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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 13:29 GMT
Jump racing is the winner

By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC Five Live racing correspondent

Best Mate's third Gold Cup victory was not just a great moment for jump racing, it was a great moment for British sport.

It is not just an equine triumph, it is a human triumph involving some really nice, decent people - Jim and Valerie Lewis, Henrietta Knight, Terry Biddlecombe, Jackie Jenner and Jim Culloty.

It has been great for the standing of jump racing in British sporting life that here is a group of likeable and accessible people who have achieved something so impressive.

And I have been taken with how Best Mate's triumph has captured the imagination of people who are not interested in racing, but are interested in sport.

Those people who think racing is full of crooks can now see that here is a champion surrounded by human champions who are at the core of what jump racing is all about.

For Knight and Biddlecombe to have got Best Mate to the Gold Cup in tip-top condition three years in a row - let alone win it - is an amazing achievement.

There is no point making comparisons with Arkle - this is a different era and we now have a star for it.

Best Mate
Best Mate worked hard for his victory
And what is great is that Best Mate was made to fight. For half-a-dozen agonising seconds it did look as if this horse might be beaten but he managed to get out of trouble.

He had to pull out all the stops and really showed us his mettle.

The meeting has been hugely successful with record crowds and betting turnover and has given a real fillip to jump racing, providing some really good tales.

Obviously Best Mate is the story of this Festival but it was also a good three days for trainer Paul Nicholls, whose week came good after a terrible start.

There were those who thought he and Ruby Walsh would sew up the top trainer and jockey titles in the first three races, but Nicholls must have been utterly miserable on Tuesday after drawing a blank.

Azertyuiop got them smiling again on the Wednesday and then a treble on the third day put everything right.

The pair win a trip to La Manga as their prize.

Nicholls, who wouldn't have been able to joke about anything on Tuesday night, quipped that given the record of young sportsmen in La Manga, they would go together so he could keep Ruby out of trouble.

And looking forward, Nicholls' success puts him back ahead of reigning champion Martin Pipe in the trainers' championship and sets up a fascinating tussle ahead of the next big meeting at Aintree.





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