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!

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

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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!