A delighted Cheltenham crowd roared home Kicking King, winner of the King George at Christmas, who produced a wonderful display of top class jumping under Barry Geraghty to triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Contenders for this year’s Totesport Gold Cup had been falling out of the race like flies ever since the news broke last week that Best Mate had burst a blood vessel and would not be back in action until next season.
Next, Kingscliff, who had been a hot prospect following his December success in the King George VI at Kempton (he finished runner up behind Kicking King), dropped out because he was not sparkling on the gallops earlier this week.
Then came the tragedy of Farmer Jack. Supplemented for the big race at the last minute by owner Peter Partridge, a retired Dorset farmer, the nine-year-old dropped dead on the gallops on Wednesday morning.
This left the field wide open, with Beef or Salmon and Kicking King vying for favouritism. In the end however, seven-year-old Kicking King proved that the competition was far from open- cruising home five lengths clear of his nearest rival. The Tom Taaffe-trained gelding had looked like having only the remotest chance of a run in the Gold Cup when he scoped badly two weeks ago, to the intense frustration of all connections. But since then, everything has gone according to plan, and today Lady Luck smiled on horse and jockey.
Barry Geraghty now has both the 2005 Queen Mother’s Champion Chase (which he regained on Moscow Flyer on Wednesday) and the 2005 Gold Cup to his name. Today he once again showed all his experience and skill, riding the most perfectly timed race to steal victory from the clutches of Take The Stand.. Geraghty was delighted by his double success:
“I am lucky enough to be in a position to compare winning this race with winning the Champion Chase. I think I can safely say that I am fortunate enough to be riding the two best chasers in racing. He is some tool.
“He was running away all the time and he jumped brilliantly over the last three. He is only seven years old and full of scope – you only have to look at him.”
Second placed Take the Stand pleased trainer Peter Bowen immensely, while jockey Tony Dobbin had hoped that he could catch the eventual winner before the finish. It was not to be, but his impressive performance today means that he is likely to be aimed at the Grand National in April.
Beef or Salmon, who ran a stylish race last year to finish fourth, and was a leading contender in today’s line-up, failed to finish. “He never recovered from a mistake at the first”, explained jockey Paul Carberry.
Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup results
1. Kicking King (B Geraghty) 4-1F
2. Take The Stand (A Dobbin) 25-1
3. Sir Rembrandt (A Thornton) 12-1