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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 12:28 GMT
Cheltenham's modern classic
BBC racing commentator Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC Sport racing correspondent

Barry Geraghty
Barry Geraghty won five races to win the leading rider award
Without doubt, this was a vintage Cheltenham Festival - the best of modern times.

It had atmosphere, drama, rivalry and, of course, a history-making display from Best Mate in the Gold Cup.

The only worry is that Best Mate's victory could overshadow a host of fine performances from real champions.

It started with Back In Front in the very first race of the festival on Tuesday in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

After that we had Azertyuiop, Rooster Booster, Moscow Flyer, Baracouda, Best Mate and Kingscliff - they were all real champions.

But any review of the festival has to begin with Best Mate.

The Gold Cup was a very high-quality race. Pretty much every steeplechaser of quality from northern Europe was there.

But despite the opposition, Best Mate was totally dominant. When he pulled clear at the end, he did not just beat the best in Europe, he destroyed them.

Some people are saying he is better than Arkle in the 1960s.

That is, naturally, impossible to prove. But you have to say that although Arkle is a legend, there was less opposition in the 1960s.

Jim Culloty celebrates Best Mate's Gold Cup win
Best Mate's history-making run was the highlight of a vintage festival
People may ask "Is Best Mate the new Arkle?" I think in years to come, people will be asking whether the latest sensation is the new Best Mate.

He is only the third horse to win the King George VI and the Gold Cup in the same season, and the style in which he won at Cheltenham proved he is a horse with very few flaws.

But Cheltenham 2003 was not only about him. Barry Geraghty's five wins was some feat.

This is a golden age for jump jockeys, with Richard Johnson, Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, and Charlie Swan.

But even in that company, Barry Geraghty shines bright.

In contrast, McCoy had a miserable time, but it shows that everyone is on a level playing field at Cheltenham.

It is the second successive year he has had a grisly time, and it shows that even a great rider like McCoy cannot count on anything.

People sometimes wax somewhat over-lyrically about Cheltenham, but this really was a great festival, and one we will remember fondly for years to come.




CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2003

MEETING REVIEW
CORNELIUS LYSAGHT

BIG-RACE ACTION
DAILY REPORTS

PHOTO GALLERIES

JOCKEYS PROFILED
CHELTENHAM JOCKEYS PROFILED
 
TRAINERS PROFILED
 


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