A look at Gold Cup Day 2009
Whether you’re superstitious or not, this year’s Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup Day falls on Friday 13th March. While the leading jockeys will be hoping it’s not an unlucky occasion for them, there’s no doubt that punters all over the UK and Ireland will be scrambling to find their lucky garments and emblems to ensure their Cheltenham Festival tips come in.
It was back in 2005 that Cheltenham Festival was extended to a four-day meeting, culminating in the festival’s centerpiece, the Gold Cup falling on a Friday. Since then, Gold Cup Day has fallen on Friday 13th twice, with the third coming up this month. Let’s delve into the history books, notably back to 2009 – and how this fateful day challenged the Cheltenham horse racing betting odds.
It was a day of shocks, which started as it meant to go on. In the day’s opening race, the Triumph Hurdle, the early favourite Walkon was beaten by under a length. The winner, 11/2 shout Zaynar had been unbeaten that season, since joining Nicky Henderson’s yard, and went on to record a narrow three-quarters of a length victory, with Barry Geraghty in the saddle.
American Trilogy’s unlikely win in the County Handicap Hurdle handed jockey Ruby Walsh his sixth victory at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. It was a confident performance from the Paul Nicholls-trained horse, who had gone from tracking the leaders when three out, to pull clear after approaching the last. Favourite Dave’s Dream was never in contention, finishing sixth.
It was a notable debut win in a Grade 1 race for Weapon’s Amnesty, who shook off 16 other competitors to secure the Spa Novices’ Hurdle. Beating the 3/1 favourite Pride Of Dulcote and jockey Walsh by the smallest of margins – half a length – it was the first time an Irish-bred horse had won the race, so even more poignant for jockey Davy Russell.
The trend of bashing the bookies was bucked in the Gold Cup where favourite Kauto Star made history, becoming the first horse ever to regain the Gold Cup after beating stablemate Denman to the finish line. His margin of victory was an incredible 13 lengths, the greatest since Master Oats’ win in 1995. The iconic horse gave Walsh yet another win at the Festival, while ending that season as the top-rated steeplechaser.
There were more surprises to come in the Foxhunter Chase, where favourite Juveigneur could only finish in twelfth, after a catalogue of knocks and mistakes. The winner here was Cappa Bleu, who continued his rich vein of form with a fifth consecutive win – before going on to switch trainers later that season.
The Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle was introduced ahead of the 2009 Festival and the first ever race was won by the Henderson-trained horse Andytown. An outsider for success, the gelding built up a resounding lead, going on to beat the 100/1 long shot Midnight Chase by nine lengths, to further increase that today was all about the underdog.
Much like the opening race, the day’s final showpiece, the Grand Annual Chase was another close affair, with just three-quarters of a length separating first and second. The winner Oh Crick handed trainer Alan King his first win in the Festival’s closing race, breaking his duck having saddled four second-place horses and three-thirds. Interestingly, it was King’s 700th career win and two years previous, Oh Crick had provided him with his 500th win in horse racing.
It will be interesting to see if this year’s Gold Cup Day will prove lucky for bookies or punters, with the dreaded curse of Friday 13th looming over Prestbury Park once again.