Cheltenham Legends and Iconic Horses

The Golden Era: A Look Back at Arkle's Reign

The mid-1960s witnessed the zenith of steeplechasing glory through the extraordinary feats of Arkle, a name that resonates with dominance and excellence in the world of National Hunt racing. Arkle's reign is often referred to as the 'Golden Era' of Cheltenham, marking a period where this Irish thoroughbred captivated the hearts of racing enthusiasts with unparalleled prowess. Owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, Arkle became a national treasure, not just for his physical attributes and racing skill, but for his charismatic personality and the profound impact he had on the sport.

Arkle's legacy at Cheltenham is indelible, primarily due to his three consecutive Gold Cup victories from 1964 to 1966. These triumphs were not mere wins; they were emphatic statements of superiority, often leaving formidable competitors struggling in his wake. His performances set a benchmark for excellence, elevating the status of the Cheltenham Festival itself. Arkle's racing style, characterized by his remarkable stamina and fearless jumping ability, revolutionized the approach to steeplechase training and strategy. His impact extended beyond the racetrack, contributing significantly to the popularity and global recognition of the Cheltenham Festival.

Dawn of a Dynasty: The Story of Best Mate's Three Gold Cup Victories

Best Mate's narrative is one of consistency, elegance, and an indomitable spirit, culminating in a trilogy of Gold Cup victories that carved his name into Cheltenham folklore. Trained by Henrietta Knight and owned by Jim Lewis, Best Mate's journey to greatness was marked by meticulous preparation and an innate understanding between horse and handler, illustrating the symbiotic relationship that can exist in the competitive world of horse racing.

  • 2002 Victory: Best Mate's first Gold Cup win was a testament to strategic racing and stamina. Under the guidance of jockey Jim Culloty, he showcased his exceptional jumping ability and tactical speed, asserting his dominance in the closing stages of the race.
  • 2003 Triumph: Facing harsh weather conditions and a strong field, Best Mate's second victory was characterized by resilience and adaptability. His performance underlined his versatility and the effective training regime that honed his natural talent.
  • 2004 Conquest: Completing the hat-trick, Best Mate's final Gold Cup victory was perhaps his most memorable. Amidst high expectations and intense pressure, he delivered a flawless run, securing his legacy as one of the greatest to grace the Cheltenham turf.

Best Mate's achievements transcended the sport, capturing the public's imagination and earning him a place in the pantheon of racing legends. His legacy is not merely defined by the races he won but by the grace with which he competed, embodying the spirit of Cheltenham and etching an indelible mark on its history.

The Queen of Cheltenham: Dawn Run's Historic Triumph

Dawn Run's place among Cheltenham Legends is not only warranted but is also emblematic of her unique status in the annals of jump racing history. As the only horse to have won both the Champion Hurdle (1984) and the Gold Cup (1986), her achievements transcend typical racing accomplishments, highlighting a versatility and resilience seldom seen in the sport. Trained by Paddy Mullins and owned by Charmian Hill, Dawn Run's career was a series of extraordinary performances that captured the imagination of racing fans across Britain and Ireland.

Her historic Gold Cup victory remains one of the most thrilling moments in Cheltenham history. Coming from behind in a nail-biting finish, she demonstrated not just her exceptional stamina and jumping ability but also an indomitable will to win. This victory was not just a triumph but a testament to her fighting spirit, securing her status as the 'Queen of Cheltenham'. Dawn Run's legacy is celebrated not only for her unparalleled achievements but also for the emotional resonance of her victories, which embodied the passion and drama of National Hunt racing.

The Unbeaten Legend: Sprinter Sacre's Spectacular Career

Sprinter Sacre, dubbed the "Black Aeroplane," carved out a legendary status that places him firmly among the pantheon of Cheltenham Legends. His career was a spectacle of brilliance, marked by a series of performances that redefined the expectations for a two-mile chaser. Trained by Nicky Henderson, Sprinter Sacre's dominance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with victories in 2013 and 2016, showcased not just his exceptional speed and agility but also his compelling comeback from health issues, illustrating the heart of a true champion.

  • 2013 Champion Chase: This victory was a display of Sprinter Sacre's unmatched speed and jumping precision, leaving competitors and spectators alike in awe of his performance.
  • Health Challenges: After a dominant start to his career, Sprinter Sacre faced significant health challenges that sidelined him, casting doubts on his return to top form.
  • 2016 Comeback Victory: Defying odds and expectations, Sprinter Sacre's triumphant return to win the 2016 Champion Chase was a moment of sheer emotional and sporting significance, highlighting resilience and determination that are the hallmarks of true greatness.

Sprinter Sacre's impact on Cheltenham and the world of horse racing extends beyond his victories. His career, characterized by breathtaking performances and a compelling narrative of resilience, has cemented his status as an unforgettable legend in the sport's history.

Kauto Star: A Dual Gold Cup Hero's Legacy

Kauto Star's name is synonymous with versatility, resilience, and brilliance, making him one of the most celebrated Cheltenham Legends in the history of the festival. Trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Clive Smith, Kauto Star's legacy at Cheltenham is marked by his unprecedented achievement of regaining the Gold Cup in 2009 after having first won it in 2007. This feat highlighted not just his exceptional talent but also his enduring quality and competitiveness over years, a rare attribute in the demanding sphere of National Hunt racing.

Kauto Star's journey at Cheltenham was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the euphoria of victories to the heartache of defeats, each moment adding to the tapestry of his storied career. His ability to compete at the highest level across various distances and disciplines, including winning the King George VI Chase a record five times, set him apart as a versatile champion. Kauto Star's legacy is not just defined by his victories but also by the way he captured the imagination of the racing public, becoming a household name and a symbol of excellence and resilience in the sport.

The Rise of Modern Champions: Al Boum Photo's Back-to-Back Wins

Al Boum Photo's consecutive Gold Cup victories in 2019 and 2020 solidified his status as one of the modern Cheltenham Legends, showcasing the emergence of contemporary champions in the revered festival's narrative. Trained by Willie Mullins, a trainer with a prolific record at Cheltenham, Al Boum Photo's success marked a significant milestone for the team, delivering Mullins his first Gold Cup victory after several near misses.

  • 2019 Victory: Breaking through the competitive field, Al Boum Photo's win was a masterclass in stamina and jumping precision. Guided by jockey Paul Townend, the horse navigated the challenging course with aplomb, securing a memorable victory that signified the culmination of years of preparation and dedication.
  • 2020 Triumph: Defending his title, Al Boum Photo's performance was a testament to consistency and excellence. Amidst the heightened expectations and the pressure of being the reigning champion, he demonstrated exceptional focus and skill to claim victory once again, etching his name among the greats of the sport.

Al Boum Photo's back-to-back Gold Cup wins are not just a reflection of his individual talent but also signify the evolution of horse racing, where modern training techniques, management, and strategy converge to produce champions that can dominate the demanding Cheltenham stage. His achievements underscore the dynamic nature of National Hunt racing, where new legends rise to challenge the old, continually enriching the festival's illustrious history.

The Rise of Modern Champions: Al Boum Photo's Back-to-Back Wins

The Enduring Legacy of Desert Orchid: A Versatile Champion

Desert Orchid's name is synonymous with versatility and resilience, qualities that have firmly established him as one of the Cheltenham Legends. His striking grey coat and daring racing style captured the public's imagination, making 'Dessie' a household name beyond the confines of racing aficionados. His career was marked by a remarkable ability to succeed across various distances and conditions, showcasing an adaptability that is rare among high-calibre racehorses.

Desert Orchid's most memorable moment at Cheltenham came with his victory in the 1989 Gold Cup. Against all odds, and in conditions far from ideal for a horse known to prefer firmer ground, Dessie demonstrated heart and determination to win one of the most prestigious races in the National Hunt calendar. This victory was a testament to his fighting spirit and has become a defining moment in Gold Cup history, celebrating the courage and tenacity of one of the most beloved horses in the sport.

The Unforgettable Comeback: Norton's Coin 1990 Gold Cup Upset

Norton's Coin's Gold Cup victory in 1990 is one of the most remarkable tales of underdog triumph in the history of horse racing, solidifying its place among the Cheltenham Legends. Trained by Sirrel Griffiths, a dairy farmer and relatively unknown in the racing world, Norton's Coin was given odds of 100-1. His victory stands as a testament to the unpredictability of horse racing, where determination, strategy, and a bit of luck can lead to historic outcomes.

The significance of Norton's Coin's win cannot be overstated. It was not just an upset but a fairy-tale story that captured the essence of what makes the Cheltenham Festival so special. This triumph against the odds highlighted the open nature of racing at Cheltenham, where champions can come from anywhere, transcending expectations to achieve greatness. Norton's Coin's victory is remembered not only for the shock it caused but also for the hope it symbolises for trainers, jockeys, and owners dreaming of Cheltenham glory.

Tiger Roll: Dominance Beyond the Grand National

Tiger Roll's name is often first associated with his extraordinary achievements in the Grand National, yet his accomplishments extend far beyond Aintree, solidifying his status among the Cheltenham Legends. His versatility and excellence are perhaps best demonstrated by his multiple triumphs at the Cheltenham Festival, where he showcased an unparalleled adaptability across different race formats and conditions.

  • Triumph Hurdle Victory: Tiger Roll announced his arrival on the big stage with a win in the Triumph Hurdle in 2014, a race known for its testing of young hurdling talent.
  • Cross Country Chase Dominance: He later mastered the unique challenges of the Cross Country Chase, winning the event three times. These victories highlighted his exceptional stamina and agility, traits that are crucial for the varied terrains and obstacles of this event.

Tiger Roll's legacy at Cheltenham is a testament to his extraordinary career, marked by a rare combination of durability, skill, and competitive spirit. His success across different types of races at the Festival underscores the breadth of his talent and his place in the pantheon of racing greats.

The Iron Horse: Denman's Power and Resilience

Denman, affectionately known as 'The Iron Horse', epitomises the essence of power and resilience, earning him a revered spot among Cheltenham Legends. His formidable presence on the racetrack, coupled with a relentless racing style, endeared him to fans and made him a symbol of strength in the National Hunt racing community.

Denman's crowning glory came with his victory in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race that showcased his incredible stamina and determination. Battling against a highly competitive field, Denman's performance was a masterclass in endurance and power, as he led from the front to secure a memorable win. This victory was not just a testament to his physical capabilities but also to the meticulous preparation by his trainer, Paul Nicholls, and the perfect execution by jockey Sam Thomas.

Beyond the Gold Cup, Denman's career was marked by consistency and bravery, with notable performances across several seasons despite facing significant health challenges. His battles with stablemate Kauto Star created one of the most riveting rivalries in the sport, captivating audiences and elevating the prestige of the races they contested. Denman's legacy is defined by his indomitable spirit, his contributions to one of racing's greatest narratives, and his enduring influence on the Cheltenham Festival.

The Iron Horse: Denman's Power and Resilience

Pioneering Speed: Moscow Flyer's Jump Racing Mastery

Moscow Flyer stands out as a paragon of jump racing, a horse whose name is forever etched among the Cheltenham Legends due to his breathtaking speed and precision. Trained by Jessica Harrington, Moscow Flyer had a career that was characterised by dominance in the two-mile chasing division, a testament to his extraordinary ability to combine speed with flawless jumping technique. His performances at Cheltenham, particularly his victories in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, are emblematic of his brilliance and have cemented his legacy as one of the finest jumpers of his generation.

Notably, Moscow Flyer's success was not merely a product of his physical gifts but also of the deep connection he shared with his jockey, Barry Geraghty. Together, they formed an almost unbeatable partnership, with Geraghty's tactical nous complementing Moscow Flyer's natural talent. Their victories at Cheltenham were more than just wins; they were masterclasses in jump racing, showcasing the horse's impeccable timing and the sheer joy he brought to the sport. Moscow Flyer's career is a tribute to the pinnacle of equine athleticism and the thrilling spectacle that is National Hunt racing.

Future Legends: Emerging Stars at Cheltenham

As the Cheltenham Festival continues to grow in stature, it remains a proving ground for the next generation of stars, with several emerging talents already hinting at their potential to join the ranks of the Cheltenham Legends. The Festival's unique challenges and competitive fields offer a glimpse into the future of jump racing, highlighting horses that possess the talent and heart to leave their mark on this storied event.

  • Envoi Allen: Already a name synonymous with potential and promise, Envoi Allen has demonstrated versatility and class across his early appearances at Cheltenham, capturing attention with his effortless jumping and racing intelligence.
  • Shishkin: Another horse making waves is Shishkin, whose performances in the novice chasing division have showcased a blend of speed, agility, and determination, marking him as a potential future legend of the Festival.

These emerging stars are not just the future of Cheltenham; they are the future of jump racing, embodying the spirit, talent, and resilience that the sport celebrates. With each Festival, they have the opportunity to build upon their legacies, aspiring to the heights reached by the legends that have come before them. Their journeys are a testament to the enduring allure of Cheltenham, a stage where heroes are made and legends are born.


The legacy of Cheltenham is woven from the tales of its legends and the iconic horses that have graced its hallowed grounds. From the unparalleled dominance of Arkle to the contemporary exploits of future stars, the Festival stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of National Hunt racing. Each year, Cheltenham not only celebrates the achievements of its past heroes but also sets the stage for new legends to emerge, ensuring that the tradition of excellence and competition continues to thrive.