Sir Anthony McCoy’s top three Cheltenham Festival moments

Ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, broadcast live on Channel 4, the 20-time champion jump jockey turned pundit, Sir Anthony McCoy, recalls two outstanding horses and one amazing feat by a trainer.

ISTABRAQ was bred for Flat racing, but struggled in that domain and was bought for JP McManus by John Durkan, who sadly died of leukaemia aged just 31. The gelding proved to be a brilliant hurdler for young trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Charlie Swan, winning the first of three Champion Hurdles in 1998.

AP says: “Charlie was one of the best riders of a race who I rode against, his judgement on pace was outstanding. Istabraq became the pride of Ireland and a public horse. I was fortunate to ride against such a great horse that is enjoying a fabulous retire courtesy of JP. I wish I was him!”
Trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Jim Culloty, BEST MATE won three successive Cheltenham Gold Cups between 2002 and 2004 to match the record of the inimitable Arkle. The first of those years, he was also ridden by McCoy to success in the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

AP says: “Best Mate was a perfect Gold Cup horse with a tremendous cruising speed and a mass of stamina.  He was a brilliant horse. The best chaser in my time [Kauto Star] won the Gold Cup twice so it goes to show what an achievement it is to win three consecutively. Henrietta Knight also deserves huge credit.”
In 1983 MICHAEL DICKINSON delivered a stunning feat of bringing home the first five horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. To this day, it remains one of the Festival’s greatest moments. The winner was Bregawn with a fresh-faced Graham Bradley on top, while stablemates Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House completed the next four places. All five horses were permitted into the winners’ enclosure in an unprecedented move.

AP says: “I cannot recall where I was at this moment – probably school – but I know how difficult it is to get one horse placed, let alone five! That record still stands and could be there forever.”