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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 19:29 GMT
Lewis praises Kicking King
By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport at Cheltenham

Best Mate's owner Jim Lewis has hailed Kicking King as a worthy successor to his own hero after the Irish horse claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Jim Culloty on Best Mate
Best Mate missed out on a bid for a fourth Gold Cup

But he pledged his own triple champion would be back next year to take on the new king in what would be a mouthwatering showdown on St Patrick's Day.

Until eight days earlier, Best Mate had been on course to bid for a fourth Gold Cup win, beating the hat-trick completed by the legendary Arkle in the 1960s.

But he was dramatically ruled out of the big race after bursting a blood vessel on the gallops.

The news of his setback came on the same morning Kicking King was declared a definite runner by trainer Tom Taaffe having been himself ruled out a week earlier through illness.

Tom, the son of Arkle's jockey Pat, was clearly intent on preserving the record of father and horse.

Kicking King has proved to be the best on the day - he's the new champion
Best Mate's owner Jim Lewis

As Kicking King returned to a jubilant reception in the winner's enclosure from delighted Irish racegoers, Lewis applauded warmly.

He told BBC Sport: "We've seen another true champion today. He jumped and he stayed - that's what you have to do in the Gold Cup.

"He's proved to be the best on the day - he's the new champion."

And Lewis was relishing the potential to claim the crown back in 2006 on 17 March with Best Mate taking on Kicking King.

"Maybe it will be the first time there's a dead heat in the Gold Cup," he said.

In emotional scenes around the winning enclosure, Taaffe was hugged and congratulated by a range of racing's big names, including trainer Ted Walsh, former top Irish rider Charlie Swan and nine-times champion jockey Tony McCoy.

And Best Mate's trainer Henrietta Knight warmly embraced Taaffe in a show of genuine emotion from two Gold Cup-winning friends.

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