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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 09:56 GMT
Six of the Gold Cup best
As Best Mate bids to enter racing folklore on 18 March with a third consecutive Chelenham Gold Cup victory, we look at some of the other great winners.

GOLDEN MILLER - Five-time champion set the standard

The Golden Miller statue at Cheltenham
A statue of Golden Miller overlooks the Cheltenham course

Sixty years after his last race, Golden Miller remains one of the most famous names in National Hunt racing.

'The Miller', as he was popularly known, was trained by Old Etonian Basil Briscoe at Longstowe, near Cambridge.

He triumphed in a record five consecutive Gold Cups, starting in 1932, and was the first horse to complete the Gold Cup/Grand National double.

The Miller's success at Aintree set a new fastest time of nine minutes 20.4 seconds.

He retired in 1939 with a record of 28 wins from 52 races.

COTTAGE RAKE - Sped to triple triumph

Three successive wins from 1948 to 1950 secured Cottage Rake's place in Cheltenham history.

Under the astute handling of top trainer Vincent O'Brien, the horse was said to be quiet at home, leaving his best efforts for the racecourse.

Usually ridden by Audrey Brabazon, Cottage Rake defied Cheltenham convention.

While many horses have struggled to cope with the half-mile uphilll finish, he boasted a dazzling turn of speed from the final fence.

ARKLE - Voted all-time favourite

Arkle
Many regard the mighty Irish gelding as the greatest ever racehorse.

In the mid-1960s, he dominated the chasing scene and won the Gold Cup three times on the trot, starting off with a defeat of Mill House in 1964.

He became an institution in Ireland where tales abounded of the horse swigging Guinness twice a day and allowing noisy children to sit on him in perfect safety.

The slogan "Arkle for President" was even scrawled on a Dublin wall.

He was officially retired in 1968 after suffering an injury in the King George VI Chase, but his record has defied the pasage of time.

When the Racing Post conducted a poll of readers to find their all-time favourite racehorse in 2004, Arkle came out on top - ahead of Desert Orchid and Red Rum.

DAWN RUN - Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double

Dawn Run on her way to winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Dawn Run completed a unique Cheltenham double

A little mare with a big heart continued Ireland's great love affair with Cheltenham.

The Irish had been coming to the Festival for years but it was Dawn Run who provoked the mightiest of celebrations.

She did the unthinkable by adding the Gold Cup in 1986 to the Champion Hurdle won two years earlier.

Hats flew into the air as Jonjo O'Neill brought home the horse, running after a 13-month absence with a leg injury, in record time.

The Dawn Run fairytale ended three months later when she died after falling in France.

DESERT ORCHID - Popular grey overcame Cheltenham hoodoo

Desert Orchid
Desert Orchid became a national institution

The flying grey delighted supporters as he clocked up a record four King George VI Chase wins.

But the Gold Cup had always seemed a race too far until one dramatic day in 1989.

With sceptics doubting the horse's ability to handle Cheltenham's undulating track, and unseasonal snow falling over the Cotswolds, Dessie looked unlikely to break his duck in chasing's blue riband event.

But his courageous jumping prevailed for an emotional win.

His popularity with seasoned punters and novice gamblers meant bookmakers stood to lose more than 10m if he won again in 1990, but that was another story...

NORTON'S COIN - Rank outsider beat the best

Norton's Coin entered the 1990 Gold Cup as a 100-1 shot in a field headed by odds-on favourite Desert Orchid.

He was running in the race solely because he had missed the entry deadline for a much lesser value handicap race at the meeting.

The horse set off for Cheltenham only after owner/trainer Sirrell Griffiths had milked the cows on his west Wales farm early in the morning.

But ridden by Graham McCourt, he defied his humble background to score a famous victory by three-quarters of a length from Jenny Pitman's Toby Tobias, with Dessie only third.

And the 100-1 victor, the longest priced winner in Gold Cup history, was the toast of lucky 1 each-way punters everywhere who took a gamble on the rank outsider.





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