Yes. In fact, three different women have trained four different horses to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup six times between them. Jenny Pitman, who made history by becoming the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National in 1983, did so again in 1984, by becoming the first woman to train the winner of the ‘Blue Riband’ event, with Burrough Hill Lad. Indeed, Burrough Hill Lad may have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup again, but for recurring leg trouble, which caused his late withdrawal from the race in 1985 and again in 1986. In any event, ‘Mrs. P.’ won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a second time, with Garrison Savannah, ridden by her son, Mark, in 1991.
Just over a decade or so later, Henrietta Knight wrote her name into the history books by training Best Mate to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running in 2002, 2003 and 2004, making him the first horse since the legendary Arkle, in the Sixties, to do so. She, too, was denied the opportunity for further success when Best Mate suffered a burst blood vessel just a week before the 2005 renewal of the race.
Last, but by no means least, of the headline-making female trainers comes Jessica Harrington who, in 2017 – at the age of 70 and having held a training licence since 1989 – won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with her very first runner in the race, Sizing John. In a strange case of history repeating itself, Sizing John was a late withdrawal from the 2018 race after suffering a fractured pelvis and remains sidelined for the foreseeable future.
The ‘Cheltenham Roar’ is, of course, the term used to describe the cacophony of noise, generated by a crowd of 65,000, or more, expectant racegoers, which greets the runners in the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, as the starting tape goes up. Attendances on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival – and at the Festival, as a whole – have been increasing, so it is reasonable to assume that the ‘Roar’ is becoming louder, year-by-year.
Loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB) and the ‘Roar’ has been measured at 119dB or, in comparative terms, twice as loud as amplified music in, say, a night club or a rock concert, and very close to the noise levels associated with an ambulance siren, chain saw or firework display. Racegoers beware; exposure to noise at this level for more than a few seconds can potentially cause permanent hearing damage.
The simple answer is no, he did not. Martin Pipe, from whom the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival takes its name, was by far the most successful trainer in the history of National Hunt racing. Pipe retired, due ill health, at the age of 60 in April, 2006, but by the end of his career had saddled 4,180 winners and won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship fifteen times, including ten years running between 1996 and 2005.
Pipe saddled a total of 34 winners at the Cheltenham Festival but, while he won the Champion Hurdle twice, with Granville Again in 1993 and Make A Stand in 1997, the closest he came to winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup was with Rushing Wild, ridden by Richard Dunwoody, who finished a 2-length second to Jodami in 1993. His other runners that year, Run For Free, ridden by Mark Perrett, and Chatham, ridden by Peter Scudamore, finished eighth and eleventh, respectively.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup was first run, as a steeplechase, in 1924 but, surprisingly, the winner of what is, nowadays, the most prestigious race in the British National Hunt calendar has been disqualified just once. The unfortunate horse in question was Tied Cottage, trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, who made all the running to beat Master Smudge by eight lengths in the 1980 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, a post-race urine test revealed a minute trace of theobromine, a prohibited substance that has physiological effects similar to caffeine, believed to have come from a batch of contaminated foodstuff, and Tied Cottage was disqualified in favour of the runner-up at a subsequent enquiry. The disqualification was a ‘double whammy’ for connections, who had seen Tied Cottage fall at the final fence the previous year, handing the Cheltenham Gold Cup to Alverton.
In more recent years, controversy reigned when Lord Windermere, trained by Jim Culloty and ridden by Davy Russell, won the 2014 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup by a short head from On His Own, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by David Casey. In the closing stages, Russell delivered Lord Windermere with a determined challenge but, in so doing, drifted sharply to the right, carrying On His Own with him. The stewards enquired into the result and, although they admitted that On His Own was impeded on his run to the line, they ruled that he suffered only ‘minor interference’, which did not, in their opinion, affect the result.