Many star performers will take to the stage in a bid to cement their name into racing history with a win at the legendary Prestbury Park venue. But what exactly are the magic ingredients that go into making the ultimate Cheltenham equine specimen?
Speed, Jumping and Stamina are all clearly top of the wish list when picking out the athlete most likely to challenge, but what about the mental elements that are essential in the makeup the long line of Cheltenham greats? Courage, Consistency and that little hint of swagger are all essential when it comes to formulating a Cheltenham winner.
Here are six of the very best to hit the Cheltenham track who showed one particular attribute in spades. With that being said, it takes all six of these to take the last corner at Prestbury Park and fight off all challenges up the Cheltenham Hill to forge your name in history!
Cheltenham Honours: 3 x Champion Hurdle – 1998, 1999, 2000
1 x RSA Hurdle (Now the Ballymore) – 1997
We start with a horse that needs little introduction, the imperious Istabraq remains the horse that all gifted hurdlers are still judged against today.
Sired by the legendary stallion Sadler’s Wells, Istabraq was originally bred to contest the Flat Classics, and it was that Flat pedigree and latent speed that would help establish him as one of the most dominant racers in National Hunt history.
His turn of foot so lethally carrying him to easy victory at 4 successive Cheltenham Festivals.
Had it not been for a cancelled Cheltenham in 2001, he quite feasibly would have won a record fourth successive Champion Hurdle and fully established himself as the greatest of all time.
Racing in the famous green and gold silks of JP McManus, Istabraq can be seen in the video below, cruising to his third Champion Hurdle win. His rivals simply unable to land a glove on him as he streaks away up the hill.
Cheltenham honours: 4 x Stayers Hurdle – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Dubbed the Black Aeroplane, Sprinter Sacre will be best remembered for dominating the two-mile chasing division in a manner that few can recollect. Rated by form experts Timeform as the greatest chaser of the twentieth century, in the initial zenith of his career he simply carried an aura of invincibility about him. His first Cheltenham Festival win in the 2012 Arkle Chase was delivered with the minimum of fuss at odds of 8/11, while his first Champion Chase win a year late came about at scarcely believable price of 1/4. His diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat and subsequent decline would see his aura go into hibernation for two seasons and would see many cast him aside as a spent force. However, the strut and swagger would return to devastating effect in the 2016 Champion Chase as he quashed his younger, more fancied rivals in the manner that nobody could have anticipated. His trainer Nicky Henderson said, “He just has that incredible aura about him. He knows he’s good and he likes to tell everybody he’s good”.
SPRINTER SACRE has been retired by the @sevenbarrows team
Remember his Champion Chase win in March? https://t.co/A4R4UEqobX
— Channel 4 Racing (@Channel4Racing) November 13, 2016
Cheltenham Honours: Mares Hurdle x 6 (2009 – 2014)
So consistent you could practically set your watch by her, the super mare Quevega essentially became punters’ best friend for an unmatched six consecutive Cheltenham Festivals.
Expertly managed by the impossibly patient Willie Mullins, the daughter of Robin des Champs was always in peak condition to land the odds in the same race, the Mares Hurdle, year after year.
Despite the odd moment of slight worry approaching the turn for home, Quevega can be seen here doing what Quevega does – winning.
Her exploits are now enshrined in the form of the “Quevega’s”, a premium bar located within the club enclosure at Cheltenham racecourse. One thing’s for sure, she certainly paid for a few bar tabs in her time.