Albertas Run

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.

 

Willie Wumpkins

Willie Wumpkins  Willie Wumpkins is one of a select band of horses to have won four times at the Cheltenham Festival, but his record is all the more remarkable for the fact that his first victory was fully eight years before his last. Originally trained in Ireland by Adrian Maxwell and ridden by Pat Colville, Willie Wumpkins opened his Festival account, as a five-year-old, in 1973, winning the Aldworth Hurdle (now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle) at 11/1.

 

However, it wasn’t until much later in his career, now trained under permit by his owner Mrs. Jane Pilkington, that he returned to Prestbury Park to contest the Coral Golden Hurdle Final (now the Pertemps Network Final) in 1979. Ridden by Mrs. Pilkington’s son-in-law, Mr. Jim Wilson, arguably the best amateur jockey of his day, the 11-year-old revelled in the testing conditions and, despite carrying overweight, won easily at odds of 25/1. The partnership returned for the same race again in 1980 – the year in which Wilson became just the third amateur to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Little Owl – and won again, at 10/1. Willie Wumpkins, now 13, and Wilson were back again in 1981, justifying odds of 13/2 to a tremendous reception.

 

Amazingly, Willie Wumpkins never won anything of consequence anywhere other than the Cheltenham Festival; he won just 7 of his 65 races over obstacles, but four of those wins were at the Festival. He enjoyed a happy retirement in the Cotswolds and died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 27.

Michael Dickinson

Michael Dickinson  Nowadays, Michael Dickinson is probably best known as the inventor of the Tapeta synthetic racing surface but, in his younger days, wrote his name indelibly into the record books by training the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Aged just 33 and in only his third season as a trainer, having taken over his father, Tony, Dickinson produced a marvel of preparation that would later win him a Racing Post poll of the 100 greatest training feats in the last century.

 

In order of preference, his ‘Famous Five’ were Bregawn, ridden by Graham Bradley, Captain John, ridden by David Goulding, Wayward Lad, ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, Silver Buck, ridden by Robert Earnshaw and Ashley House, ridden by Dermot Browne. The The favourite, Bregawn, who’d finished second behind Silver Buck in 1982, made all the running to beat Captain John by 5 lengths, with Wayward Lad a further 1½ lengths away in third.

 

The first three finished a distance, and further, clear of Silver Buck and Ashley House in fourth and fifth, but Dickinson summed up his achievement in his post-race interview, saying, “If only people realised just what a hell of an achievement it is to get a horse here fit to run well in the Gold Cup…just to get them here, let alone to win, is almost impossible.”