It is quite well known that just one horse, Dawn Run, has ever won the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and that Paddy Mullins’ brilliant racemare was ridden to both victories – but not in between – by John Joseph ‘Jonjo’ O’Neill. Of course, Jonjo O’Neill retired, as a jockey, shortly after his historic Gold Cup win, but several jockeys still riding have also completed the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double, albeit on different horses.
Reigning champion jockey Richard Johnson rode his first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Looks Like Trouble, in 2000 and, so far, his one and only Champion Hurdle winner, Rooster Booster, in 2003. Barry Geraghty, too, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup before the Champion Hurdle; he partnered Kicking King to victory in the ‘Blue Riband’ event in 2005 and completed the double on Punjabi in 2009. Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh actually won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009, before winning the Champion Hurdle for the first time on Hurricane Fly in 2011; nevertheless, he has since won the prestigious hurdling event three more times, on Hurricane Fly, again, in 2013, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016, to become the joint-leading rider in the history of the race.
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.