As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Kicking King is best remembered for his victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005, during a season in which he also won the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup. Ridden by Barry Geraghty, as he was for most of his career, Kicking King was sent off 4/1 favourite for the ‘Blue Riband’ event and justified favouritism in taking style, running on strongly in the closing stages to beat Take A Stand by 5 lengths.
The following season, Kicking King won the King George VI Chase – transferred to Sandown during the redevelopment of Kempton – for the second year running, but sustained a tendon injury.
He wasn’t seen in public again until January, 2008, and ran just five times, without success, before being retired from racing in October that year.
Owned by Conor Clarkson and trained by Tom Taaffe, Kicking King made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2003, finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Switched to fences at the start of the 2003/04 season, he filled the same placing behind Well Chief in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival. All told, he won 12 of his 28 races and over £818,000 in prize money.
The familiar racing colours of the Cheveley Park Stud – red, with a white sash and a blue cap – have become an increasingly common sight on National Hunt racecourses in recent years. Indeed, the renowned thoroughbred breeding operation has an exceptional record at Cheltenham, where 16 runners have produced seven winners, at an astonishing strike rate of 44%, and garnered over £625,000 in prize money.
As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Envoi Allen, originally trained by Gordon Elliott and, more recently, by Henry de Bromhead, has flown the flag for the operation. Unbeaten in his first 11 starts under rules, he won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2019, followed up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and was odds-on when coming to grief at the fourth fence in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2021. Another non-completion, at Punchestown the following month, as the result of a chipped hind joint, was disappointing, but Cheveley Park Stud continued its success at the Cheltenham Festival.
In 2021, Sir Gerhard won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, making it three in a row for Cheveley Park Stud after the victory of Ferny Hollow in 2020, Allaho won the Ryanair Chase and Quixilios won the JCB Triumph Hurdle. A Plus Tard, who won the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase in 2019, was sent off 100/30 second-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and was beaten just 1¼ lengths by Minella Indo, with previous dual winner Al Boum Photo a further 4¼ lengths further behind in third place.
Owned by Mrs. Jean Bishop and trained by Colin Tizzard in Milborne Port, Dorset, Cue Card made a winning debut at the Cheltenham Festival when, in 2010, he belied inexperience and odds of 40/1 to win the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. Having just his second start, he was confidently ridden by Joe Tizzard and romped clear in the closing stages to beat Al Ferof by 8 lengths.
Al Ferof would reverse that form in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2011, for which Cue Card started favourite, but could only finish fourth, beaten 6½ lengths. Sent over fences at the start of the 2011/12 season, Cue Card understandably proved no match for Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, but still finished a clear second. Indeed, he was back at the Festival in 2013, making all the running to beat First Lieutenant by 9 lengths in the Ryanair Chase.
Cue Card did not run at the Cheltenham Festival until 2016, by which time he was an established staying chaser. Indeed, fresh from victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, he was sent off 5/2 second-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in pursuit of ‘The Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown’ and the accompanying £1 million bonus. Sadly, it was not to be; he was still disputing the lead, travelling well, when coming to grief at the third-last fence.
Cue Card returned to the Festival twice more, failing to complete the course when well-fancied for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017 and 2018. At the end of his career, he had won 16 of his 41 races, including nine at Grade One level, and £1.45 million in prize money.