The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most prized events in the Great British horse racing calendar and takes place in March each year at the Cheltenham Festival.
It is a Grade I National Hunt race that takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse, over a distance of about 3 miles and 2.5 furlongs with 22 fences to be jumped.
The roll of honour features names such as Arkle, Kauto Star and Denman and is the most valuable non-handicap chase in Britain, with the 2020 total prize fund of £625,000.
First ran in 1924, here are the quickest winners of the event:
1. Poet Prince (1941) – 6:15.6
The quickest the Cheltenham Gold Cup has ever been run took place during World War II when Poet Prince, ridden by Roger Burford, and trained by Ivor Anthony cleared the field of 10 horses by three lengths to take home the trophy at the sixteenth edition of the race.
Poet Prince had looked good early in its racing career prior to winning the Stanley Chase at Aintree in the spring of 1940. And although he had success at the course, he never actually contested the Grand National.
The Gold Cup the following year would prove to be his biggest success. Although Burford jockeyed Poet Prince to victory on 20 March 1941, it was only because David Sherbrooke injured himself in a fall the previous day, otherwise he would have been riding the horse instead.
Poet Prince had been the third favourite with the bookmakers heading into the race, with a price of 7/2. The favourite doesn’t always win the Gold Cup or horse races in general, so it’s certainly worth reading Cheltenham betting guides before placing a bet on next year’s event.
2. Red Rower (1945) – 6:16.2
Four years after Poet Prince’s success, 2nd Lord Stalbridge’s horse Red Power came close to breaking the record time set when it was ridden to victory at the 1945 Cheltenham Gold Cup by Davy Jones.
Red Power went into the event as the 11/4 favourite with the bookmakers among 11 horses, of which five had never won over fences and five others who were aged thirteen or older. The horse would be neck and neck with second and third favourites Paladin and Schubert at the last fence before drawing away on the run-in to win by three lengths.
The horse’s last major race would be the Grand National the following year, which was the first edition of the race for six years. Red Power was now a twelve-year-old and carried the third highest weight of 161 pounds before pulling up in the race.
3. Silver Fame (1951) – 6:23.4
Silver Fame had been winning events for numerous events before contesting its first Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1951. In the previous two editions, Lord Bicester had preferred to rely on Finnure in this race, who went on to finish fourth in 1949 and runner-up in 1950.
The original schedule of the Gold Cup was postponed due exceptionally cold and wet conditions, with the race eventually taking place on 25 April 1951, after that year’s Grand National.
Many of the original entrants, including likely favourite Arctic Gold, did not enter in the end the race was competed between only six runners.
Silver Fame started as the 6/4 favourite ahead of Lockerbie at 3/1 with the bookmakers. Martin Molony saddled the favourite to victory, narrowly edging out Greenogue by a short head, becoming the oldest horse to win the race.
The time of 6:23.4 is actually the quickest the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been won over three and a quarter miles, a record that still stands more than 60 years later.
4. Knock Hard (1953) – 6:28.4
In his second Cheltenham Gold Cup, Tim Molony rode Moya Keogh’s Knock Hard to victory by 5 lengths on 5 March 1953.
His starting odds were back at 11/2 on the cold and misty day at Cheltenham Racecourse against 11 opponents, including the favourite Halloween.
Knock Hard had not been among the early favourites nor early leaders of the race when they emerged from the fog when approaching the third last. However, with other horses dropping off and/or falling, Knock Hard made rapid progress, taking the lead at the last and drawing away to win by a clear distance.
5. Long Run (2011) – 6:29.70
The quickest time run at the Cheltenham Gold Cup this millennium dates back to the 2011 edition when Long Run, ridden by Mr Sam Waley-Cohen in a field of 13 came home in a time of 6:29.70, seven lengths ahead of Denman in second place.
Long Run had been the 7/2 favourite heading into the race, though only three of the nine favourites since have won. On this day in 2011 though there was no stopping Long Run from victory, particularly after previous winner, Imperial Commander, pulled up.