The Cheltenham Festival is the most special week of the year in National Hunt racing and it is a meeting that has produced so many great stories in the horse racing over the years.

Every year, racing fans from the UK and Ireland flock to the Gloucestershire racecourse to see 27 races across a wide range of divisions and that will be the same in 2018.

Here is a look back through Cheltenham Festival history at ten of the most memorable moments from the meeting.

Arkle Wins The 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup

The 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup saw the best two chasers in Great Britain and Ireland take each other on in one of the most highly anticipated duals the sport has ever seen.

Mill House from Great Britain was the defending champion and had dominated the division for quite some time, however, he met his match in the 1964 Blue Riband event of the meeting as Arkle was magnificent and lived up to all the hype which was coming out of Ireland about the chaser.

Arkle went on to cement his place in history with three Gold Cups, a King George and an Irish Grand National victory but this was the race where a star was born in the sport.

Michael Dickinson Has First Five Horses Home In 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Trainer Michael Dickinson produced arguably the most impressive moment in Cheltenham Festival history in 1983 as he was responsible for the first five horses home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The race was won by Bregawn, but it continues to be known more for Dickinson’s feat, which is unlikely to ever be equalled ever again.

Dawn Run Wins The 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Dawn Run is the only mare in Cheltenham Festival history to complete the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup double. The latter was achieved following a thrilling finish in the 1986 Gold Cup where she was ridden to success by Jonjo O’Neill.

The popular Irish mare was cheered back into the winner’s enclosure, which was packed with supporters of the horse, who gave the winner a hero's reception as she returned. The scenes after the race have never been seen since at Cheltenham which shows how popular the mare was.

Desert Orchid Wins The 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Desert Orchid, or Dessie, as he was affectionately known, was one of the most popular national chase horses in the history of the sport.

The talented grey had so much success at Kempton in the King George VI Chase but as a former 2m chase winner, the 3m2f distance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup proved a little too far for him on so many occasions.

On the day of the 1989 race, the heavens opened which made for testing conditions. Connections of the horse almost pulled him out earlier in the morning, however, they ended up taking their chance and Dessie delighted his supporters with his first and only Gold Cup success following a brilliant finish with Yahoo.

The crowd roared Dessie on up the hill which seemed to lift the horse over the line in a fantastic finish to the race.

100/1 Norton’s Coin Upsets The Odds To Win 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Norton’s Coin produced the biggest upset in the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1990 when he came out on top at odds of 100/1.

Desert Orchid opened as the odds-on favourite at 10/11 but he could only finish third in his defence of his crown, which went the way of the underdog.

Trained by Sirrel Griffiths in Wales and ridden by jockey Graham McCourt, there was very little market confidence behind the nine-year-old, who many thought was only making up in the numbers in the field.

Not only did he come out on top, he also produced a record time of six minutes and 30 seconds in a brilliant performance from the outsider.

Istabraq Wins His Third Champion Hurdle in 2000

Before the 2000 Champion Hurdle, only four horses had won the premier hurdle contest at the Festival three times; however, Aidan O’Brien’s runner added his name to the history books with his third consecutive win in the 2m contest.

Winning a Champion Hurdle is not easy, however, to do it on three occasions is something special and those who were at the course that day were fully aware that they had witnessed a piece of history with this talented hurdler, who retired after the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.

Connections of last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Buveur Dair will be hoping their horse can make it two wins on the spin in the race in March where he is odds-on at 4/9 to do so with 888sport.

Best Mate Wins His Third Cheltenham Gold Cup In 2004

Best Mate was a hugely popular chaser which was trained in the UK by Henrietta Knight, therefore, his third straight Cheltenham Gold Cup success in 2004 meant so much to many racing fans.

No horse since Arkle in 1966 had been victorious on three occasions in the Blue Riband event, therefore, it was a special achievement.

Sadly, he was denied from running in the 2001 Festival as the meeting was abandoned due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, while in 2005 he burst a blood vessel before the Festival so he was unable to defend his crown and go for win number four in the 3m2f contest.

Kauto Star Retains His Crown In The 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Kauto Star became the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he scored by 13 lengths in 2009, two years after his opening success in the race in 2007.

This was the latest renewal of the fantastic rivalry between Kauto Star and Denman, the latter of which has won the battle in the 2008 Gold Cup. Kauto Star ensured this was to be his day as he was right at his very best to dismantle the field in emphatic style.

Conreygree will be the latest horse to try and regain his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown this year where he is 33/1 with 888sport in their ante-post markets for the race, three years after he was victorious in 2015.

Big Buck’s Wins His Fourth Straight World Hurdle In 2012

Big Buck’s is generally considered as the greatest staying hurdler of all time and that view was reinforced in 2012 with his fourth straight World Hurdle win at the Festival, something which had never been done before.

Unlike many of his other successes, Big Buck’s was made to work hard in this race as he was pushed all the way to the line by Voler La Vedette.

Paul Nicholls’ hurdler also matched the record of Sir Ken’s with his 16th consecutive hurdle win in the 2012 World Hurdle. He later went on to break that record as he had 18 wins before he was beaten in the 2013 Cleeve Hurdle.

Sprinter Sacre Returns to His Best To Win the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase

Sprinter Sacre won his second ever Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2016 and it was a victory connections of the horse probably never thought would never happen when their runner was suffering with an irregular heartbeat which almost ended his career.

Nicky Henderson’s chaser has been one of the most dominant two-mile chasers of the last 20 years but it looked like his time had gone heading into the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase where Un De Sceaux was odds-on to claim the title.

The two market leaders were both travelling well in the early stages of the race but when push came to shove, Sprinter Sacre had too much pace for his rival and completed an extraordinary comeback with the win.

Irish trainer Willie Mullins will be hoping Douvan can follow in the footsteps of Sprinter Sacre by regaining his crown in the 2m chase this season as he is 4/1 to return to the winner’s enclosure after his disappointing run in 2017 race where he could only finish down the field despite going off as the 2/9 favourite.

Enjoy the action at Cheltenham this year and best of luck if you are having a punter. For more on horse racing betting read the jargon buster for punters article which can help you break down all the markets which will be available to bet on at the meeting. Let’s hope there are many more memorable moments we will look back on with pleasure in years to come.

 

*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

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