Bula

Bula Owned by Charles Purcell and trained by Fred Winter at Uplands Stables in Lambourn, Berkshire, Bula earned a Timeform Annual Rating of 176, making him one of the highest-rated hurdlers since the early Sixties. Despite being a ‘stubborn so-and-so’, according to stable staff, he made a flying start to his hurdling career and remained unbeaten in his first 13 starts throughout the 1969/70 and 1970/71 seasons.

During that unbeaten streak, Bula made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival, justifying favouritism in the second division of the Gloucestershire Hurdle – now the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – in 1970 to take his career record to 6-6. Bula returned to the Cheltenham Festival in 1971 for his first attempt at the Champion Hurdle; he was, once again, sent off favourite, having already beaten the three-time winner, and defending champion, Persian War, in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on his previous start. In the closing stages, his trademark turn of foot was seen to good effect as he stormed ahead in the closing stages to beat Persian War by four lengths.

Despite losing his unbeaten record on his reappearance in 1971/72, Bula successfully defended his Champion Hurdle title in 1972, justifying odds-on favouritism with a comfortable eight-length victory. In 1973, he was again sent off at odds-on to win his third consecutive Champion Hurdle, but came under pressure on the approach to the second-last flight and eventually laboured home in fifth place, albeit not beaten far, behind Comedy Of Errors.

Sent over fences at a relatively late stage of his career in 1973/74, Bula nevertheless soon established himself as a top-class steeplechaser. In 1974/75, he made his first attempt to become the first horse to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double. On nigh on unraceable ground, he held every chance approaching the final fence, but a bad mistake put paid to his chance and he finished a tired third behind Ten Up. He tried again in 1976, when sent off favourite, but ran a lacklustre race and finished only sixth behind Royal Frolic. Bula made one final appearance Cheltenham Festival in 1977, falling, when favourite, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase; sadly, he failed to recover from an injury sustained in the fall and was euthanised two months later.

Altior

Altior

According to Timeform, Altior is currently the second highest rated steeplechaser in training, behind only Chacun Pour Soi. Indeed, until November, 2019, when beaten 2¼ lengths by Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, on his first attempt beyond 2 miles 1 furlong, Altior had won all 14 starts over fences and extended his unbeaten sequence to 19 races.

As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Altior made his first appearance, as a six-year-old, in 2016. After justifying favouritism with an impressive, 13-length victory in the William Hill On Your Mobile Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, to take his career record over the smaller obstacles to 4-4, he was sent off 4/1 second favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He travelled and jumped well, lead approaching the final flight and readily outpaced favourite Min in the closing stages to win, impressively, by 7 lengths.

Sent over fences at the start of the 2016/17 season, Altior won his first four starts, including the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, all at long odds-on, en route to the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Defending an unblemished record over obstacles, of any description, he was sent off at prohibitive odds of 1/4 to maintain his 100% record and did so with a minimum of fuss. His task was made easier by the departure of leader Charbel at the second-last fence, but he probably would have won anyway and drew clear in the final hundred yards to win by 6 lengths.

Two routine victories later, again both at long odds-on, Altior was back at the Cheltenham Festival for his first attempt in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018. Sent off even money favourite, ahead of his old rival Min, he barely gave his supporters an anxious moment, forging clear in the closing stages to win by the same margin as he had in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years earlier. Back again for the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2019, Altior had to work a little harder on unfavourable soft ground, but eventually held off Politologue by 1¾ lengths to win at the Cheltenham Festival for the fourth consecutive year.

Long Run

Long Run Originally trained in France, by Guillaume Macaire, Long Run began his racing career in Britain on Boxing Day, 2009, when cruising to victory in the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park. Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, ridden exclusively in Britain and Ireland by his son, Sam, and trained by Nicky Henderson, Long Run would return to Kempton to win the King George VI Chase twice. Nevertheless, as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Long Run will always be best remembered as the winner of a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

Fresh from an emphatic, 12-length victory over stable companion Riverside Theatre in his first King George VI Chase – delayed until the New Year after the showpiece Christmas meeting was abandoned due to frost – Long Run was sent off 7/2 favourite for the ‘Blue Riband’ event. His rivals included Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander – collectively, the winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the previous four years running – but it was the ‘young pretender’, the six-year-old Long Run, who took the accolades, and first place.

 

Imperial Commander weakened quickly after a blunder at the fourth last fence and, fleetingly, it appeared that the ‘old guard’ of Kauto Star and Denman – both 11-year-olds and veterans of six consecutive Cheltenham Festivals apiece – might once again dominate the finish. However, despite jumping less than fluently on occasions, Long Run headed Denman on the run to the final fence and stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 7 lengths, with a weakening Kauto Star a further 4 lengths behind in third place.

 

Long Run contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice more, finishing third, when favourite, behind Synchronised in 2012 and occupying the same position behind stable companion, and favourite, Bobs Worth in 2013. Even so, his scintillating victory in 2011, completed in course record time, is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.