Cheltenham Gold Cup 2015

The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup had the distinction of being the last to feature A.P. McCoy, who retired after the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown the following month. Sadly, there was to be no ‘last hurrah’ for the perennial champion jockey, who never threatened aboard 12/1 chance Carlingford Lough and trailed in ninth of the eleven finishers, beaten 28 lengths.

Coincidentally, 10/1 fifth choice in the betting market, Djakadam, was trained by another perennial champion, Willie Mullins, who also saddled On His Own and Boston Bob in an attempt to win the ‘Blue Riband’ event for the first time. However, like McCoy, the Co. Carlow handler – who was, and still is, the dominant force in Irish National Hunt force – was out of luck and, not for the first time in his career, had to settle for second place. Silviniaco Conti, trained by Paul Nicholls, officially had 7lb and upwards in hand of his rivals and looked a worthy favourite, at 3/1, after taking an unlucky fall in the 2013 renewal and finishing a close fourth in 2014.

Nevertheless, the ‘big guns’ were upstaged by the eight year-old, Coneygree, trained in the smaller, more traditional yard of Mark Bradstock, near Wantage, Oxfordshire and having his first season over fences. Despite his inexperience, Coneygree was soon at the head of affairs, jumping well under his regular partner Nico De Boinville, and made all the running to win by 1½ lengths. Djakadam stayed on to go second on the run-in and Road To Riches, trained by Noel Meade, finished third, a further 2 lengths away.

Winning trainer Mark Bradstock, who is the son-in-law of the late John Lawrence, a.k.a. Lord Oaksey, who bred Coneygree, described the victory as ‘wonderful’. In fact, Coneygree became the first novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since the seven-year-old Captain Christy, trained by Pat Taaffe, in 1974.

2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup

The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured the defending champion, Bobs Worth, who was sent off 6/4 favourite, ahead of Silviniaco Conti, a seemingly unlucky loser in the 2015 renewal, at 11/4, and the remainder of the 13-strong field available at 15/2 or longer. The start of the race was dramatic enough, with the runners only sent on their way at the third time of asking, but the finish – and the subsequent, televised stewards’ enquiry – was even more so, not to mention deeply controversial in the eyes of some observers.

The market leaders filled the first two places jumping the final fence, but it was all change on the run-in as first Silviniaco Conti and then Bobs Worth – who was, apparently, distracted by a security guard in a yellow, high visibility jacket, causing him to become unbalanced – wandered on the flat. Having been completely outpaced in the early stages, Lord Windermere appeared to be in a hopeless position between the second-last and third-last fences, but made up ground hand over first thereafter and was on the heels of the leaders jumping the final fence. The eight-year-old continued his progress but, while he took the lead inside the final half-a-furlong or so he, too, hung left, carrying the placed horses, On His Own and The Giant Bolster, across the course towards the stands rail.

Lord Windermere, only seventh choice in the betting market at 20/1, passed the post with just a short head and three-quarters of a length in hand of On His Own and The Giant Bolster. A stewards’ enquiry ensued and, after 15 minutes’ deliberation, the result was allowed to stand, despite stewards’ secretary Paul Barton stating afterwards that, ‘There was interference, without a doubt…’ Consequently, winning trainer Jim Culloty – probably still best known as the jockey of Best Mate – became the latest of just five men to ride and saddle a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.

2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup

The 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured eight runners but was, nevertheless, a ‘tight’ betting heat. Despite the prevailing soft going, about which trainer Nicky Henderson had previously expressed his concern, Bobs Worth was sent off 11/4 favourite, but was closely in the betting by stable companion Long Run, at 7/2, and Silviniaco Conti and Sir Des Champs, both at 4/1. Bobs Worth had readily beaten Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant by 3¼ lengths and 5 lengths in the Hennessy Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury the previous December and looked a worthy favourite.

Indeed, the betting market proved to an accurate guide, because the market leaders – with the exception of Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti, who fell at the third-last fence when still travelling well within himself – dominated the finish. King George VI Chase winner Long Run and Irish Hennessy Gold Cup winner Sir Des Champs led the field turning for home and, hampered by the departure of Silviniaco Conti, Bobs Worth was driven along and 8 lengths down on the run to the second-last fence.

However, galvanised by jockey Barry Geraghty, the favourite produced a strong run to lead between the final two fences and gamely forged clear in the final half-a-furlong or so to win by 7 lengths. Sir Des Champs rallied on the run-in, but could make no real impression on the winner in the closing stages, although he did enough to finish second, 2¾ lengths ahead of Long Run, who could also find no extra.

Of course, Bobs Worth was winning at the Cheltenham Festival for the third year running, having collected the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2011 and the RSA Chase in 2012. Winning jockey Barry Geraghty praised Bobs Worth for his ‘great attitude’ and, on his retirement from racing three years later, winning trainer Nicky Henderson called him ‘an absolute legend’.

2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup

The 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured the defending champion, Long Run, who was sent off 7/4 favourite, and two-time winner Kauto Star, by now a twelve-year-old and making what turned out to be his final racecourse appearance, who was sent off 3/1 second favourite. Kauto Star, though, ran no sort of race on his fourth and final attempt to win a third Gold Cup, weakening after a mistake at the eighth fence and being pulled up before halfway in the 3 mile 2½-furlong contest.

Long Run, on the other hand, made a bold bid to retain his title. Despite hitting the third-last and second-last fences, the seven-year-old was driven to challenge at the final obstacle and, although he could on keep on at one pace under pressure in the closing stages, finished an honourable third, beaten a total of just 3 lengths.

Victory went to the Lexus Chase winner, Synchronised, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by A.P. McCoy, at 8/1. O’Neill later admitted that, ‘Our big worry was keeping him in the race’ but, despite several jumping errors, the nine-year-old rallied from an unpromising position turning for home to emerge as a potent threat at the final fence. Under a vintage McCoy drive, Synchronised tackled the leader, The Giant Bolster, early on the run-in and kept on gamely to win by 2¼ lengths. The Giant Bolster, trained by David Bridgwater and ridden by Tom Scudamore, belied odds of 50/1 to finish a rallying second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Long Run.

Less than a month later, Synchronised attempted to become the first horse since the legendary Golden Miller, in 1934, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season. Sadly there was no fairytale ending; Synchronised initially fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, but took another, fatal, fall at the eleventh fences when running loose.

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