win three different races at successive festivals when he added the Champion Chase to his Supreme Novices' and Arkle victories. It is a three-peat Douvan failed to complete last year and Altior is attempting this time around. Vautour (Supreme, JLT and Ryanair) and Bobs Worth (Albert Bartlett, RSA Chase and Gold Cup) are other members of this club.

Flyingbolt and Pat Taaffe head for a 15-length victory in the 1966 Champion Chase at Cheltenham

8 Cause Of Causes

Cause Of Causes not only racked up his three wins in successive years, in three different races (National Hunt Chase, Kim Muir and Cross Country) but he also did so in races below Grade 1 level. Between 1950 and 1954 Arctic Gold won division two of what is now the RSA Chase, yep, division two!, as well as the Cathcart and Kim Muir.

7 Big Buck's

Of the four-time festival winners Big Buck's is the only one to have racked them all up in the same race, with Paul Nicholls' superstar dominating the World Hurdle from 2009 to 2012. In that period, from unseating in the 2008 Hennessy until his injury in 2012, he won 18 straight races including ten Grade 1s and four festival championship races.

6 Willie Wumpkins

Willie Wumpkins is something of a Cheltenham oddity. He won four races at the festival, but he did so in bizarre fashion. He won the Ballymore as a fresh-faced five-year-old in 1973 when trained by Adrian Maxwell. After injuries and a heart problem he moved to Maxwell's aunt Jane Pilkington and at the age of 11 he won the Pertemps for the first time. He did so again in the same race at 12 and 13 to belatedly secure his place in festival folklore.

Willie Wumpkins in action at Cheltenham

5 Sir Ken

Sir Ken was a three-time Champion Hurdle winner, dominating the race from 1952 to 1954. What elevates him above the likes of Hatton's Grace and See You Then was that he then went and won the Arkle in 1956. Persian War, another three-time Champion Hurdler from 1968 to 1970, also deserves a mention in this slightly more rarefied air as he proceeded that string of wins with success in the Triumph Hurdle – but slightly unfortunately for Sir Ken's legacy that was the final year the Triumph was run at the April meeting and thus he has won four festival races but is a three-time festival winner.

4 Istabraq

Like Sir Ken, Istabraq won four times at the Cheltenham Festival. The 1997 Royal Sunalliance Novices' Hurdle winner went on to dominate the Champion Hurdle from 1998 to 2000, however he earns a higher spot by virtue of the rotten luck that cost him the chance to go one better. Heading into the 2001 festival he was still the division's dominant force, winning the Irish Champion Hurdle by four and a half lengths at odds of 4-11, but foot and mouth robbed him of the opportunity to stretch his record to five. That said, you will struggle to find a racing fan who would tell you he was not going to win that race. 

3 Arkle

Arkle heads for victory over Mill House in the 1964 Gold Cup

Arkle is proclaimed by anyone who saw him as the GOAT – that's the greatest of all time – and his festival record would not dissuade you. The 1963 RSA Chase winner, by 20-lengths no less, went back-to-back-to-back in the Gold Cup in the following three years. He beat the previous year's winner Mill House by five lengths in his first Gold Cup, by 20 for his second and he won his third by 30 before injury curtailed his career.

2 Golden Miller

Golden Miller may not be as revered as Arkle, but from 1932 to 1936 he won five Gold Cups – which is simply outrageous behaviour. In 1934, presumably finding the Gold Cup not enough of a test, he won the Grand National as well. The first of those wins came at the age of five and there was no Gold Cup in 1931 due to frost or in 1937 when the race was lost to flooding, but he dominated the period in between.

1 Quevega

Quevega after winning her sixth Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, but she would likely have gone close to winning a World Hurdle during this time

Willie Mullins' wondermare is the winningmost horse in Cheltenham Festival history. Many would have loved to have seen her take on Big Buck's in the World Hurdle, she dominated the Punchestown equivalent for four years, but instead she kept herself to her own sex at Cheltenham and waltzed away with the Mares' Hurdle every year from 2009 to 2014. What's more she won all but the first of those on her seasonal debut after a 300+ day absence.

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Istabraq earns a higher spot by virtue of the rotten luck that cost him the chance to go one better
E.W. Terms
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