The countdown to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival is firmly on. Just two months stands between us and the biggest jumps meeting of the season, and already punters have started studying the form guides and scouring the internet for the best Cheltenham offers.
Of course, whilst there are so many races to look forward too, the iconic Gold Cup, that more or less concludes the festival on the last of the jam-packed four days, is the one that we all count down the minutes and seconds to.
All of the talk in the pubs, offices and bookies across the country in the build-up to the meeting is about who is going to win the Gold Cup, so as the early entries begin to roll in, let’s take a look back at the last three winners of the sought-after trophy.
2020 – Al Boum Photo
Last year’s Gold Cup provided more excitement than you could have asked for. Al Boum Photo was vying for back-to-back Gold Cups, and the odds of him becoming the first horse to win the race successively since Best Mate’s hattrick in the early 2000s were in his favour. However, it wasn’t a straightforward victory. The Willie-Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo and Lostintranslation took the final hurdle as one, and whilst the 10/1 shot was sluggish up the hill, Nico de Boinville and Santini began to charge. A few more yards of track would have seen the 5/1 joint-second favourite quash Al Boum Photo’s hopes of back-to-back victories, but the finish line came just in time for the market leader, and he held on to win by little more than a neck.
2019 – Al Boum Photo
The result of 2019 Gold Cup was nigh on impossible to call. Al Boum Photo (12/1), Anibale Fly (22/1) and Bristol De Mai (18/1) stormed over the finish line in first, second and third, whilst favourite Presenting Percy never really got into the race and finished further back in eighth. It wasn’t a well-rounded performance from Al Boum Photo, but as the market leaders underperformed, he finished strongly to win by over two lengths clear of Anibale Fly, landing trainer Mullins his first Gold Cup after an agonising six second-place finishes.
“I’ve got used to the disappointment of finishing second and I sort of resigned myself to never winning a Gold Cup,” said the Irish trainer.
“Every time I looked at Paul (Townsend), his body language told me he was very happy and the horse was relaxed.
“When he came over the last, I just looked at the winning post and thought nothing would come and get him unless he stops or runs out or something like that.”
2018 – Native River
The 2018 Gold Cup was another thrilling finale to the action-packed four days of racing. From start to finish Might Bite and Native River, the former being the slight favourite (4/1) in the betting market over the latter (5/1), endured their own personal battle whilst the rest of the pack were left in awe. Fence after fence, the pair were neck-and-neck, but it was the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River with Richard Johnson in the saddle who prevailed, in the end beating his in-race rival by a comfortable four and a half lengths.