Top 5 greatest finishes at the Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival has given us many of racing’s greatest moments over the years.
From Sir AP McCoy’s self-proclaimed greatest ride to rank outsiders pulling off the unthinkable; these top 5 finishes certainly last long in the memory.
Hardy Eustace – Champion Hurdle 2005
An absolute barnstormer of a three-way finish kicks off this list; with the resolute Hardy Eustace sticking his neck out to claim the Champion Hurdle ahead of the highly touted Harchibald and Brave Inca.
Having led from the outset, the game Hardy Eustace looked sure to be overtaken as he turned into the home straight; with Harchibald in particular seemingly cantering along upside him. But like so many things in racing, things didn’t pan out as planned as the Dessie Hughes-trained eight-year-old clung on for victory.
Not only did this win confirm Hardy Eustace to be as tough as teak, but it also saw him join a select club of horses to win the Champion Hurdle in back-to-back years.
Watch out for the light blue, white and yellow silks worn by jockey Conor O’Dwyer in the clip below.
Viking Flagship – Champion Chase 1994
The David Nicolson-trained seven-year-old pulled off a spectacular win which has many parallels to Hardy Eustace’s Champion Hurdle victory.
Jockey Adrian Maguire, in the red and white silks, was working overtime as pretenders Deep Sensation and Travado loomed up to challenge as they swung into the home straight.
The leading trio landed perfectly in a line over the final fence but, despite looking beaten, Viking Flagship showed the grit of a true champion to win the race by half a length.
The race perfectly demonstrated the battling qualities that became synonymous with the horse throughout a career which would see him win a whopping eight Grade One wins in the UK and Ireland.
Edredon Bleu – Champion Chase 2000
Driven to victory by the greatest jump jockey of all time Sir AP McCoy, Edredon Bleu showed all the same determined qualities as his rider in pinching the 2000 Champion Chase title from Direct Route.
Edredon Bleu and McCoy set off with a clear strategy; go out quick from the start and sap the energy from all of their rivals. And it looked to have worked a treat until it got incredibly close towards the end.
A magnificent race ended with a bobbing photo finish, nobody knew the result until the judge announced that Edredon Bleu had taken victory much to the delight of the crowd.
Western Warhorse – Arkle 2014
“Western Warhorse is already beginning to hoist the white flag” uttered commentator Mark Johnston as the leading pack began to descend down the Cheltenham hill towards the third last fence; the big outsider, who was trading at 1000/1 in-running, had other ideas.
Under an unyielding ride from Tom Scudamore, the David Pipe-trained seven-year-old timed his run to the line perfectly; giving it everything to nick it by a nose ahead of the hotly fancied Champagne Fever and Ruby Walsh.
Tom Scudamore, in the light blue and white silks, was both shocked and ecstatic, “I thought they were mad running him in the race … but his jumping has kept me in it the whole way through.” Scudamore added, “I still can’t quite believe that. I’ve won an Arkle! It’s extraordinary”.
You can watch the video clip here!
Wichita Lineman – William Hill Trophy 2009 (Now the Ultima)
The fact that the 20-times Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy rated this ride better than his 2010 Grand National win aboard Don’t Push It says it all really.
Wichita Lineman was sent off the 5/1 favourite for the Handicap but jumped poorly from the outset, with McCoy getting very animated in the saddle a long way from the finish. But as with so many horses throughout his career McCoy managed to squeeze the best out of him.
Sporting JP McManus’s famous green and gold silks, the pair looked like they’d gallantly run on to claim a place as they entered the home stretch; but Wichita Lineman’s remarkable durability saw him find another gear to rally and win by a neck.
Watch the incredible finish here!