Denman

 

When he retired from racing, as an 11-year-old, Denman had won 14 of his 24 starts, including the Hennessy Gold Cup (twice), the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owned by Paul Barber and the ebullient professional gambler Harry Findlay and trained by Paul Nicholls, Denman was unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles, including an easy 21-length win in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2006. He returned to Cheltenham for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle the following March, but tasted defeat for the first time, going down by 2½ lengths to Nicanor.

 

Sent over fences in 2006/07, “The Tank”, as he became known, won all five starts, culminating with a convincing 10-length beating of Snowy Morning in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. After a break of 262 days, he reappeared at Newbury in December where, carrying 11st 12lb, he impressively won the Hennessy Gold Cup by 11 lengths from Dream Alliance.

 

He subsequently won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and the Aon Chase at Newbury the following February so, by the time the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup rolled around, he started at just 9/4 to dethrone the reigning champion, his stable companion Kauto Star. The forecast duel between the two Nicholls’ “big guns” never really materialised, though, because Denman went clear soon after the fourth last fence and, thereafter, Kauto Star could make no impression and eventually finished second, beaten 7 lengths.

 

In the September following his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, Denman was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and, although he returned to training following treatment, it’s fair to say he was never, quite, the same horse again. He did manage to win the Hennessy Gold Cup for a second time, again under 11st 12lb, and finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010 and 2011, so Lord knows what he might have achieved had he stayed healthy for the whole of his career. Denman has enjoyed a happy retirement and currently looks after the young horses on the farm belonging to his owner Paul Barber.

Tiger Roll

Racing Post Jumps Horse of the Year for 2017/18, Tiger Roll, stands 15.2 hands high and has been described – endearingly, one would hope – as a “little rat of a thing” by his owner Michael O’Leary. Nevertheless, the diminutive 8-year-old silenced his doubters by holding on to win the greatest steeplechase of them all, the Grand National, by a head under Davy Russell in April, 2018.

His owner had voiced his concern over his ability to handle the National fences, saying, “Tiger Roll either takes to it [Aintree] or he doesn’t. With him you’ll know after three fences if it’s a going day or not. If he can survive the first circuit, and gaps come in those big fences, then we’ll see. But you never know with him.” His trainer, Gordon Elliott, was also pessimistic about his chances, saying, “The ground was soft-to-heavy, so I thought the ground might be too soft for him.”

Even before his Aintree victory, though, Tiger Roll had become part of Cheltenham Festival folklore by winning in two different disciplines, over three different distances and under three different jockeys, in the space of five seasons.

In 2014, he won the JCB Triumph Hurdle, over 2 miles 1 furlong, under Davy Russell, in 2017, he won the National Hunt Chase, over 4 miles, under Lisa O’Neill and, in 2018, a month before his Grand National triumph, he won the Glenfarclas Chase, over 3 miles 6 furlongs – on a unique, twisting, turning course of banks, rails and ditches – under Keith Donoghue.

Looks Like Trouble

Looks Like Trouble was a highly talented, if fragile, steeplechaser trained by Noel Chance, famous for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2000. In so doing, he provided Richard Johnson with his first winner of the Blue Riband event.

Although apparently well regarded at home, Looks Like Trouble had looked fairly ordinary in his first half a dozen races over hurdles and fences but, on his seventh start under Rules, belied odds of 20/1 by hacking up in an eventful, but decidedly ordinary, novices’ chase at Doncaster in January, 1999. He followed up in a similar race at Sandown a month later, but proved nothing short of a revelation when pushed clear to win Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by 30 lengths, albeit aided by the departure of hot favourite Nick Dundee at the third last fence, when travelling ominously well.

Looks Like Trouble began the 1999/2000 season by finishing third, beaten 10 lengths, behind See More Business in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and was subsequently pulled up behind the same rival, on soft going, in the King George at Kempton. Nevertheless, he won his next start, the Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham, by a distance and so lined up for the Gold Cup as 9/2 joint second favourite, alongside Florida Pearl and behind old rival, and 9/4 favourite, See More Business.

On good to firm going, with Richard Johnson in the saddle for the first time, he jumped ahead at the last fence and stayed on gamey to beat Florida Pearl by 5 lengths. Noel Chance reflected on the victory, saying, “He was a champion. Unfortunately he’d had a leg problem since before he’d won the SunAlliance and it was only a matter of time before it called a halt to his gallop.”

Albertas Run

Albertas Run may not be as revered as some of the other horses who have enjoyed repeated success at the Cheltenham Festival but is, nevertheless, the only horse to win the Ryanair Chase twice, in 2010 and 2011, and had previously won the Royal & SunAlliance Chase in 2008. He was ridden to all three Festival victories by A.P. McCoy.

Owned by Trevor Hemmings and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Albertas Run made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2006, finishing fifteenth of 23, beaten 17¾ lengths, behind Hairy Molly in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. After winning four of his five races over hurdles in 2006/07, he was sent over fences the following season and, again, after winning four of his first five starts over the larger obstacles, started 4/1 favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase. Aided by the fall of his main market rival, Pomme Tiepy, before halfway, Albertas Run led approaching the final fence and went clear in the closing stages for a comfortable 4½-length win.

Like many second season steeplechasers, Albertas Run struggled to find his form in 2008/09 and failed to win in seven attempts, including trailing in ninth of 16, beaten 48 lengths, behind Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nevertheless, he started the 2009/10 season by winning the 1965 Amlin Chase at Ascot, only to be beaten on his next three starts, which included another drubbing by Kauto Star in the King George VI at Kempton.

However, on his return to Cheltenham, despite starting only eighth choice of the punters, at 14/1, in a field of thirteen, on his first attempt at the Ryanair Chase, Albertas Run was driven to assert approaching two out by A.P. McCoy and stayed on strongly to beat 11/4 favourite Poquelin by 4½ lengths.

Albertas Run returned to Cheltenham to win the Ryanair Chase again in 2011, holding on well to beat Kalahari King by a length, and only gave best in the last 50 yards when going down by half a length to Riverside Theatre on his attempt at a hat-trick in the race in 2012. He tried again in 2013, but was pulled up shortly after halfway in the race won by Cue Card. Nevertheless, his lifetime form figures at the Festival read 010112P and he fully deserves his place on any list of Cheltenham stalwarts.