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:
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!