Best Mate: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a new post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series all about Best Mate, thank you to @WattyRacing for this suggestion. Let’s just get right into it!


Best Mate was foaled on 28th January 1995 by Un Desperado out of Katday. He was bred by breeder Jacques Van’t Hart and owned by Jim Lewis who sent him into training with Henrietta Knight.

Best Mate started his career on 14th November 1999 at Cheltenham in a National Hunt Flat Race (Bumper). He had Jim Culloty on board and a starting price of 10/1, shocking a lot of people, he won by 3/4 lengths to Hard To Start (14/1). A couple of weeks later, he then headed to Sandown on 3rd December 1999 for a Novices’ Hurdle where he started as the 5/4 favourite, again under Jim Culloty, he easily won by 10 lengths to Rosco (100/30).

We then move into the new millennium and on the 8th January 2000, Best Mate headed back to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. Here he started at 4/1 under Jim Culloty, here he finished second by 2 and 1/2 lengths to the 11/8 favourite Monsignor.

Best Mate took a 66 day break before heading back to Cheltenham, this time for the Festival and the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the 14th March 2000. Under Jim Culloty again, he started the race at 6/1, where he finished second by 3/4 of a length to Sausalito Bay (14/1), however beating the 5/4 favourite Youlneverwalkalone by 1 and 1/4 lengths. Next up for Best Mate was Aintree on the 7th of April 2000 for a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle, where as the 4/11 odds on favourite, under Jim Culloty, he beat Copeland (9/2) for AP McCoy and Martin Pipe by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Best Mate then took a 193 day summer break before returning to the track at Exeter on the 17th of October 2000, this time for a Novices’ Chase. He started as the 1/2 favourite and unsurprisingly won by 2 and 1/2 lengths under Jim Culloty to Bindaree (3/1). Just under a month later, with Jim Culloty, Best Mate headed back to Cheltenham for a Novices’ Chase in the November meeting on the 12th of November. This time starting as the 8/13 odds on favourite, where he won comfortably by 18 lengths to Fathalkhair (33/1) for Richard Johnson and Brian Ellison.

Swiftly we move into 2001 and after an 83 day break, Best Mate returned to Sandown on the 3rd of February for a Grade 1 Novices’ Chase and as the 5/4 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he won by 13 lengths to Crocadee (5/1). Best Mate avoided Cheltenham and after a 63 day break he headed to Aintree on the 7th of April for the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, under Jim Culloty as the 3/1 favourite he finished second by 14 lengths to Barton (9/1) for jockey Tony Dobbin and trainer Tim Easterby.

Best Mate then took a 213 day summer break before returning to Exeter on the 6th of November 2001. As the odds on 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty he won by 20 lengths to Desert Mountain I (14/1) for jockey Joe Tizzard and trainer Paul Nicholls. We then move forward a couple of weeks and on the 24th of November 2001 Best Mate headed to Ascot for the First National Gold Cup, here he started as the 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty where he finished second by just 1/2 length to Wahiba Sands (4/1) for AP McCoy riding for Martin Pipe.

One month later, on Boxing Day 2001, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, this time being rode by Champion Jockey AP McCoy, where they started at 5/2, however they could only manage a second by 3/4 of a length behind Florida Pearl (8/1) for jockey Adrian Maguire and trainer Willie Mullins.

We then move into 2002 and back to the Cheltenham Festival, so after a 78 day break, Best Mate headed to Cheltenham on the 14th of March 2002 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Here he was back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty where they started at 7/1 and won by 1 and 3/4 lengths to Commanche Court (25/1).

After winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Best Mate had a 254 day summer break before returning to the track in November, this time heading to Huntingdon on the 23rd of November for the Peterborough Chase, starting as the 8/15 favourite under Jim Culloty, Best Mate won by 8 lengths to Douze Douze (7/2). Just over a month later on Boxing Day 2002, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, where as the 11/8 favourite, back under Champion Jockey AP McCoy, Best Mate won by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Marlborough (14/1) for jockey Timmy Murphy and trainer Nicky Henderson.

As we head into 2003, Best Mate took a 77 day break before returning to the Cheltenham Festival on the 13th of March 2003 to try and retain his Gold Cup title. With regular jockey Jim Culloty taking the ride on the 13/8 favourite, he won by 10 lengths to Truckers Tavern (33/1) meaning he was now a duel Gold Cup winner.

After impressively winning his second Gold Cup, Best Mate took a 254 day break before returning to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase, here he was the 8/13 favourite under Kim Culloty, however he could only manage a second place to Jair Du Cochet (100/30). To end 2003, on the 28th of December, Best Mate crossed the Irish Sea and headed to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Ericsson Chase, here he started as the 8/11 favourite under Jim Culloty where he won impressively by 9 lengths to Le Coudray (14/1).

The 2004 Cheltenham Festival quickly came around and after an 81 day break, Best Mate headed straight into his third Gold Cup on the 18th of March, where as the 8/11 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he successfully won his 3rd consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Best Mate then took a 246 day break before returning to Exeter on the 19th of November 2004 where he won the William Hill Chase as the 4/7 favourite, this time under Timmy Murphy. Best Mate ended 2004 by heading back over to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase on the 28th of December 2004, however as the 9/10 favourite, back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty, he could only manage a second place, finishing behind Beef Or Salmon by 7 lengths.

The plan was for Best Mate to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival to try and win a 4th Gold Cup however just 8 days before he was due to run, he was withdrew from the race after he burst a blood vessel on the gallops. So therefore Best Mate wouldn’t be seen again until the 1st of November 2005, when he returned to Exeter, sadly, this day turned out to be the saddest day for racing fans, jockey Paul Carberry pulled up on Best Mate during the running of the Haldon Gold Cup, however when he dismounted, Best Mate stumbled and fell to his knees, sadly he collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack.

When Best Mate died, it made national news with everybody within the sport and outside of the sport feeling absolutely heartbroken at the loss of a complete legend. Government regulations meant that his body could not be buried at Exeter like his owner wanted, instead Best Mate was cremated and on the 10th of December 2005, his ashes were buried beside the winning post at his much loved course Cheltenham.

In March 2006, a life size bronze sculpture of Best Mate was unveiled at Cheltenham Racecourse, which still stands to this day. There is also a bronze stature near to the farm in Lockinge where he trained. In March 2007, Best Mate was named one of the ‘elite 12’ on the Cheltenham Hall of Fame.


So there we have Best Mate’s career. I don’t even think we need to go into much detail about his career, because as you can see he was a complete legend. However, let’s have a look at his career form:

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So from that, as you can see, Best Mate had 22 races, winning 14 of them and finishing 2nd in 7 of them, the 22nd, sadly being where he pulled up before his life ended. This means that in Best Mate’s career, he never once fell. Matching Arkle’s record, Best Mate won three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup’s and he was the first horse to win multiple Gold Cup’s since L’Escargot who won in 1970 and 1971.

So, to sum it up, Best Mate was an unreal horse who everybody fell in love with. I was alive during his time, but I was young and don’t really remember much about him, but even though, he is still a horse that I know of and have been told about many a times by my family and those online who were lucky enough to remember him. I don’t think I need to say anymore about him, he was a legend and always will be and I’m so happy that his statue remains at Cheltenham so generations like my own can respect him for what he did during his career.

I want to thank you for reading this post and I hope to see you all in my next one!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all a brilliant final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Today I am super excited to bring you an interview with Richard Pitman. I had the honour of speaking to Richard this week about all things racing including that race Crisp vs Red Rum. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Richard and I hope you all enjoy!


Me: You obviously won some incredible races in your career, but what was your favourite race, win or lose?

Richard: I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious, but it was 40 years before you were born, it was Crisp in the 1973 Grand National finishing second to Red Rum. And the reason being, Aintree is just a magical cauldron and for him to have made the running and jump the fences as if they were hurdles, until all the steam ran out… He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is run at the Cheltenham Festival and he won by about 20 lengths and then just to nearly win the national, it was an amazing ride.

Me: The one question I wanted to ask about that Grand National was how did you feel at the time when you got beat by Red Rum and did those feelings change over the years when you realised just how special Red Rum went on to be?

Richard: Well, that’s a good question. You see, the good Champion jockey’s… I was second in the jockey Championship twice but didn’t win it… The good Champion jockey’s, McCoy, Francome, Scudamore, Dunwoody, Dicky Johnson – Their tunnel vision, like Usain Bolt in running races. But I was more of a cavalier, I just enjoyed riding so although it was devastating to be caught – and I could hear him coming, it was fast ground so you could here his hoofed feet and he was a high blower so every time he exhaled his nostril flaps, so it got louder and louder but it was only the last two strides that he swept past me. So utter devastation but only a minute to recover and be elated because it was a ride money couldn’t buy, I had earnt it and it was my ride. Okay, I’ll be blamed for being beaten for many many things. Going on was one of them but that was our plan. He was such a bold jumper, in behind 40 horses he’d have jumped on someone else’s back so that’s what we had to do. I made a wrong decision taking my hand off the reigns to give him a whip half way up the running. You know, he was a big horse, tired, gone… I should’ve kept hold of his head, but there you are, you can’t go back. I remember every blade of grass in that race but I admire Red Rum… So much, you couldn’t not. I rode him for the BBC, I used to do lots of stunts afterwards around Aintree in the build up to the National, so I rode Red Rum with two other horses on the flat track there and Ginger McCain who was a larger than life, micky taking man, said “now then Pitman, you seen his backside in 73, you can look through his ears now lad” and gave me the leg up.

Me: Another question following on from that, I wanted to ask was how did you feel when history essentially repeated itself when your son Mark Pitman got beat on Garrison Savannah by Seagram in a similar fashion in the 1991 Grand National?

Richard: Yeah, good question! Well Mark was heavier than me, I was always a chubby little fella who had trouble with my weight, but Mark was taller and had more trouble. He used to be in his sauna from 5am to 7am in the dead of winter in his garage and then go out and ride 5 or 6 lots on the gallops in the freezing cold, it was really hard work and he was a good jockey. His mother would have hated it but he and I did discuss how to do things and I’m sure she would have done with him many times. And he asked for my advice and I said “Mark you won’t believe how quickly horses lose their petrol up the running if stamina comes into play.” And at elbow he hadn’t gone for Garrison Savannah and I put my coat on as I was working for the BBC and Bill Smith was with me, I said “Bill the replay is yours I’m going to see Mark come in” and as I got my coat on he said “you better turn around, the picture has changed” and as he got to the elbow, again he just flattened out. Once they go at that distance and lose their stamina, they just walk. He was beaten by Seagram who was very cleverly rode by Nigel Hawke coming wide and not challenging close up so not to galvanise Garrison but Garrison had gone. But he rode a great race.

Plus, he had won the Gold Cup 3 weeks before and two hours later was in Cheltenham general hospital with internal injuries and a fractured pelvis, but rode 3 weeks later in the National. But that was nothing to do with him getting beat because he was on plenty of pain killers, but I was so proud of him… I still am.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training now, who would you choose and why?

Richard: Aw, there are so many aren’t there? I think Cloth Cap is the biggest certainty we’ve seen in the National for years, providing nothing goes wrong. If you look at the previous videos of McCoy on Clan Royal going down to Becher’s for the second time, five or six clear, on the bridle, two loose horses run across him and force him into the wing of the fence. I mean… It’s such a race where you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Cloth Cap at Jonjo’s, I love the way he jumps, he goes on the ground, he gallops with his head quite low, not overly low, but quite low – which I love. It means a horse is looking at the bottom of the fence, rather than head up, fighting the jockey. So Cloth Cap for me, is the one horse I’d love to ride.

Me: And from your point of view, you retired many years ago, but how do you feel about the discussions to ban the whip? And how important was the whip for yourself when you were riding?

Richard: Right, now… I should not have used my whip on Crisp half way up the running at Aintree, it unbalanced him, I took my hands off the reigns. I think it did more harm than good. And I challenge anyone, anywhere to come up with a video showing me where the use of a whip has stopped a horse from running out or being the aide it’s meant to be. Of course, it’s meant to be used to encourage, but to me it puts a lot of horses off. That’s why I love watching the flat as well, the ground is so much better and there is a lot less use of the whip. I’d agree, let them carry it, but only give them a slap down the shoulder for encouragement, I would not want them to take their hand off the reigns or give them one behind the saddle. I am very strong on that and yet people say to me “but you used it” – Yes I used it, but not in excess. Fred Winter, my trainer would always say “you can give them two, but don’t give them three.”

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Richard: Probably Cheltenham because I was born there. I could always see the course and I have a field with my sister now on Cleeve Hill looking down into the racecourse. Cheltenham really grabs me and I rode a lot of winners there. I got beaten and should’ve won two gold cups but didn’t, so… Cheltenham is really mine.

Me: A lot of jockey’s don’t go into the TV side of things, what made you make the decision to do so?

Richard: Well, I’d been offered the job as a paddock commentator for the BBC 2 years before I retired but then I had 5 of the best horses in the country, now you wouldn’t give 5 horses up for anything. I didn’t care what the future was. But two years later I was offered the job again and if I turned it down a second time, it wouldn’t be available so I went to Fred Winter on the muck hill, where we were making the muck hill tidy in the morning, and I said to him this is the situation and he said for the first time ever John Francome shared the job with me, he was 10 years young and he was good but I was welcome to ride half the horses as long as I wanted to. But there was only 2 of my good horses left by then and I said to him would you run one in the Grand National, he said no his legs are dodgy so he wouldn’t subject him to it. So I said “well in that case, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me” I shook his hand and joined BBC.

Me: What was your favourite or most memorable moment whilst working with BBC?

Richard: Well, I was involved for 35 years so there was so many. But Bob Champion and Aldaniti was a fairytale that will be hard to match. And if Aldaniti hadn’t won that day, the second was ridden by John Thorne who was 54 years old, he owned the stallion, owned the mare, bred it, trained it and rode it. So that would have been another fairy story. Another was the void race for two false starts and then of course the one that was put off due to the bomb scare and ran on the Monday.

But the two false starts one was just incredible, I finished my build up to the race, handed over to Peter O’Sullevan and then there’s these two false starts and a group of horses carried on going. The producer said to me ‘Pitman get off your backside and get out there and find out what can happen’ so I ran out of my little pod in the paddock, slipped on the scaffolding boards and I was winded, but we had floor managers so my guy, a great big ex rugby player, picked me up with one hand and pushed me through the crowd, knocking people out of the way as I was trying to get my breath back. I said to the starter “Keith, the whole world is watching, Hong Kong, Australia, America… What can happen?” and he said “I can tell you exactly what will happen. Only the 9 that didn’t fall or complete one circuit can run.” So we’d got the news. I thought I’d done a good job, so I was wondering back and the producer said “okay Pitman that was good but find a steward.” The stewards area that day was an area four ladders high up on some scaffolding and at the bottom was a soldier with a sword and big feathery hat on. He said “you can’t come up here son, it’s stewards only” and I said “I’m sorry, we’re BBC and they’ve asked us to come up to give us the news.” Well when we got one camera and sound man up there and knocked on the door of the porter cabin, out came Patrick Hibbert-Foy who was the stewards secretary he said “yes Pitman what do you want?” and I said “well Patrick, the whole world is watching and we need to know because the next race in Hong Kong can’t run until we’ve got the result of this one.” And he said “You will be told when the people on the racecourse are announced and told first. They’re the paying customers.” And I said “we’ve got 600 million people around the world” and he said “You’ll be told.” And that’s how they viewed it in those days. It was quite an amazing race, I won’t go through it but it had to be stopped. It was the second false start and it had to be stopped. And they put cones across the front of the chair fence which is the 15th and one of the officials stood in the middle of the fence in the cones and waved his arms trying to stop them, but the 9 guys who had carried on thought it was anti’s trying to make a demonstration and they galloped over the chap and through the cones and went around again. And of course once you had gone around once you couldn’t go again if it was raced later on. But it was so exciting.

And the bomb scare, well that was hairy. We kept losing TV positions one by one as they evacuated us along with everyone else and the last man standing was Jim McGrath commentating from a scaffolding very very high down by Becher’s Brook and he spoke for 28 minutes without drawing breath whilst mayhem was going on up in the stands.

Me: How much do you think racing has changed ssince you were riding?

Richard: Oh 360 degrees! I mean, we didn’t ride on Sunday’s, we didn’t have evening racing, we had 2 months off in the summer to recuperate. The styles have changed, we rode longer, we had some pretty good stylists in our day but before that they rode full length, the style has changed. The quality of racing has changed, we’ve had plenty of Gold Cup winners run in the Grand National, but the depth has changed. When I rode Crisp I had 12 stone, top weight, along with L’Escargot (Tommy Carberry) who had won two Cheltenham Gold Cup’s. But we were giving 25 pounds away to Red Rum. You know, it was a few at the top and a great void down the bottom and horses were running off 8 stone 9, they had to carry 10 stone, therefore you had to be rated 110 to get in the race. Now you have to be rated 140 and you still might not get in. So the general overall figure of the horses running at Aintree has improved tremendously. I just love it. I think jockey’s, we were cavaliers in our day, now they’re professionals. They’ve got drivers, nutritionists, people who look after your minds, psychiatrists. You know, like golf and tennis, they are top sportsmen.

Me: And on from that, how much do you think social media and new technology has changed racing?

Richard: Well, it’s very very good to come home and look at your races as a jockey and see what you’ve done wrong. I mean, (AP) McCoy was the most brilliant because he would come home having won 4 races and look to see why he hadn’t won the 5th but also look back at the 4 races he had won and thought should I have done anything different in that race, not to win further, maybe win easier. It’s a tremendous tool, accept with social media it allows people to be anonymous and be absolutely vile, are they called trolls? Now, that isn’t very fair and mentally it pulls people down. My answer to that is, if you’re being targeted by idiots, don’t look at it. Turn it off. It’s a hard enough game mentally, the weight loss, the travelling, the riding is great, but it’s a hard enough game without being pillared on social media.

Me: You mentioned AP McCoy there, do you think there is any current jockey riding who will come close to or beat his records?

Richard: Be very difficult, because Brian Hughes has been around a while, Dicky (Richard) Johnson won’t be going long enough to do it, I think if Dicky (Richard) Johnson’s body holds up, because he’s young, he’s fit, he doesn’t have the weight, no he’s not young sorry, he’s forty something now, his body is trim, he doesn’t have weight which is a huge advantage, but the falls have been taking it’s toll over the last few years on him. He could actually ride more winners than AP rode in history, as long as his body holds out. But we’ve got some great young jockey’s, but again for Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, there’s a stack of very very good jockey’s, have they been riding long enough to get into the same mode as AP… He was Champion Conditional and then for the next 20 years Champion Jockey so right from that early start before he lost his allowance he was champion. You know… It’s going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Me: And talking about Champion Jockey’s, this year we have Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden and Brian Hughes all very close at the top, who do you think will get the edge?

Richard: Well, that’s difficult, I think Brian Hughes will because it matters to him, for example, he’s freelance, he can go anywhere, he’s popular, he’s the go to jockey. For instance, the first two days of Cheltenham he rode in the North so that means he wants winners, not particularly quality winners. In fact, the trainers he rides for don’t necessarily have these top ones. Whereas Cobden will have to go where Paul Nicholls wants him to go for the big races. And the Skelton’s have been amazing haven’t they? How they’ve come on in such a short time, quality and quantity.

Me: And for the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person who wants to follow their passion?

Richard: Right, you’ve got to be dedicated of course, but you’ve also got to enjoy it. If you enjoy a job, it isn’t work. Even though in stables it is hard graft and being a jockey, you know, I used to get up very early in the cold and drive with the sweat suit on to lose even more weight, you know it’s a hard old graft but the passion has got to be there, you’ve got to want it. My advice to any young person who goes to riding school is to look at the trainers and see who gives a chance to young people and go to them and make sure they’re not a 10 horse trainer because with a big trainer the crumbs off the table are big enough to feed you because if a senior jockey gets hurt then you come in and get your chance.


So there we have it, I want to say a massive thank you to Richard for his time, it was an honour speaking with him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I hope everyone else has too! I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone for the support this week, I am so grateful to anyone who’s taken time out to read my work this week and I will hopefully see you all tomorrow at 11am for my final post in my 7 in 7 days series which is an interview with Eoin Walsh which you do not want to miss!

The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Good Evening!

I hope day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival was a good one for you all and I hope tomorrow’s fourth and final day is even better. This evening I bring to you my final post of the week, The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you enjoy this one and I hope you learn something new!

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt race run on the new course (since 1959), it was first ran in 1924 and is ran over 3 miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards with 22 fences to jump. The race is open to 5 year olds and over and is ran on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival every March.

In 1924, the winner was Red Splash for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Fred Withington for owner Maj. Humphrey Wyndham.

The first horse to win the race twice in a row was Easter Hero who won as the favourite both times in 1929 and 1930. Firstly he won for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Jack Anthony and owner John Hay Whitney, the second time winning for jockey Tommy Cullinan for the same trainer and owner.

The next horse to make an impact in the race would be Golden Miller, winning in 1932 rode by Ted Leader, in 1933 rode by Billy Stott, in 1934 and 1935 rode by Gerry Wilson – all for Trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget. Then a fifth and final time in 1936 for jockey Evan Williams, trainer Owen Anthony and owner Dorothy Paget.

We then move forward over ten years to 1948, 1949 ad 1950 where Cottage Rake won all three years for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Frank Vickerman

The next horse to dominate the sport wouldn’t be until Arkle came along in 1964, winning three years in a row in 1964, 1965 and 1966 for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and the owner, the Duchess of Westminster.

In 1970 and 1971, L’Escargot won for Tommy Carberry, trainer Dan Moore and owner Raymond R. Guest. In 1986, Dawn Run won for Jonjo O’Neill, Paddy Mullins and Charmian Hill. Desert Orchid won in 1989 for jockey Simon Sherwood, trainer David Elsworth and owner Richard Burridge.

The next horse to make an impact in the Gold Cup would be Best Mate who won in 2002, 2003 and 2004, each time with Jim Culloty riding for trainer Henrietta Knight and owner Jim Lewis.

We then move forward a couple of years to the Kauto Star vs Denman rivalry. In 2007 Kauto Star won for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith. In 2008, Denman won, beating Kauto Star by 7 lengths, for Sam Thomas, Paul Nicholls and Barber / Findlay. Then in 2009, Kauto Star winning again beating Denman by 13 lengths for Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith.

We then have winners such as Imperial Commander (2010) for Paddy Brennan, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Our Friends in the North. Synchronised (2012) for AP McCoy, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Bobs Worth (2013) for Barry Geraghty, Nicky Henderson and The Not Afraid Partnership. Coneygree (2015) for Nico de Boinville, Mark Bradstock and The Max Partnership.

We also have Don Cossack (2016) for Bryan Cooper, Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown House Stud – who I wrote about just a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/27/don-cossack-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

In 2017, Sizing John won for Robbie Power, Jessica Harrington and Ann & Alan Potts. In 2018, my favourite horse ever, Native River winning for Richard Johnson, Colin Tizzard and Brocade Racing, again I wrote about him a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/10/native-river-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

We then have another double winner with Al Boum Photo winning in both 2019 and 2020 for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Mrs J Donnelly.

Some things to note, the race was abandoned in 1931 due to frost, again in 1937 due to flooding, the again in 1943 and 1944 due to World War 2. The 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was ran at Sandown.

The most successful horse in the race is Golden Miller who won a total of 5 times, one after another, in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936.

The leading jockey is Pat Taaffe who won a total of 4 times. Three times on Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and once on Fort Leney (1968)

The leading trainer with 5 wins in total is Tom Dreaper who won with Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).

The leading owner with 7 wins is Dorothy Paget who won with Golden Miller (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 & 1936), Roman Hackle (1940) and Mont Tremblant (1952).

Now onto some interesting facts about the race. Out of the last 12 winners, 11 of them have been aged between 7 and 9. And out of those last 12 winners, 5 of them have been favourites or joint favourites, with 7 out of the last 12 being in the top 3 of the betting.

Out of the last 12 winners, 10 of them have won on their previous run before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, 9 out of 12 of the last winners had ran within the last 77 days and 12 out of 12 of the last winners had their last run 33 days or longer before the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Only 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on their last run, 2 of the 3 won. And 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the Denman Chase at Newbury as their last run, all 3 of them won. Out of the last 12 winners, 9 of them were rated 166 or higher, with 6 out of 12 being rated 170 or higher. All 12 of the previous winners had won at least one Grade 1 race with 6 out of 12 winning at least 2.


So there we have it, the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you all enjoy tomorrow’s final day of the Festival, I know I’m very much looking forward to it! Again, I hope you all enjoyed this post and maybe learned something new.

My next post will be on Saturday (20/03) at 11am when I bring to you an interview with Eoin Walsh, so I hope to see you then!

The History of the Stayers’ Hurdle

Good Evening!

I hope day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival was a successful, enjoyable one for you all. Today I am looking back at the history of tomorrow’s Stayers’ Hurdle, so let’s get right into it!

The Stayers’ Hurdle began back in 1912 and is ran over 2 miles, 7 furlong and 213 yards. It is for four year olds and older and is ran on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival each year.

The first winner of the race in 1912 was Aftermath for jockey J. W. Pullen for trainer Newey Hednesford for owner A. Newey. The next two runs of the race in 1913 and 1914 were both won by Silver Bay for jockey W Catling, trainer Fitton Lewes and owner G. H. Hearman.

The next notable winner was called Warwick, who won once in 1923 for I. Morgan, trainer Tabor and owner S. Cohen, then again in 1925, for jockey George Duller, trainer W. Payne and owner Jesse Brown.

The next notable winner would be over 50 years later when Galmoy won in 1987 for jockey Tommy Carmody, trainer John Mulhern and owner Miss D. Threadwell the again for the same trio a year later in 1988.

We then wait for over 10 years, when in 2002 and 2003 we had Baracouda who won both times for jockey Thierry Doumen, trainer François Doumen and owner J.P. McManus. A few years later Inglis Drever would achieve this also winning twice in a row, three times in total, once in 2005 for Graham Lee, trainer Howard Johnson and owners Andrea & Graham Wylie, then again 2 years later in 2007 for jockey Paddy Brennan, then again in 2008 for jockey Denis O’Regan for the same trainer and owner.

Next up would come the most successful horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle to date, Big Bucks. Big Bucks starting his winning streak in 2009 winning for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owners the Stewart Family, he would then win again in 2010, 2011 and 2012 for the same trio.

Some horses to note in the following years include More Of That (2014) for Barry Geraghty, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Thistlecrack (2016) for Tom Scudamore, Colin Tizzard and John & Heather Snook. Nichols Canyon (2017) for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Andrea & Graham Wylie. Penhill for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Tony Bloom, Paisley Park (2019) for Aidan Coleman, Emma Lavelle and Andrew Gemmell. The finally the 2020 winner, Lisnagar Oscar for Adam Wedge, Rebecca Curtis and owners, Racing For Fun.

Now onto some interesting things to note about the race. The Festival was not run between 1916 and 1919 because of World War 1. Between 1928 and 1929, the race was dropped from the Festival programme. The race was then abandoned in 1931 due to frost and again in 1937 due to flooding. Between 1939 and 1945 it was once again dropped from the Festival programme, before in 1947 it was abandoned due to snow and frost. The race was also cancelled in 2001 due to a foot and mouth crisis.

As I mentioned above, the most successful horse (since 1972) in this race up until today is Big Buck’s who won a total of four times in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The leading jockey (since 1972) being Ruby Walsh, who won a total of 5 times on Big Buck’s (2009,2010, 2011 & 2012) as well as Nichols Canyon (2017).

Moving onto the leading trainer (since 1972), Paul Nicholls, who has won a total of 4 times, all four times with Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012).

There are two leading owners in the Stayers’ Hurdle (since 1972), both with 4 wins each:
The Stewart Family – Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012)
Andrea & Graham Wylie – Inglis Drever (2005, 2007 & 2008) and Nichols Canyon (2017).


So there we have the history of the Stayers’ Hurdle. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s renewal, I think it should be a brilliant race. I hope you all enjoyed today’s post and again, learnt something new.

I shall see you in tomorrow’s post where at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup!

The History of the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all had a brilliant first day of the Cheltenham Festival. I hope you all had plenty of winners and are excited for tomorrow’s day. Focusing in on tomorrow, tonight’s post is all about the Queen Mother Champion Chase, I hope you enjoy and I hope you learn something new as you read!

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase and is ran over 1 mile 7 furlong and 199 yards and is open to five year olds and older. The race takes place at the Cheltenham Festival on the 2nd day, the Wednesday, first taking place in 1959.

The first winner in 1959 was Quita Que for jockey Bunny Cox, trainer Dan Moore and owner Mrs D. R. Brand.

The first horse to win twice in a row followed up for the next two years, 1960 and 1961, both won by Fortria, both times for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and owner George Ansley.

The next horse to win twice in a row was Drinny’s Double who won in 1967 and 1968, both times for jockey Frank Nash, trainer Bob Turnell and owner Paul Mellon. This wouldn’t happen again until 1976 and 1977, when Skymas won for jockey Mouse Morris, trainer Brian Lusk and owner Matt Magee. It then happened again for the next two years when Hilly Way won the 1978 and 1979 running of the race, firstly for jockey Tommy Carmody, trainer Peter McCreery and owner J. W. Sweeney, the second time with Ted Walsh riding.

The next notable horse was Badsworth Boy who, to this day, holds the record for being the most successful horse in the race. He won in 1983, 1984 and again in 1985. All three times with Robert Earnshaw riding for owner Doug Armitage, the first two runs being for trainer Michael Dickinson and the final time for trainer, from the same family, Monica Dickinson.

The next notable name is Pearlyman, who won twice, once in 1987 and again in 1988. The first time rode by Peter Scudamore for trainer John Edwards and owner Valerie Shaw, the second time with jockey Tom Morgan on board. The next two years were then won by the Barnbrook Again, in 1989 Simon Sherwood rode for trainer David Elsworth and owner Mel Davies, in 1990 with Hywel Davies on board.

We then have Viking Flagship who won twice, once in 1994 and again in 1995. Firstly for Adrian Maguire riding for trainer David Nicholson for owners Roach Foods Ltd, secondly for Charlie Swan.

Other notable winners include One Man in 1998, Edredon Bleu in 2000, Moscow Flyer in 2003 as well as 2005, Master Minded who successfully won in 2008 and 2009, both times for Ruby Walsh riding for Paul Nicholls for owner Clive Smith. We then have Sizing Europe winning in 2011, Sprinter Sacre who won in 2013 and again in 2016, Sire de Grugy who won in 2014, Altior who won in 2018 and 2019, both times for Nico de Boinville, Nicky Henderson and owner Patricia Pugh. We then have the 2020 winner of this race, Politologue for jockey Harry Skelton for Paul Nicholls for owner John Hales.

Some interesting things to note, in 1980 Chinrullah finishished first, however was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance. And the 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was later run at Sandown.

As I mentioned above, the most successful horse is the only horse to have won this race 3 times and that is Badsworth Boy who won in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

There are two leading jockey’s in the race, both with 5 wins:
Pat Taaffe – Fortria (1960 & 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966) and Straight Fort (1970)
Barry Geraghty – Moscow Flyer (2003 & 2005), Big Zeb (2010), Finian’s Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre (2013)

There are 3 leading trainers in the race, all with 6 wins each:
Tom Dreaper – Fortria (1960 & 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969) and Straight Fort (1970)
Nicky Henderson – Remittance Man (1992), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013 & 2016) and Altior (2018 & 2019)
Paul Nicholls – Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004), Master Minded (2008 & 2009), Dodging Bullets (2015) and Politologue (2020)

We then have three leading owners, all with 3 wins each:
George Ansley – Fortria (1960 & 1961) and Straight Fort (1970)
Doug Armitage – Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 & 1985)
John Hales – One Man (1998), Azertyuiop (2004) and Politologue (2020)


So there we have it, the history of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow’s renewal of the race, I think it always turns out to be a good race and tomorrow should be no different. I hope you all enjoyed this post and hopefully learned something new whilst reading.

I will hopefully see you all in tomorrow’ evening’s post at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Stayers’ Hurdle!

The History of the Champion Hurdle

Good Evening!

This week, in honour of the Cheltenham Festival, I have decided to write up one post per evening at 6pm, and it will be a new series within itself where I pick one race for the following day and I focus in on the history of the race. Past winners, records and hopefully new bits of information you and I may not even know! So, with that being said, let’s just get right into it.

The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race ran on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival over 2 miles and 87 yards, and is for horses who are 4 years and older.

The first running of the Champion Hurdle took place on the 9th of March 1927. There were 4 runners and it was won by 8 lengths by the 11/10 favourite Blaris who was rode by George Duller for trainer Bill Payne and for owner Mrs H. Hollins at a time of 4 minutes and 13.6 seconds.

On the 1st of March 1932, there were 3 runners and the 4/5 favourite Insurance won by 12 lengths for jockey Ted Leader, trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget in a time of 4 minutes 14.2 seconds. The following year, he was the first horse to successfully retain his crown. On the 7th of March 1933, Insurance won again as the 10/11 favourite out of 5 runners, this time winning by 3/4 of a length in a time of 4 minutes 37.6 seconds, this time with a different jockey on board, Billy Stott.

The next horse to successfully retain his crown 2 years in a row would be over 10 years later. National Spirit won the race firstly on the 12th of April 1947 by 1 length in a time of 4 minutes 03.8 seconds at 7/1 for jockey Danny Morgan, trainer Vic Smyth and owner Len Abelson, beating 13 opponents. Following it up with another victory on the 2nd of March 1948, winning by 2 lengths in a quicker time of 3 minutes 54.8 seconds. This time with Ron Smyth riding and beating 11 other competitors as the 6/4 favourite.

We then have Hatton’s Grace who successfully won the race 3 years in a row. Starting on the 7th of March 1949 winning by 6 lengths at 100/7 against 13 other competitors at a time of 4 minutes 0.6 seconds for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Mrs Harry Keogh. Followed up by another win on the 7th of March 1950, winning as the 5/2 favourite against 11 other competitors by 1 1/2 lengths in a slightly quicker time of 3 minutes, 59.6 seconds for the same jockey Aubrey Brabazon. We then move forward a year to the 6th of March 1951, where once again Hatton’s Grace won by 5 lengths at 4/1 this time under Tim Molony at a time of 4 minutes 11.2 seconds beating 7 other competitors.

Sir Ken then went on to do the same thing, winning on the 4th of March 1952 as the 3/1 favourite, the 3rd of March 1953 as the 2/5 favourite and the 2nd of March 1954 as the 4/9 favourite, all for jockey Tim Molony, trainer Willie Stephenson and owner Maurice Kingsley.

It would then be over 15 years before another horse did the same successfully. Persian War won on the 20th of March 1968 at 4/1 again on the 19th March 1969 as the 6/4 favourite and again for a third time on the 18th of March 1970 as the 5/4 favourite. All for jockey Jimmy Uttley, trainer Colin Davies and owner Henry Alper.

The next two years, the Champion Hurdle would be won by Bula. Firstly on the 18th of March 1971 as the 15/8 favourite then again on the 15th of March 1972 as the 8/11 favourite, both for jockey Paul Kelleway, trainer Fred Winter and owner Bill Edwards-Heathcote.

The next horse to win the Champion Hurdle twice, however not two years in a row, would be Comedy of Errors. He was only one of two horses to ever regain the Champion Hurdle title after losing it. Firstly on the 14th of March 1973, winning at 8/1 for jockey Bill Smith, trainer Fred Rimell and owner Ted Wheatley. On the 13th of March 1974, Comedy of Errors then came second as the 4/6 favourite behind Lanzarote (7/4) for jockey Richard Pitman, trainer Fred Winter and owner Lord Howard de Walden. The next year on the 12th of March 1975, Comedy of Errors then made a comeback and won as the 11/8 favourite, this time for jockey Ken White.

We then have Night Nurse, who won twice, once on the 17th of March 1976 as the 2/1 favourite and again on the 16th of March 1977 at 15/2. Both for jockey Paddy Broderick, trainer Peter Easterby and owner Reg Spencer.

The second placed horse in 1977, Monksfield then won twice in a row. Once on the 15th of March 1978 at 11/2 for jockey Tommy Kinane trainer Des McDonogh and owner Dr Michael Mangan followed up by another win on the 14th of March 1979 as the 9/4 favourite, this time for jockey Dessie Hughes.

The next two years were then won by Sea Pigeon, on the 11th of March 1980 at 13/2 for jockey Jonjo O’Neill, trainer Peter Easterby and owner Pat Muldoon. Then winning again on the 17th of March 1981 as the 7/4 favourite, this time for John Francome.

Another notable winner is Dawn Run who won on the 13th of March 1984, winning as the 4/5 favourite under Jonjo O’Neill for trainer Paddy Mullins and owner Charmian Hill. Dawn Run went on to win many races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2 years later.

The next winner to strike three times in three years is See You Then. Firstly on the 12th of March 1985 winning at 16/1, again on the 11th of March 1986 as the 5/6 favourite then again on the 17th of March as the 11/10 favourite, all for jockey Steve Smith Eccles, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Stype Wood Stud.

The next notable winner to win the race 3 years in a row was Istabraq. He won on the 17th of March 1998 as the 3/1 favourite, again on the 16th of March 1999 as the 4/9 favourite then again on the 14th of March 2000 as the 8/15 favourite. All three times under Charlie Swan for trainer Aidan O’Brien for owner J.P. McManus.

The next horse to mention is Hardy Eustace who firstly won on the 16th of March 2004 at 33/1, then again the following year on the 15th of March 2005 this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey Conor O’Dwyer, trainer Dessie Hughes and owner Laurence Byrne.

Now we move on to Hurricane Fly, who is only the second of 2 horses to regain his Champion Hurdle title after losing it. His first win coming on the 15th of March 2011 as the 11/4 favourite. Then on the 13th of March 2012, he finished third as the 4/6 favourite behind winner Rock On Ruby (11/1) and second place Overturn (9/2). Then on the 12th of March 2013, he regained his title, this time winning as the 13/8 favourite. Both times winning for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins and owner Creighton / Boyd.

We then have winners such as Faugheen (4/5F in 2015) and Annie Power (5/2F in 2016), both for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Susannah Ricci.

The next horse to win the Champion Hurdle twice in a row was Buveur d’Air who successfully won for the first time on the 14th of March 2017 at 5/1 for Noel Fehily, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner J.P. McManus. In his second win, he won on the 13th of March 2018 as the 4/6 favourite, this time under Barry Geraghty.

On the 12th of March 2019, J.P. McManus had another win, this time Espoir d’Allen at 16/1 for jockey Mark Walsh and trainer Gavin Cromwell. Followed up by another winner on the 10th of March 2020, Epatante as the 2/1 favourite, this time for jockey Barry Geraghty and trainer Nicky Henderson.

Things to note: In the 1947 running of the Champion Hurdle, it was finally run on the 12th of April after being postponed twice due to winter snows. In 1931, the race was abandoned totally due to frost. In 1943 an 1944, the race was not run due to World War 2. And then in 2001, the running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, instead a substitute race was run at Sandown.

Now onto some interesting statistics and records. The 2008 winner Katchit and 2019 winner Espoir d’Allen are the only horses who were 5 years old to win since See You Then in 1985, in fact, 13 of the past 16 winners were aged between 6 and 8 years old. Extended on from that, only four horses over the age of 8 have won the race since 1951, the most recent one was Hurricane Fly who was aged 9 when winning in 2013.

Another interesting fact is that 11 of the past 19 winners have been trained in Ireland and 19 of the last 28 winners had actually won at Cheltenham before. 14 of the past 18 winners had raced in the previous 7 weeks and 24 of the last 27 winners were in the top 6 of the betting. Also worth mentioning that 31 of the past 37 winners won the last time out.

On to the most successful horses in the race, winning 3 times each:
Hatton’s Grace – 1949, 1950 and 1951
Sir Ken – 1952, 1953 and 1954
Persian War – 1968, 1969 and 1970
See You Then – 1985, 1986 and 1987
Istabraq – 1998, 1999 and 2000

Now onto the most successful jockeys, all with 4 wins each:
Tim Molony – Hatton’s Grace (1951) & Sir Ken (1952, 1953 and 1954)
Ruby Walsh – Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016)
Barry Geraghty – Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2018) and Epatante (2020)

The leading trainer in the race is Nicky Henderson who has had 8 wins in the Champion Hurdle, those being: See You Then (1985, 1986 & 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur D’Air (2017 & 2018) and Epatante (2020).

With the leading owner being J.P. McManus who has had 9 wins, those being: Istabraq (1998, 1999 & 2000), Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2017 & 2018), Espoir d’Allen (2019) and Epatante (2020).


So there we have it, the history of the Champion Hurdle. I, for once, cannot wait for tomorrow’s run of the Champion Hurdle and the Festival to start as a whole, so I enjoyed looking through the history of the race. I hope you all enjoyed reading and hopefully you have all learned something new, I know I did.

I shall see you all tomorrow night at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Queen Mother Champion Chase!

An Interview with Ed Chamberlin

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. I hope you have all been enjoying the extra posts here this week and are starting to feel excited for the Cheltenham Festival. I will have 5 more posts after this one in the week to follow, they will be going up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all at 6pm and on Saturday at 11am. Today’s post, I am very excited for. I got to sit down and talk to someone I look up to in the industry and that is of course Ed Chamberlin, who you all may know as the face of ITV Racing. We spoke about all things racing, including him being the ambassador for WellChild – a charity who will be working closely with the Cheltenham Festival in the week ahead and the work they do and why they are so important. I will leave a link at the bottom of the interview to their website so you can read more and look at ways you can support them. Ed was very supportive and offered me a lot of helpful advice which I am super grateful for. I really enjoyed this one so I hope my readers will too!


Me: For the first question, I am going to throw you straight into the deep end and ask if you could own any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Ed: Gosh, good question. It would be… either… there’s three and they’re all novice chasers. It would be one of Envoi Allen, Monkfish and Shishkin. The Gold Cup is the race I’d love to win more than any other, so that rules Shishkin out, as brilliant as he is. And I think, I’d go for Monkfish. I think Monkfish is an extraordinary looking animal. I’m no judge of a horse and I’ve referred to him a couple of times on ITV as a monster but actually when you see him in the flesh he’s not. He’s tall but he’s also quite thin. He’s like a ballerina at his fences, he’s just the most brilliant athlete who’s obviously got stamina to burn. And if ever… A bit like lego, if you were ever to put together a Gold Cup winner, I think you would probably put together like Monkfish. And look Envoi Allen might have more brilliance than him and might be more mercurial than Monkfish, but they don’t always win Gold Cups. It’s a really tough question, but I’m going to go for Monkfish.

Me: What are your first memories of racing?

Ed: The first memories would be as a 7 year old with my Grandfather who lived in Somerset. He was mad about racing, to such an extent that my mother’s 18th birthday present was a Tote credit account. My Grandfather loved it. His passions in life were cider and betting on the Grand National was his favourite thing and I just got caught up in that. The first race I can remember was the 1981 Grand National where, he always let me have a couple of quid on a horse and I had it on Spartan Missile who finished second in that Grand National and I was gutted. I had no idea that this was the greatest racing story of all time with Bob Champion and Aldaniti winning the Grand National. And from that moment I was hooked! I took on the huge responsibility of being in charge of the family sweepstake. And I start looking forward to the Grand National weeks in advance, I always remember sleeping better as a small boy the night before Christmas than I would the night before the Grand National because my excitement was just off the charts for the Grand National. And yeah, I was just totally consumed by it and once you get into something like that, it just snow balls and racing very quickly became a passion of mine.

Me: Following on from that, what is your favourite race to watch back?

Ed: To be honest the 1981 Grand National is right up there. There’s so many, I love going back down memory lane on Racing TV and I love all the high profile ones, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup. And lots of flat racing since we’ve covered the sport. Crystal Ocean against Enable is one that leaped off the page, Big Orange beating Order of St George in the Gold Cup as well was just a great battle. We’ve been very lucky to have some great performances. But my favourite horse of all time, it’s a bit random to be honest, Dublin Flyer was my favourite horse ever. There were two performances he put in, one was over the Grand National fences and he jumped them as good as any horse you’d see jump them in the John Hughes Memorial but my favourite race of his, it was called the Mackeson then, now the Paddy Power Gold Cup when he rallied to get up and beat Egypt Mill Prince, I think that’s my favourite race of all time.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to present at and why?

Ed: You are horrible asking that question! Oh goodness, that’s so difficult! The best thing about my job is every week – well not at the moment – but in normal times every week is different. Going to a different track every week is so exciting because they’re all so different and so cool in so many different ways. I’m not going to sit on the fence, but the ultimate buzz to present is the Grand National because obviously it’s to around 10 million people in this country and hundreds of millions worldwide so that gets the adrenaline going more than any other. But I also love doing the smaller days at Kelso and my local track Wincanton, I love those days. But the big festivals are just fantastic to present. Cheltenham Festival, Glorious Goodwood, York, Royal Ascot and everything that goes with that. Royal Ascot is the hardest to present because I have to be on top of everything from the Royal Procession through to the singing on the bandstand and the races in between. I think my single favourite day to present is Derby day. Because it’s the one day, just to sum it up, that I have to wear two ear pieces so I can hear my director, it’s that noisy. It’s like a cauldron and it’s the closest I get with the way that, the straight at Epsom, with the crowd on either side, the open top buses, it’s the closest I get with my old job which was presenting football at old fashioned grounds like Anfield and the old White Hart Lane which just used to have an intensity that’s very hard to describe because you were just so close to the action and the crowds felt on top of the pitch. And you get that at Epsom. And on Derby day, I get moved to the front of the stands for the classic, the Derby, and that is just unbelievable, it really is. And that would be my favourite experience of a normal year. The year gone by sadly, it was probably the worst experience I’ve had on a racecourse just because I love it so much. I actually didn’t present the Derby very well in 2020. If I could have another go at one race it would be the Derby. It was just so, it was a really depressing day with marshals guarding the fence, not to let people in. A Derby run in silence was a pretty desolate experience.

Me: At the beginning of the year I interviewed Mick Fitzgerald who spoke very highly of you, telling me how you aim to get the best out of everyone you work with and that’s why people love working with you. What do you enjoy most about being a part of the ITV Racing team?

Ed: It’s a very good question Zoe. Gosh, that’s very kind of Mick Fitzgerald. I feel like I want to be the referee, I don’t want anyone talking about me. When you’re the presenter, it should never be about you. I never offer an opinion on much because I’m there to get the best out of other people. And the one thing I’ve tried to install since joining ITV in 2016 to start in 2017 was to try and create a team ethic. I always wanted us working as a team and the first thing I did was to introduce a rule where everyone had to get together the night before a meeting at 6 o’clock. Obviously that’s difficult now, but we’ll do it for Cheltenham next week. And I wanted to create an environment where we’re in it together, whether you’re Anthony McCoy or the runner that makes cups of tea, I wanted us all to be working together. I wanted us to have a production meeting together, eat, drink, laugh as a team. And I think we’ve really go that ethic which hopefully shines through on screen because we obviously have our disagreements but we are one big family on ITV Racing across the board, everyone behind and in front of the camera, we all work together. Summed up by last week, which was a very tricky week, you know, we were… various whatsapp’s, zooms and we really stuck together and worked together and I think that’s really important in any walk of life – working as a team. And I really do love the team dearly and I hope that comes across on screen. And Mick is such a big part of that, I’m surrounded by a lot of really good team players and that’s what I wanted when I started.

Me: Since working with ITV Racing, what’s been your favourite moment to present?

Ed: Lots of ups and downs. Day 1 didn’t go to plan, I remember that, January the 1st 2017 – That was the hardest. There’s been lots of lows and lots of highs. We learn from the lows and we keep the highs in perspective. If I was to say one, Tiger Roll obviously was the closest to my heart, when he won the Cross Country and the Grand National, I was very emotive. It was a bit like presenting a Southampton win in my old job in Premier League football, it’s very hard to keep your emotions in check. That horse, I just became very close with him. But if I have to say one hour that suck out, I’ll always say the best moment I’ve had in television is when Manchester City won the Premier League with the iconic Agüero goal and Martin Tyler’s commentary. But the hour at Cheltenham a couple of years ago when Bryony Frost won the Ryanair on Frodon which had us all choking up because her interview was so good. It was a very emotive experience. And then immediately to have that followed by Paisley Park winning for Andrew Gemmell, Emma Lavelle, Barry Fenton, Aidan Coleman and just this warrior of a horse in Paisley Park, honestly it was… I remember being praised in the newspapers afterwards for being a bit like Des Lynam in not saying much, I let the pictures breath, which is a very important skill for a presenter. But that wasn’t a choice by me, that was because I found the whole thing emotional and I wasn’t capable of speaking even if I wanted to. Because Emma is one of my favourite people and to see Andrew Gemmell who’s been blind since birth getting such a thrill and enjoyment out of Paisley Park winning was just an extraordinary bit of sport. We called it the golden hour, it was magical and that’s what we need next week. We need stories like that to show just what a magnificent sport this is and how wonderful the horses are and get racing back on the back and front of the newspapers for the right reasons. Stories that only racing can write.

Me: Before you moved over to ITV, you worked for Sky, how did you find the transition from football to horse racing?

Ed: I found it really really difficult. Incredibly difficult. Switching sport is not something I’d recommend to any young presenters out there. I still don’t find it easy now, but I got it very wrong at the time, I thought… When I left football Leicester had just won the Premier League and I thought I needed to know everything about racing, because you know, I’d been in football nearly 20 years and I thought I needed to know absolutely everything. I went everywhere trying to learn every aspect of racing, but in hindsight, that was a mistake because in my job you don’t need to know everything. It helps to have it stored away but you don’t need to use it because as I said earlier, you’re there to get the best out of other people. And ITV Racing, I very quickly learnt that the real racing fans, there aren’t very many. The large bulk of our audience… Like Cheltenham next week, we’d like to think we’ll get well over a million each day, and only in the tens of thousands of those are the real racing fans, the rest are generally just sports fans who like to dip into racing. We are part of the entertainment industry and it’s got to be entertaining and I quickly learnt you can’t please everybody every show we do. People say ‘we need to see more of the horses’ or ‘we need something else’ or ‘we need more betting’ or ‘we want more social stable’ and you have to accept you can’t win and you need a thick skin to stick to what we’re doing. I’ve learnt a lot in the four years and trying to get that balance right is very difficult and we’re never going to get it 100% right, of course we’re not but the way we’ve grown our audience over the four years is very satisfactory because it’s been nice to prove people wrong. There are a few articles last week, where one journalist said jump racing was in danger of extinction, well more people are watching jump racing now than they have in a very long time. We’ve obviously got a challenge to keep those people, but it’s very popular right now on ITV and during lockdown that’s obviously accelerated dramatically with people watching so that’s quite satisfying for me, but I want to keep doing that. I want to keep getting people to enjoy what I think is a brilliant sport. Our mantra has always been since day one to make racing accessible to as many people as possible and that’s something I’m passionate about and will continue to do.

So to answer your question, it was a lot harder than I expected it to be and a lot more challenging but I’ve learnt rapidly and hopefully the viewing figures back up the way we’ve done it.

Me: I think it’s important because with ITV Racing it is presented in such a way that you don’t need to be an avid racing fan to truly understand what’s happening.

Ed: The key thing there, to any presenter watching, television is very subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on television but the media training I do, the key thing as a presenter is to make people feel welcome, to make people feel warm and a part of the show. Particularly now when a lot of people suffering and a lot of people are fed up, give them an escape for a couple of hours, feel part of our coverage, make people feel welcome to it – That’s always what we’re trying to do. Make racing welcoming to everybody.

Me: That always comes across when you are watching ITV Racing.

Ed: I always say, people sometimes like to compare us to racing channels, you don’t need to do that. My ethos is if I can get people into racing and enjoying it and they then take out a subscription to Racing TV then I’ve done my job. That’s what I want to happen.

Me: With Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, what would you say is the best bet of the week?

Ed: Best bet of the week… There’s a few I fancy actually. I think Soaring Glory will go very well in the opener, the Sky Bet Supreme. But I think if I had a bet of the week, I’d love Paul Nicholls to have a winner at the Festival because he’s so good for the game and I just hope the love is shared and Willie Mullins doesn’t just win absolutely everything… So I think I’ll go for Bravemansgame in the Ballymore. Challow Hurdle winners at Newbury have got an awful record in the race, but hopefully he can break that because his owner is a good friend of mine in John Dance and I just think Bravemansgame has got something very special about him. And he’ll go off at a decent price because on the preview circuit their talking about Bob Olinger as if he’s absolutely past the post already so that’s going to make the price for Bravemansgame, so I’ll go with him.

Me: And in terms of the Festival, WellChild have been announced as an official partner, you’ve worked with them for many year as an ambassador, can you tell us a little bit more about what they do and how important they are and what partnering with the Cheltenham Festival will do for them?

Ed: I’m so pleased you’ve asked that because… I find it very emotional to talk about actually. For me, it’s very surreal. I’m looking at the Cheltenham Festival magazine here supporting WellChild and when I first starting working with WellChild 10 years ago they were just a very small charity in Cheltenham. They just struck a note of something that meant the world to me, someone who was very ill 10/11 years ago and seeing a children’s cancer ward was like no experience I’ve ever gone through or ever want to see again. It was much worse than the experience I was going through in the ward next door. And, I said to myself then, if I can come through the other side of this, if I can do anything to help get children out of hospital and looked after at home. The sight of a young child in hospital just broke my heart and what WellChild does is it looks after and nurses seriously ill children and it nurses them at home which I think is the most important thing. So things like my annual golf day, WellChild awards, marathon runners – that type of thing, helps fund the nursing at home. There are some desperately sad stories, yes. But there are also some of the most inspiring young people you’ll ever meet. We’ve got them drawing pictures for this year and this is the biggest boost for WellChild at a really difficult time. They’ve had a torrid year, when you think that all their fundraising events have been cancelled. My golf day – cancelled. London Marathon – cancelled. WellChild Awards- cancelled. And they’ve really suffered, then suddenly this idea came about.

The local community in Cheltenham is one of the things we’re really going to support this year, it’s the theme of the first day, we’re doing a theme each day. Day 1 is local community and WellChild ticks that box as well as B&B’s, hotels, taxi firms in Cheltenham. And for WellChild, the exposure and hopefully fundraising is just going to make the wold of difference to a lot of WellChild families and a lot of seriously ill young children. Which I just find emotive and surreal and incredible what Cheltenham and the Jockey Club have done here. And again, it just shows how awesome racing is.

It’s given everybody who works for the charity a huge boost, it’s given the nurses a huge boost and I just hope the families get a real buzz out of it. I had to do a judging of the pictures the young kids had drawn. With kids as young as 5 drawing picture of horses and Gold Cup’s… How am I supposed to pick the top 3? I wanted to pick all of them! I can’t give too much away for next week but there’s going to be some very clever signage and little touches to support the kids. Which again, I might go a little bit quiet on ITV and you doing this interview you’ll know why I’ve gone quiet. It just means the world to me.

The Jockey Club and Cheltenham have got so behind the cause and you’ll see what they’ve done at the racecourse just how much they’ve committed to it. Because some people say ‘it’s ridiculous, a charity shouldn’t be spending money at Cheltenham’ but actually, they’re not spending any more. This is all the Jockey Club and Cheltenham supporting the charity.

Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand National, with it being announced Tiger Roll won’t be running, who do you fancy now to take that crown from him?

Ed: I fancy one quite strongly actually. I think after what Cloth Cap did the weekend, he’ll take the world of beating, he was on springs around Kelso, he will absolutely love jumping those fences. And I would absolutely love to see Trevor Hemmings win the Grand National for the 4th time. If he doesn’t warm people’s hearts and boost spirits, nobody will. His enthusiasm is infectious at his ripe young age. But from a betting point of view, I think Secret Reprieve. Now I, it sounds like he’s definitely going to bypass Cheltenham and it sounds like from Evan Williams quotes, even though he’s not committing him, it sounds like the Grand National might be the plan. And off 10-1 after his performance in the Welsh Grand National he’s going to be absolutely running free. And that day, he just looked like a Grand National winner, the way he jumped and he obviously has stamina in abundance. The Grand National these days is a race where they go pretty quick and stamina now is more important then ever, you’ve got to stay every yard. You’ve got to look for a horse that stays and Secret Reprieve we know he stays, he’s off a great weight clearly and he’s made for the race. The owners have gone so close in the National before, it would be great for them to win it and I think Secret Reprieve stands out a mile.

Me: Another thing I wanted to touch on was social media, you worked in TV before social media was really a thing, how much would you say it has changed your job, the industry and sport as a whole?

Ed: I think it’s changed the world a lot, I wouldn’t say it’s changed my world. I’d be someone that says as a presenter if you listen and broadcast to social media then turn out the lights and give up the game because it’s a dangerous thing to do. I used to really embrace social media, I enjoyed it and I’m talking about Twitter here primarily, but I feel very differently about it now. I worry about it, not for myself, it doesn’t bother me, but I worry about it for young people like yourself because it can be a horrible, horrible place. And some of the messages I have to receive and to be fair, most of them I am old and uglier enough to just laugh at but, come on, why can’t people post under their real identity? I just don’t understand that. I’ve seen you upset on there few times, I’ve seen other people upset on there and it really worries me. I have two kids and I don’t want them growing up having to listen to some of the stuff and I don’t want them to read the stuff about their daddy. People need to think before they post, they need to be kinder and they should have their name on their profile. I spend very little time on their now. It can be a very good information source, it’s got lots of brilliant people, but the last week… Lee Mottershead, it sums it up. The reaction to Lee Mottershead to what he said on Sunday, fine don’t agree with him, I didn’t particularly agree with what he said, but the vile, horrendous stick he had to take just makes me despair. 24 hours after I had said the lesson of this whole episode is that racing needs to listen and we need to be better at listening, accepting criticism, learning from criticism and then that happens and I just despair sometimes. As I said, I’m old enough and uglier enough, it doesn’t worry me and I don’t spend a lot of time on there. But then things like Instagram I absolutely love, it’s great fun! You must not get too caught up in it because Twitter does not reflect real life, I promise you. I listen to everything, I read everything but most of the stuff I just laugh at. I used to react to it, but I try not to do that anymore because it’s just not worth it.

Me: What would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion they want to follow?

Ed: Go for it. Be determined, you just… In life you need a bit of luck but when you get that bit of luck, take advantage. So my lucky break was one of the senior executives at Sky was watching Bloomburg Television one day, I think one man and his dog watches Bloomburg Television, but I used to go on there to do a sport preview show and they saw me there. I had no interest in working in television at the time, I was a journalist. And that was my lucky break and when I got my lucky break and was invited into Sky my attitude was take advantage. The door had opened for me, it was up to me to barge my way through it and then really make the most of it and that’s what I did. Then I had another lucky break when I became the face of Premier League football on Sky when Richard Keys and Andy Gray left sky, again the door opened for me and I took advantage. That’s the way to do it. But these days it’s very different to when I started. For someone like yourself, you’re doing exactly what I recommend to people. Get yourself out there with interviews, blogs, podcasts – there’s so many things you can do now to get yourself out there and get yourself seen an I know it’s a cliché, but it only takes one pair of ears or one pair of eyes to see what you’re doing and think ‘that’s good’ and then you might get an opportunity and take advantage. So if you’re interested in the media, if you’re interested in writing, journalism holds the key. So, I would be very disappointed if anyone that does a role similar to mine turned down an interview from a young person like yourself. And you’ve just got to have that initiative and that determination to do it, which you’ve clearly got in spades and I’m full of admiration for that. So my advice to young people is be brave, get yourself out there and work damn hard.

Me: Just to finish the interview, I’ve been asked to ask you by my friend Kian Burley, if he can still have your job with ITV Racing when you decide to step down?

Ed: Bit worried about my mortgage at the moment so he might have to give me just a few more years yet. And I’m rather enjoying what I’m doing at the moment – The question I get asked more than any other in supermarkets and garages is why did I leave Premier League football and they also asked me when will I go back to Premier League football. To which my response is I’m in no hurry whatsoever, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So you’ll have to tell him, I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

Me: That’s everything from me, I want to thank you for taking your time outto speak with me, I really appreciate it.

Ed: Honestly, to see someone showing a bit of initiative like you are, I’m all in favour of supporting. I turn down lots of things as you can imagine, but I will never say no to something like that. You can tell hopefully from my ethos and attitude. But you have to promise me one thing… Don’t get too upset by people on social media.


After the interview ended, Ed spoke with me about everything I was doing in more detail and gave me so much advice and support and I just want to say a huge thank you to him, I understand totally how busy he will be in the run up to Cheltenham but for him to give up his time to sit and speak with me on a lengthy phone call and give me some support and advice also, meant a lot to me, especially as he’s someone I look up to in the industry.

As I mentioned at the top of the page WellChild are an incredible charity and I am so glad I got to speak to Ed about the work they do. There website is: https://www.wellchild.org.uk/ – I urge everyone to check out their website where you can find out more about the work they do and also donate if you can afford to.

I am really grateful I got to speak with Ed and I really hope everyone enjoyed this one as much as I did! Leading into the Cheltenham Festival I have a post Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening’s at 6pm and another next Saturday morning at 11am so a very busy week ahead on my website and I hope to see you all back here for all of those!

Thank you so much for reading, I will see you tomorrow at 6pm for my next post: The History of the Champion Hurdle.

Kauto Star: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post in the What Makes a People’s Horse series here at zoelouisesmithx.com. This series is turning out to be a very popular one and I am super excited that I have been given 100+ horses to look into as per my followers on Twitter. So this means I will be continuing to share more posts and focus on horses that have been suggested. Today’s is all about Kauto Star who was suggested to me by 100’s of people, however the first being @G_Carter31 over on Twitter. So without further ado, let’s get right to it!


Kauto Star was foaled 19th March 2000, by Village Star out of Kauto Relka. He was bred by Mrs Henri Aubert in France. Originally he was sent into training in France by Serge Foucher.

Whilst in training with Serge Foucher, Kauto Star made his hurdle debut at Bordeaux Le Bouscat Racecourse in France on the 1st March 2003, where he finished second out of two horses. He then ran again on the 14th April 2003, this time at Enghien where he won, before heading to Auteuil on the 4th May 2003 for another hurdle race over 1 mile 7 furlong where he won again by a head.

After a 146 day break, Kauto Star returned to Auteuil another 3 times during 2003, on the 27th September, 11th October and 2nd November, where he won, fell and placed 2nd respectively. We then head into 2004, after a 126 day break Kauto Star headed to Auteuil another 4 times, on the 7th March, 27th March, 24th April and 30th May, where he finished 3rd, 5th, 3rd and 1st respectively.

During this time, Kauto Star caught the attention of Paul Nicholls who had seen a video of him in action. He arranged to buy Kauto Star through Anthony Bromley, a bloodstock agent in France. Paul then arranged for owner Clive Smith to purchase him for €400,000.

On the 15th November 2004 Kauto Star officially moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard in Ditcheat ready for the 2004/2005 season. His first race in the UK took place on the 29th December 2004 when he headed to Newbury for a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. Starting as the 2/1 joint favourite, Kauto Star won by 9 lengths to the other joint favourite Foreman under AP McCoy.

We now move into 2005 and on the 31st January Kauto Star headed to Exeter where he finished 2nd out of 2 finishers in a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh riding as the 2/11 favourite behind Mistral De La Cour (20/1) for Andrew Thornton.

Kauto Star took a 274 day break, before returning to Exeter on the 1st November 2005, again with stable jockey Ruby Walsh riding. He started at 3/1 for the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup Chase, where he finished 2nd behind Monkerhostin (10/1) for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs. On the 3rd December, Kauto Star headed to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, where he started as the 5/2 joint favourite with Mick Fitzgerald taking the ride. He ended up winning by 1 1/2 lengths to the other joint favourite Ashley Brook for AP McCoy.

With his first Grade 1 under his belt, Kauto Star took a 102 day break before heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival in 2006 on the 15th March for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He started as the 2/1 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up taking his first fall on British soil. Paul then gave Kauto Star a 221 summer break before heading to Aintree on the 22nd October 2006 for the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase where, under Ruby Walsh, he won as the Evens favourite, beating stable companion Armaturk (13/2) by 21 lengths.

Kauto Star then headed to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 18th November 2006 where he won as the 11/10 favourite under Ruby Walsh. Kauto then made a reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on the 2nd December to try and retain his title. Successfully doing so by winning by 7 lengths as the odds on 4/9 favourite, again with Ruby Walsh. Next for Kauto Star was the second leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the King George Chase on Boxing Day 2006, where he won by 8 lengths as the 8/13 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh.

Heading into 2007, Kauto Star went to Newbury on the 10th February for the Grade 2 Aon Chase. As the odd on 2/9 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star won by a neck to AP McCoy on L’Ami (6/1). We then move on to the third and final leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on the 16th March 2007. With Ruby Walsh on board and starting the race as the 5/4 favourite, the pressure was well and truly on. Everybody had their hearts in their mouths when he hit the final fence, however, he stayed on strong and won by 2 1/2 lengths to AP McCoy on Exotic Dancer. By winning the Betfair Chase, King George and Gold Cup, Kauto Star won the Stayers Chase Triple Crown £1 million bonus and also finished the season as the top rated chaser.

Kauto Star then took a 226 day, very well deserved, summer break, before returning to Aintree on the 28th October 2007 to try and retain his Old Roan Chase crown. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh on board, finished second as the 11/10 favourite, 1 1/2 lengths behind Monet’s Garden (9/4). He then headed to Haydock to retain the Betfair Chase title, this time under Sam Thomas due to regular jockey Ruby Walsh being out injured with a dislocated shoulder. He started the race as the odd on 4/5 favourite where he beat Barry Geraghty riding Exotic Dancer. We then move on to the King George on Boxing day 2007, where Kauto Star aimed to retain his next crown. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride, they started as the odd on 4/6 favourite, winning easily by 11 lengths to Our Vic (12/1).

Swiftly moving into 2008, Kauto Star took a 52 day break, before returning to the track, this time at Ascot on the 16th February for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. He started as the 4/11 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. At this point in the career, stable jockey Ruby Walsh had announced his intention to ride Kauto Star in the Gold Cup opposed to Denman, who Sam Thomas would be booked to ride. In his final preparation for the Gold Cup, Kauto Star won by 8 lengths to Monet’s Garden (6/1).

The question on everyone’s lips when heading into the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the 14th of March 2008 was if Kauto Star could successfully complete the Stayers Chase Triple Crown once again, or if his very successful and talented stable mate Denman would hinder that. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite to try and retain his crown, with Denman starting at 9/4. With Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star and Sam Thomas riding Denman, this looked to be a brilliant head to head. Denman took up the race with a circuit to go and ended up winning by 7 lengths, with Kauto Star finishing second by a short head to another stable companion Neptune Collonges (25/1) with Mick Fitzgerald riding. Kauto Star’s season ended at Aintree on the 3rd of April 2008 in a Grade 2 Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh, where he lost by just a nose to Our Vic (9/1).

We then head into the new season and after a 212 day summer break, Kauto Star headed to Ireland to Down Royal on the 1st of November 2008 for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 2/5 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride again. This time beating Mark Walsh on Light On The Broom (50/1) by 11 lengths. Returning back to England, next for Kauto Star was his attempt at another Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 22nd of November. Regular jockey Ruby Walsh was out injured with a ruptured spleen, meaning Sam Thomas took the ride. Starting as the 2/5 favourite, his old fierce competitor Exotic Dancer (7/2) being his main opposition in the betting. Unfortunatly it was not meant to be, with Kauto Star stumbling on landing and unseating Sam Thomas after the last.

Kauto Star then headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2008 to try and win his third King George. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite with regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride. Despite making a mistake at the last, Kauto Star went on to win by 8 lengths to AP McCoy on Albertas Run (25/1).

Moving into 2009, Paul Nicholls made the decision that Kauto Star would best run fresh, so unlike previous season, he would not run again before Cheltenham where he would be aimed for the Gold Cup, again taking on the current holder and stable companion Denman. So after a 77 day break Kauto Star headed to the Gold Cup where he started as the 7/4 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride, with second favourite being Denman at 7/1 and third stable companion Neptune Collonges being 15/2 then Kauto Star’s fierce rival Exotic Dancer at 8/1. Kauto Star moved into the lead after jumping the third last fence, before pulling clear and going on to win by 13 lengths to Denman (7/1). He then ended the season as the top rated steeplechase horse for the second time.

Kauto Star started the new season after a 253 day break, heading to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 21st November 2009. He started the race as the 4/6 odds on favourite with Ruby Walsh riding. Kauto Star and Imperial Commander were 24 lengths clear from Madison Du Berlais, with Kauto Star winning by just a nose to Imperial Commander (9/1). Kauto Star then headed straight to Kempton on Boxing Day to attempt to win his fourth consecutive King George VI Chase. With Ruby Walsh riding again, starting as the 8/13 favourite, Kauto Start went clear with three fences left to jump, before eventually winning by 36 lengths to Madison Du Berlais (10/1). Winning by such a distance, meant he broke Arkle’s 44 year old record of winning by 30 lengths which directly lead to a rule change dispensing with the traditional winning distance of “a distance” which had previously been used for wins of more than 30 lengths.

After winning the King George for a 4th time, Kauto Star was awarded a Racing Post Rating of 192, the highest ever earned by a Nation Hunt horse. Timeform also gave him a rating of 191, the highest given to a horse in almost 40 years. This made him the joint third highest rated steeplechase of all time, level with Mill House and only behind Arkle who was rated 212 and Flyingbolt who was rated 210. Kauto Star was officially rated 193, which is the highest ever awared to a chaser.

We now move into 2010. After an 83 day break, Kauto Star headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup on the 19th of March. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride again, he started as the 8/11 favourite. He travelled well throughout, before crashing through the 8th fence which knocked him back a few places. Then at the fourth to last fence, in fifth place, Kauto Star fell awkwardly, landing on his neck. Luckily, he got to his feet, looking unscathed. When he returned to the unsaddling area, he was applauded by everyone in the grandstands who were just happy he had survived an awful fall to fight another day.

After a 232 day break, Kauto Star headed to Down Royal for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh and went on to win by 4 lengths to Sizing Europe (5/1).

With the Kempton Boxing Day meeting being postponed due to snow, the King George took place on the 15th of January 2011 and this is where Kauto Star headed next. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh being injured, Champion Jockey AP McCoy came in for the ride. Starting the race as the 4/7 favourite, unfortunately he could only manage a 3rd place behind winner Long Run (9/2) and second place Riverside Theatre (10/1), both trained by Nicky Henderson. This was the first time that Kauto Star had finished outside of the top two in a completed race, due to this there were calls for Kauto Star to be retired. After the race, it was discovered that he was suffering from an infection and for the first time in his career, he had bled during the race. However, trainer Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star would still be trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as originally planned.

So that is exactly what happened, Kauto Star headed straight to the Gold Cup on the 18th of March 2011 after a 62 day break. He started the race at 5/1, meaning for the first time since 2005, he was not starting as the favourite of this race. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride, they only managed a 3rd place behind favourite Long Run (7/2F) and stable companion, Denman (8/1). Kauto Star headed to Punchestown on the 4th of May 2011 for the Punchestown Gold Cup. He started as the 10/11 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up being pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “never travelling”. As before, Kauto Star was applauded as he returned to the stables.

After being pulled up at Punchestown, the call for Kauto Star to be retired were even stronger than before. However, connections said that their intention was to bring him back into training after a summer break and assess his condition to see if he could continue, only if they were happy with his physical and mental wellbeing.

Kauto Star took a 199 day summer break, before heading to Haydock on the 19th of November to compete in the Betfair Chase where he started the race at his longest odds in his UK career at 6/1 under Ruby Walsh. Kauto Star made this is fourth victory in this race, winning by 8 lengths to the favourite Long Run (6/5F). Kauto Star had now won the Betfair Chase in 2006, 2007, 2009 and now 2011, meaning that he became the only horse to have won two different Grade 1 jump races four times, with the other being the King George, which he had won in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Speaking of the King George, that is what came next for Kauto Star on Boxing Day 2011. Starting at 3/1, Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh riding, beat the Evens favourite Long Run, by 1 1/4 lengths.

In 2012 the main aim was to go straight to the Gold Cup. However at the end of February, Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star had suffered a fall during routine schooling at Ditcheat, which put his Gold Cup hopes in doubt. However, after intensive physiotherapy and walking exercise, he showed a rapid improvement and just a week before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kauto Star headed to Wincanton for a racecourse gallop. Here, he pleased connections and the decision was finally made that he would run in the Gold Cup. He started the Gold Cup at 3/1 under Ruby Walsh, however he was pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “not stretching out”. No major injury was revealed, however owner Clive Smith made comments that he would most likely be retired.

As expected, at the end of October 2012, Kauto Star’s retirement was announced. With owner Clive Smith saying:

He’s had a magnifficant career and I’m mighty proud of him. We’ve decided to retire him as of today. I’d always thought he had done enough. It’s been the journey of a lifetime. He’s a wonderful, wonderful horse and a good friend of mine.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And trainer Paul Nicholls saying:

Clive and I had been talking about it during the summer. We both knew it was the right thing to do, it was an unanimous decision. We have had nine superb years with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself, Clifford (Baker, head lad) and Dan (Skelton, assistant trainer) were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him. Of course, as owner, the final decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

Paul also described the horse as:

He’s definitely one of the greatest, it’s hard to compare generations but in my lifetime he’s been the best and probably will be the best.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

With Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star’s regular jockey also commenting on him:

He’s the horse of my lifetime. I’m very lucky to be the one who got to ride him. He was an amazing horse to ride and an amazing horse to be part of and I loved every minute of riding him.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And Mick Fitzgerald, who rode Kauto Star in his 2005 win in the Tingle Creek saying:

You’d have to say Kauto Star is right up there with the best (there’s ever been).”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

When being retired, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith disagreed on what should happen with Kauto Star now. On the 11th of December 2012, Kauto Star left Ditcheat and was sent to Laura Collett and Yogi Breisner, who coached the Great Britain dressage team, who assessed him to determine if he would be suitable for their sport. At the time, owner Clive Smith said of Paul Nicholls:

He is trying emotional blackmail, saying that Kauto Star would be better off staying at Ditcheat to be Clifford Baker’s hack. I always want to do the best for Kauto Star. We are going to try it, what is wrong with that?”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/9738182/Kauto-Star-dressage-row-sparks-split-between-Clive-Smith-and-Paul-Nicholls.html

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Kauto Star, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Kauto Star’s race record

21/11F2353/112/21F/111111/211122/1U11/11F/133/P11P/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

41 Races
23 x 1st
7 x 2nd
4 x 3rd
1 x 5th
3 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider
2 x Pulled Up

So, all in all, Kauto Star won over £3.7 million pounds in prize money including a £1 million bonus for winning the Stayers Chase Triple Crown and a £400,000 reward for heading the BHA Table of Merit, both in the 2006/2007 season. In his career, Kauto Star won the Gold Cup twice in 2007 and 2009, he won the Betfair Chase 4 times in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and he won the King George a record of five times in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

On the 24th of June 2015, it was announced that Kauto Star was seriously injured when taking a fall in his paddock. He was sent to the Valley Equine Hospital where he received intensive medical treatment over the weekend. However multiple injuries were to severe and on the 29th of June at 3pm, Kauto Star was sadly put to sleep. The veterinary assistant, Hattie Lawrence, reporting that:

Three bones appear to have been fractured. There also appears to have been a fracture to the spine at the base of the neck. This ultimately was the most significant injury as it produced the paralysis that made it impossible for him to stand.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

With Laura Collett saying:

It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved with him and had him in the yard. It’s just horrendous. He was out in the field, the same field he was out in very day, we don’t really know what happened.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Owner Clive Smith also commenting:

I was away at the time. I saw him on Friday and by that time he’d had what appeared to be a mild injury, but things gradually changed. He was not responding to treatment on Thursday and Friday and various complications came over the weekend. Although he made an improvement and rallied, as he always did in races, on Monday morning it was very bad. I came back down from Scotland and the decision was taken with Hattie Lawrence to euthanise the horse.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith then went on to describe the last few minutes with him:

The real injury that has caused the problem is a neck injury, at the base of the neck between C6 and T2 (vertebrae). It affects the spinal chord and in the end, it paralyses through the legs. When I saw him yesterday afternoon, he was lying there and I fed him some grass and stroked him and tried to spend the last few minutes with him. The decision had to be taken an there was no other course of action to take. Unfortunately he was not able to stand and then he had the pelvic injury.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith also commented on Kauto Star and how much he was truly loved:

He had a beautiful nature and he will be sadly missed by a lot more people than you could ever imagine. The response I used to get around the racecourses, people used to come and talk about him all the time. He really has been well loved by everybody and I’m sure he’ll continue to be so. He just loved the attention, he was a little bit of a show off. He liked being stroked and given lots of Polos. He was a particularly extrovert type of horse and he was so talented as well, which makes it all the more difficult to take in. I just feel so sorry he didn’t have chance to have a longer life.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

So, in summary, Kauto Star was a ridiculously talented horse and will always go down as one of the most successful steeplechasers in racing. He won some huge races, had some massive rivalries but all in all was just an incredible horse all round. I was lucky enough to grow up watching Kauto Star as a child with my dad, I don’t remember much, but researching this post I have sat watching YouTube videos and I have loved it. The crowd go wild each time and it’s clear to see how loved he was, is and always will be.


I really hope you all enjoyed this post and I will hopefully see you all in my next one!

Don Cossack: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Before I get into today’s post I would like to make a few announcements, unusual for me, I know, but I am super excited and proud and would like to share with my readers!

Firstly, I would like to formally announce I am officially working with Careers In Racing to continue to create content and promote the sport I love. I am truly honoured to be given this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started! You can read my opening interview right now on their website: https://www.careersinracing.com/careers-in-racing-social-creators-zoe-smith/ where I introduce myself and also answer some questions I never have before. I am super exited for this project and I know it will be incredible, so keep an eye on my website and my social media for more information!

Secondly, I was asked by someone you probably all know, William Kedjanyi, to write up his Just William column for Star Sports this week and I absolutely took him up on that opportunity. I focus in on social media within horse racing, amateur jockey’s not being allowed to ride at the Cheltenham Festival as well as Tiger Roll and his future. You can read that right here: https://www.starsportsbet.co.uk/just-william-zoe-smiths-racing-takes/. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this up, something totally different to my usual work and I hope you all enjoy.

Now, with those being said, let’s just jump right into today’s post. My Dad is my number one fan who reads every post I write and always gives me ideas for new posts I can look to write. So today I decided to focus in on a horse who my dad absolutely loves and followed throughout his career and that is Don Cossack. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Don Cossack was foaled 21st March 2007, by Sholokhov out of Depeche Toi. He was bred by Gestut Etzean in Germany. Don Cossack was sent to Ireland where he entered ownership of W. B. Connors who sent him into training with Edward Hales.

Don Cossack’s career started on 3rd May 2011 when he ran in a 4 year old National Hunt Flat Race for Mares and Geldings where he finished 5th out of 24 under Robbie McNamara at 6/1. Very shortly after, on 24th October 2011 Don Cossack was brought by the Gigginstown House Stud and move to Gordon Elliott’s yard. After an 179 day break, on 29th October 2011, he was sent to Naas for a National Hunt Flat Race where he started as the 2/1 favourite under Nina Carberry where he won his first race.

Don Cossack then had a 50 day break before returning to the track, this time to Navan on 18th December for a Grade 2 National Hunt Flat Race. He won by 1 1/2 lengths under Nina Carberry as the 4/6 favourite. He took another break, this time of 113 days, not returning to the track until the 9th April 2012. This time to Fairyhouse, winning by 17 lengths as the 6/5 favourite, again under Nina Carberry.

After a 230 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Navan, this time for a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles. He started the race as the 30/100 favourite, this time under Davy Russell and impressively won by 9 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was a Novice Hurdle at Navan on the 16th December 2012, where he started the race as the odds on 8/15 favourite under Davy Russell. Shocking everyone, this was the first time Don Cossack had lost in his career, taking his first fall. After this race, Gordon Elliott did say that he was found to be lame.

We then move into 2013, on the 3rd February, Don Cossack went to Punchestown for the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over 2 miles. Under Davy Russell he started as the 6/5 favourite. He ended up finishing 2nd by 1 length behind Mozoltov (9/4) trained by Willie Mullins with Ruby Walsh riding. Three weeks later, Don Cossack went to Naas to compete in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle. He started at 5/2, again under Davy Russell. He ended up finishing 3rd behind the winner Annie Power (5/2), the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh partnership and in second place Defy Logic (13/8F) with AP McCoy on board for Paul Nolan.

Don Cossack then took a 246 day summer break, returning to the track, this time going to Galway for a Beginners Chase on the 28th October 2013 over 2 mile 6 1/2 furlong. He won the race under Andrew Lynch as the 10/11 favourite and in a very stylish way too, winning by 20 lengths. A very impressive start to his chasing career. Three weeks later, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown where he ran in a Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2 mile 6 furlong on the 17th November. He finished second as the odds on 4/5 favourite, this time with Bryan Cooper riding. The eventual winner, by 1/2 length, was Morning Assembly (6/4) for Ruby Walsh.

Two weeks later on the 1st December 2013, Don Cossack headed to Fairyhouse to compete in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 4 furlong. This time with Davy Russell taking up the ride and winning as the 13/8 favourite. Don Cossack took a 70 day break before returning in 2014, this time to Leopardstown on the 9th February, for another Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 5 furlong. With Bryan Cooper taking the ride, he started as the Evens favourite. Finishing second by 4 lengths behind the duo of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with Ballycasey (2/1).

The next time we would see Don Cossack was when he took his first trip across the pond to go to the biggest stage of them all, the Cheltenham Festival on the 12th March 2014. Here he ran in the Grade 1 RSA Chase, he started at 11/1 under Bryan Cooper, sadly he fell only for the second time in his career. However, his season wasn’t quite over yet. Gordon Elliott sent Don Cossack back to England, this time to Aintree on the 4th April 2014 to run in a Grade 1 Novice’ Chase over 3 mile 1 furlong. He started at 4/1 under Davy Russell, however only managed second place behind the very powerful duo of AP McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill with Holywell (7/2). Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on the 29th April, at 4/1. He finished 4th out of 5 with Barry Geraghty riding. Out of the 3 horses who finished ahead of him, 2 had previously beaten him before, 3rd place Morning Assembly (7/4F), 2nd place Ballycasey (3/1) and winner Carlingford Lough (7/2).

Next for Don Cossack was a 170 day summer break before returning to Punchestown on the 16th October 2014 for a Grade 3 Chase where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 11/10 under Bryan Cooper by 5 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was on my 18th birthday, 1st November 2014, where he headed to Down Royal for a Grade 2 Chase. He beat the odds on 8/11 favourite, Wonderful Charm, who finished in second place. Don Cossack won by 8 1/2 lengths under Bryan Cooper at 6/4. One month later, Don Cossack headed back to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Chase, this time beating the 11/10 favourite Boston Bob who finished in second place. This time by 4 1/2 lengths under Brian O’Connell at 13/8.

We then move into 2015 and on the 15th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles with Bryan Cooper riding, making it 4/4 for the season, this time winning at 6/4 by a massive 44 lengths. He then took a 56 day break before returning to England to have a second shot at the Cheltenham Festival, this time the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on the 12th March. He started as the 5/2 favourite under Bryan Cooper, however could only manage a 3rd place behind the winner Uxzandre (16/1) for AP McCoy and Alan King and in second place Ma Filleule (5/1) for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.

Don Cossack returned to England on the 10th April 2015 for the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, where he started as the 3/1 joint favourite. This time he was rode by a new jockey as Bryan Cooper was currently serving a suspension, the new jockey being Champion Jockey AP McCoy. He ended up winning by 26 lengths to the horse I focused in on Wednesday, the brilliant Cue Card. With trainer Gordon Elliott saying in an interview:

I said a couple of years ago he was the best horse I’ve trained. It didn’t work out then, but he looks it now. AP (McCoy) said he just gallops and gallops. It will be the Gold Cup now.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/don-on-gold-cup-trail-after-impressing-for-mccoy-31133904.html

Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown on the 29th April beating 2/1 favourite Djakadam in the Irish Gold Cup, this time by 7 lengths at 5/2 under Paul Carberry with regular jockey Bryan Cooper opting to ride Road To Riches. With trainer Gordon Elliott later saying:

We wanted to find out if he stayed the trip or not at this stage of the season so we would know where we are going next year. He’s always been the apple of my eye and this is one of the proudest days I’ve had training horses so far. I feel sorry for Bryan (Cooper, who chose to ride Road To Riches in the same colours as the owner Michael O’Leary) but he had to go with the other horse after being third in the Gold Cup. But I’m delighted for Paul; he’s been associated with me for a long time and to give him a Grade One is brilliant. We were nervous about running him but it’s the Gold Cup so we took our chance and now I’ll be safe in the job for another year, please God. I’m just so happy with the way he did it; he put seven lengths between them on the way to the line.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/apr/29/impressive-don-cossack-punchestown-gold-cup

After a 169 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown on the 15th October 2015 for a Grade 3 Chase, winning as the 1/4 favourite with Bryan Cooper on board, this time by 12 lengths to stable companion Roi Du Mee (14/1). Two weeks later, Don Cossack headed to Down Royal with Bryan Cooper again, for a Grade 1 Champion Chase over 3 miles. He won as the odds on 2/11 favourite by 8 lengths. For his final race of 2015, Don Cossack headed back to England, this time to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George Chase. He started the race as the 15/8 favourite under regular jockey Bryan Cooper, however ended up falling 2 out, with Wednesday evening’s post hero Cue Card winning (9/2).

We then move into 2016 and on the 14th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles for a Grade 2 chase over 2 mile 4 furlong, he started as the odds on 1/8 favourite under Bryan Cooper where he won by 9 1/2 lengths. So, where to next for Don Cossack, a third appearance at the Cheltenham Festival and little did we know, would be his last appearance, not only at the Festival but in racing altogether. Don Cossack was made the 9/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup where, under Bryan Cooper, he won by 4 1/2 lengths to Djakadam (9/2). With jockey Bryan Cooper saying:

Everything went perfect. I didn’t want to get him crowded and we got into a lovely jumping rhythm. I knew turning in that there was only one winner bar a fall. He could have gone round again. There was a lot of press around saying that I couldn’t get on with the horse and I think I’ve proved you all wrong now, so I’m delighted.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/18/bryan-cooper-cheltenham-gold-cup-favourite-don-cossack

Sadly, we would never see Don Cossack on track again. He was being prepared to run at the Punchestown Festival in April 2016, when he sustained a serious tendon injury. After seemingly recovering from his injury, he returned to training, with retaining the Gold Cup being his main goal. However in January 2017, it was said that Don Cossack had suffered a recurrence of the leg injury and the decision had been made to retire him from racing. With Gordon Elliott saying:

It’s a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and, even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run. He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away. It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gol Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. A peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/11/cheltenham-gold-cup-winner-don-cossack-retired-injury-setback-horse-racing

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Don Cossack, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Don Cossack’s race record

5111/1F23/1212F2/4111131/111F11/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

27 Races
16 x 1st
4 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 5th
3 x Fall

So all in all, he had an unreal career, winning £907,365 in total. It may have been a short career, but what a career it was. I was lucky enough last February to visit Olly Murphy, who was Gordon Elliott’s assistant trainer at the time of Don Cossack’s peak. He told me the following about Don Cossack:

Yeah, it was magic. He was the apple of Gordon’s eye from a young age. And it was great to be there and see him go through the ranks and in a Gold Cup. It was probably my biggest days racing aside from coming home and training myself. Being at Cheltenham and seeing him win a Gold Cup, it was magic, the emotion the whole day was second to none and yeah, he’s a horse who unfortunately we probably didn’t get to see the best of either.

https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/02/16/a-stable-visit-to-olly-murphys-warren-chase-a-full-interview/

For me, I think Don Cossack can be classed as a people’s horse because he showed people time and time again that he could come back. He would fall or have a bad race, but he would always return and fight his heart out and no matter what he would always try his best. Personally, Don Cossack was the first horse I bet on in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup and ended up being my first Gold Cup winner too so he will always be special to me and I am gutted that we never go to see him again, I think we only seen half of what he was capable of and it’s a real shame that a recurring injury made sure he could never show that to the world.

I have the upmost respect for Gordon Elliott and the O’Leary’s, they didn’t try to overwork him, they made the decision to retire him as a champion so he could live a happy and healthy retirement.

Don started a new career with Irish Olympic eventer Louise Lyons. With Louise saying:

He has been with me for about a month and we have been to three shows – he is loving it and is really enjoying the attention. At shows we have had people coming up to stroke him and have their picture taken with him.”

https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/don-cossack-racehorse-retraining-louise-lyons-658114

Honestly, I am just so happy and relieved that Don Cossack got to finish on his own terms, I am so happy that the team decided to retire him and not push him for that extra run which could have ended disastrously. He was an incredible talent, but also a lovely horse and I am honoured to have been around to be able to watch him.

So, there we have it, Don Cossack in all his glory. I am thoroughly enjoying doing research into these posts, reading news articles, re-watching videos, searching their careers, it’s been incredible and I am really loving it and from the reaction on social media, so are my followers. I am still working my way through the 100’s of suggestions I have had sent to me, as well as focusing on more history stories and also a few new ideas I have in the works. I also have a few interviews planned leading up to Cheltenham, so if all goes as planned then it is all roads lead to Cheltenham! I am currently sticking to a strict schedule of 2 posts per week and I think that is working well for me at the moment, I am unsure if this will change at any point, but for the time being I will be continuing to post every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 11am.

Thank you again for reading, I will see you all in my next post!

Danoli: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post and part 3 of me new What Makes a People’s Horse series. Today I am bringing you a Twitter suggested horse from none other than racings very own Richard Hoiles. When I asked who people would like me to research, Richard replied to my tweet with Danoli, a horse which was a little before my time, so of course I had to research this one as I have no idea who he really is. After Richard’s tweet I then had multiple other people tweeting and suggesting I definitely look into him, so today that is exactly what I am doing!

Danoli was foaled 14th May 1988, by The Parson (GB) out of Blaze Gold (GB). He was bred by Francis Austin in Ireland. As a three year old gelding he was sent to the Goffs Sale in June 1991 but failed to attract a buyer and was subsequently acquired by Dan O’Neill who sent him into training with Tom Foley in County Carlow. He was named Danoli by combining his owner’s name Dan O’Neill with his daughters name Olivia.

Danoli’s career started in 1992, when on 31st October he appeared in a National Hunt Flat Race (also known as a bumper) at Naas over 2 miles. He started the race at 16/1 with Mr P English on board. Danoli, shocking absolutely everybody, ended up winning the race, beating 11/10 favourite Atours.

We then move into 1993, on 30th January Danoli appeared back at Naas again in a bumper race this time over 2 miles 3 furlong, he started this race at 10/1 again with Mr P English riding. Continuing to surprise racing fans, he once again won, this time beating odds on 9/10 favourite Sea Gale. Three weeks later on 21st February Danoli then headed to Punchestown for another bumper race, returning to 2 miles, this time starting as the 5/2 favourite under Mr P English for the first time, he also won this race making it three out of three.

Danoli then took a 268 day break before returning to the track on 16th November 1993, this time at Fairyhouse in a maiden hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs, he went into the race as the 4/6 favourite, with Charlie Swan riding. Not many people were shocked at this point to see him get another win under his belt. A couple of weeks later on 5th December he returned to Punchestown for the Ballycaghan Hurdle over 2 miles where he won as the 8/11 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding. On 27th December Danoli headed to Leopardstow for a Novice Hurdle over 2 mile 2 furlong with Tommy Treacy riding again. Shocking many racing fans, he only managed to finish 3rd as the 4/5 favourite being beaten by Winter Belle (3/1) and Minella Lad (3/1) who, interestingly was trained by one of the greatest trainers I have ever seen, Aidan O’Brien.

After suffering the first defeat of his career Danoli returned to action in 1994 on 23rd January at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 hurdle race over 2 miles, dramatically stepping up in class against more experienced hurdlers. He went into the race at 12/1 with Charlie Swan riding. Not disgracing himself, he managed to finish second behind odds on 4/5 favourite Fortune And Fame. Just a couple of weeks later on 13th February he returned to Leopardstown for a 2 mile 2 furlong hurdle race, where he started the race as the odds on 4/5 favourite, winning under Charlie Swan.

Next up for Danoli was his first trip into the British mainland for the Cheltenham Festival’s Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 5 furlong where 23 ran on 16th March 1994. Danoli went into the race as the 7/4 favourite and won by two lengths under Charlie Swan. George Ennor wrote in the Racing Post:

They cheered him down to the start, they cheered him as he started, they cheered more loudly as he took the lead, and they raised the roof as he passed the post in front.

https://www.irishracing.com/news?headline=DANOLI-IS-RETIRED&prid=2487

If you want to watch his famous Cheltenham win, including shots of him returning to the the winners enclosure, then you can do so right here (I highly recommend you do, it is fantastic and the reaction from the crowd gave me goose bumps when watching!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRONfw1A3qk

Danoli returned to the British mainland a month later on 9th April 1994 where he faced a much tougher field in the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 4 furlong. Starting the race at 9/2 under Charlie Swan, Danoli shocked many by winning by a massive 8 lengths, finishing the season with another classy victory.

After taking a 211 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 6th November 1994 at Punchestown for the Morgiana Hurdle Grade 2 race, starting as the odds on 1/5 favourite with Charlie Swan riding. Surprising nobody, Danoli won easily by 8 lengths. A month later on 4th December Danoli travelled to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Hurdle, where he started, once again, as the odds on 4/6 favourite where he won, again under Charlie Swan, this time by 4 lengths to Dorans Pride (7/2). Next was the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle Grade 3 on 28th December where positions were switched. Danoli started as the odds on 1/2 favourite under Charlie Swan, this time finishing second behind Dorans Pride (7/2).

We then move into 1995 and after a 76 day break, Danoli returned to the track at the Cheltenham Festival on 14th March for the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 where he started as the 4/1 joint favourite. Danoli ended up finishing third under Charlie Swan behind Alderbrook (11/2) and Large Action (4/1J). One month later, Danoli returned to the British mainland for his final race of the season at Aintree in a Grade 1 hurdle race on 8th April. Danoli started as the 2/1 joint favourite and won by 3/4 of a length with Charlie Swan riding. After this race Danoli returned to the stable very badly lame, further examinations revealed that he had a fractured cannon bone in his right foreleg. He was very swiftly operated on at University of Liverpool’s Leahurst Veterinary College but at this point, his racing career was left hanging in the balance, with many worrying he may never be fit enough to return.

However after a 288 day break, trainer Thomas Foley worked wonders to get Danoli back on the track. Returning to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 21st January 1996, where at 10/1 he finished 3rd with Tommy Treacy riding. However, his comeback was so strongly received by the public that eventual winner Collier Bay (5/1) was basically ignored as all of the attention was on Danoli’s huge comeback, which many thought would never happen.

Next for Danoli was the Red Mills Trial Hurdle Grade 3 at Gowran Park on 17th February 1996, where he attracted a record crowd! Winning as the 2/5 favourite under Tommy Treacy, the scenes were electric with the Daily Record describing it as:

a huge, happy, raucous party.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Not+so+much+a+horse+race…more+a+lap+of+honour.-a061279920

Danoli then headed to the Cheltenham Festival again to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 12th March 1996, with Tommy Treacy riding, Danoli finished fourth at 5/1 behind winner Collier Bay (9/1), Alderbrook (10/11F) in second and Pridwell (33/1) in third. Danoli then headed straight to Aintree for the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 on 30th March, finishing 3rd as the 5/2 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding, behind winner Urubande (100/30) trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Danoli’s other regular jockey Charlie Swan, with Strong Promise I (25/1) finishing in second place.

After a 216 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 1st November 1996, interestingly the day I was born, at Clonmel for his first race over fences, this time winning as the 4/5 favourite under Mr P Fenton. Just 8 days later, Danoli returned to Naas for a Novice Chase on 9th November, winning as the odds on 2/7 favourite under Tommy Treacy. With his chasing career off to a seemingly flying start, Danoli headed to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on 1st December. He started the race at 100/30 with Tommy Treacy riding, however he ended up taking his first fall of his career. But do not fear, on Boxing Day 1996, Danoli headed to Leopardstown for a Grade 1 chase, starting as the 5/2 joint favourite and coming back from his first fall with a bang, winning under Tommy Treacy.

Moving into 1997, Danoli sadly started the year with a fall on 19th January at Leopardstown with Tommy Treacy on board as the 9/10 favourite, however a couple of weeks later on 2nd February 1997 he returned to Leopardstown where he won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Grade 1 at 6/1, again under Tommy Treacy. Next for Danoli was the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13th March 1997, being rode by Tommy Treacy, he went into the race at 7/1 where he unfortunately fell 2 out.

Due to multiple injury problems, the next time Danoli would be seen on a racecourse is after a 580 day break when he made his much anticipated return at Gowran Park on 14th October 1998. He finished 3rd at 15/2 under Tommy Treacy behind winner Dorans Pride (7/4F) and second place Hill Society (5/2). However, he was then hit with injury again, meaning another extended break from the track. This time being 480 days.

Danoli returned on 6th February 2000, now as a 12 year old, for the Leopardstown Gold Cup Grade 1. Starting the race at 40/1 Danoli unseated jockey Tommy Treacy after making a bad mistake 3 out. 13 days later on 19th February 2000 Danoli appeared at Gowran Park for the Red Mills Trial Chase where he finished 3rd at 5/2 under J R Barry. One week later Danoli then went to Naas for a Grade 2 chase on 26th February, where he finished second at 5/1 under J R Barry behind 7/4 favourite His Song.

On 25th March 2000, Danoli headed to Navan for a 2 mile 4 furlong Chase where he started as the 7/4 favourite under J R Barry, showing his class once again, he ended up winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Just over a month later Danoli headed to Punchestown, for what would be his final ever race, the Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 on 3rd May. He started the race at 16/1 under J R Barry, however ended up falling.

In August 2000, Danoli’s retirement was announced with trainer Thomas Foley saying:

He’s given us some great memories and is a horse we’ll hardly ever see the like of again. We just don’t want to take any kind of chance with him in a chase and see him being put down.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Racing+News%3A+Danoli,+hero+of+a+nation,+is+retired.-a064142287

Danoli ended up spending the majority of his retirement at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, where he became inseparable from Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.

Sadly in April 2016 Danoli was suffering with a severe bout of colic and unfortunately had to be put down at 18 years old. Thomas Foley saying:

He was a great horse for us, and we will always have fond memories. They tried everything they could and had no choice but to put him down, which was a great pity.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

Charlie Swan also spoke out about the death of Danoli saying:

People loved him because he was such a tough and genuine horse, If he could have jumped fences as well as he did hurdles, he could have even been a Gold Cup horse.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Danoli, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, I am going to go through Danoli’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

111/1132111/11231/3143/11F1F1F/3/U321/F/

So let’s now sum those numbers up! Apart from falling 4 times, unseating his rider once and finishing 4th once Danoli always finished within the top 3! Now let’s narrow that down:

32 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th
4 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Danoli. He was a horse that always gave his best and even when he took a fall he’d always come back and give it his best next time out. I was born in the middle of Danoli’s career so of course I don’t remember it, but I have sat watching videos, reading articles and interviews and speaking to some followers who did witness his greatness and I could only dream to have been around to watch him, especially his 1994 Cheltenham Festival win. I linked a YouTube video further up this post with footage of him entering the winners enclosure and if you haven’t watched it then please do, I loved watching it, seeing him push and push to the line, then the crowds reaction, it blew my mind. Clearly he was such a loved horse and the true definition of the people’s horse, being known as the ‘People’s Champion’ during his career and even a plaque being placed on his stable door saying so.

Again, I really hope you enjoyed this post. I am thoroughly enjoying researching and writing them and so far the feedback I have had is incredible and I am super grateful for that. If you haven’t already seen, I do have a further 2 posts in this series so far, Native River and Faugheen so please do also check them out. I asked on Twitter for suggestions of the horses people want me to focus on in this series thinking I would receive 10, maybe 20 to look into. However, it went a little bit wild and I received over 100 suggestions, so gradually I am working my way through the list and I will be posting more of these posts throughout the year. I also have plans for a couple of new interviews and more posts in my Horse Racing History series so plenty of content during 2021. I am sticking to my schedule of 2 posts per week, one on Wednesday evening at 6pm and one on Saturday morning at 11am. It seems to work for myself, and with the blog figures I have had lately it seems to be working for my readers too.

Again, I want to thank Richard Hoiles for this suggestion and thank you to everyone else who has suggested names too! Hopefully I will see you all on Saturday for my next post!