The Cheltenham Festival kicks off today, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Arkle’s winning streak of 3 consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups, from 1964-1966. Here he is winning in both ’64 and ’65:
Known to many racing fans simply as ‘Himself’, no other horse has even come close to beating his astounding triple in the Gold Cup. Indeed when he first ran, in 1964, many believed that his rival Mill House was invincible. But beaten he was, and Arkle went on to be thought of as at least one of the greatest – if not the greatest – steeplechaser in history. Nowadays many racehorses are household names – just think of Black Caviar, or Frankel. But Arkle was the very first to establish himself as a media star.
The Racing Post Arkle Challenge, established in 1969 in memory of Arkle, has attracted an array of brilliant horses over the years. Probably the most spectacular was Sprinter Sacre, who won in 2012 by seven lengths, after which he was described as being ‘in a league of his own’.
So what of this year’s runners? Nicky Henderson is hoping for a triple, after following on from Sprinter Sacre’s triumph with a win from Simonsig last year. His Grandouet is currently at 10/1 with William Hill, but Willie Mullins also fancies his chances with the current favourite, Champagne Fever, who has won twice before at Cheltenham. But when it comes to horses, who can tell?