The Gold Cup at Cheltenham is the pinnacle of jumps racing, the most desirable race to be won by racing purists.
The Gold Cup is run over a distance of three-and-a-quarter-miles on Cheltenham’s New Course and is the feature race on day four of The Festival in March.
The roll of honour includes icons like Golden Miller, Arkle, Best Mate, Kauto Star and Denman…but which horses have clocked the fastest Gold Cup winning times? Here’s our top five.
1. Poet Prince (1941) – 6:15.6
A War-time renewal of the Gold Cup and it was Poet Prince, ridden by Roger Burford and trained by Ivor Anthony that led home nine rivals by three lengths to take home the trophy in the 16th edition of the race and claim the record for the fastest ever Gold Cup time in the process.
Owner and regular rider David Sherbrooke picked up an injury 24 hours before the Gold Cup and was replaced by Burford. Poet Prince went off the 7/2 third choice in the betting market and was up the hill in front of Savon and Red Rower to win.
2. Red Rower (1945) – 6:16.2
Denied in both that 1941 renewal and again 12 months later when second behind Medoc II, Red Rower would win the Blue Riband at last on March 17th 1945 for owner-trainer Lord Stalbridge.
Then aged 11 and a veteran of the race, Red Rower went off 11/4 favourite in the market and had three-lengths to spare over Schubert in second and Paladin in third as he finally landed the Holy Grail, with his winning time less than a second outside the course record.
Silver Fame won in 1951 in a time of 6:23.4, while two years later it was the turn of Knock Hard in 6:28.4 – both fine efforts on the clock for their era.
Silver Fame’s was notable for two reasons. At 12, he was and remains the oldest horse to win the Gold Cup. His time also stands to record, the fastest recorded after the race was increased to three-and-a-quarter-miles on the Old Course.
3. Long Run (2011) – 6:29.7
The Gold Cup later moved to the New Course at Cheltenham in 1959 and the stiffer nature of that track at Prestbury Park changed the dynamics of the race markedly.
As such, times since then are slower, but they are records on the course as we know it today.
Since 1959, just one horse has managed to break the 6 minute 30 second barrier and that was Long Run in 2011 for trainer Nicky Henderson.
It was a very rare thing for a six-year-old to contest a Gold Cup and rarer still for an amateur jockey – Sam Waley-Cohen – to be riding. Owned by his father, Robert, Waley-Cohen steered his mount home to beat Cheltenham Gold Cup royalty in Denman and Kauto Star into second and third and his time remains the fastest on the New Course.
4. Norton’s Coin (1990) – 6:30.9
In 1990 Norton’s Coin became a unique Gold Cup winner for many reasons. He was just the second Welsh-trained winner of the race, after Patron Saint away back in 1928, and the Sirrel Griffiths-trained nine-year-old returned an SP of 100/1 – to this day the biggest of any Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
It was a remarkable achievement from dairy farmer Griffiths, who only had a small number of horses in his care, and Norton’s Coin is one of only two winners to come close to breaking the six-and-a-half-minute barrier on the New Course.
5. Looks Like Trouble (2000) – 6:30.3
The other was Looks Like Trouble for trainer Noel Chance 2002, as they gave a young Richard Johnson the first of what would be two Cheltenham Gold Cup wins (also won on Native River in 2018).
This was the second victory in the Gold Cup for trainer Chance, who had won the race three years earlier with Mr Mulligan, and at the time Looks Like Trouble broke the track record set by Norton’s Coin a decade earlier.
An honourable mention goes to the mare, Dawn Run, who posted a time 6:35.0 when she won in 1986 under rider Jonjo O’Neill for trainer Paddy Mullins. No mare has won the Gold Cup since.
*All odds correct at time of writing.