2020 brings the start of a new decade for horse racing, and a chance for new names to come to the fore. Whether it’s jockeys or trainers, many fresh faces will be eyeing the 2020s as their time to shine, while the old guard will always be there or thereabouts.
The first Cheltenham Festival of the decade is fast approaching, and the Prestbury Park meeting has retained its allure and popularity throughout the last 50 years. The same can be said of the Gold Cup, which is the highest-profile race of the Festival’s four days, and punters are already sizing up the odds on Gold Cup Cheltenham Festival winners. Will last year’s champion Al Boum Photo take first place once again, or will a new star rise to prominence in the first Gold Cup of the 2020s.
With a new decade of Cheltenham Festivals stretching out before us, we’ve had a look back through the annals of Gold Cup history at the winners of each race at the beginning of the last five decades.
2010 – Winner: Imperial Commander
In a race of drama and intrigue, Imperial Commander won the 2010 Gold Cup in style to give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies his first winner in the famous Cheltenham showpiece. The race had been expected to be a battle between rivals and stablemates Kauto Star and Denman, but the former fell at the fourth-last fence, and Imperial Commander held off Denman to win by seven lengths. It was a moment to savour for Twiston-Davies and jockey Paddy Brennan, neither of whom have tasted Gold Cup victory since.
2000 – Winner: Looks Like Trouble
The 2000 Gold Cup brought a breakthrough moment for a young Richard Johnson, as he triumphed on the Noel Chance-trained Looks Like Trouble. The 9/2 shot was fancied ahead of the race, and despite stumbling at the tenth fence, recovered in fine style to secure a second Gold Cup victory for Chance after Tony McCoy rode Mr Mulligan to victory in 1997.
We all know what Johnson has gone on to do since, and he is currently one of the finest jump jockeys in racing, having won the Champion Jockey award four years running. He won his second Gold Cup in 2018 on Native River.
1990 – Winner: Norton’s Coin
The first year of the 1990s brought a major shock in the Gold Cup as Norton’s Coin, priced at 100/1 before the race, won it by a hair’s breadth over the 8/1 Toby Tobias and odds-on favourite Desert Orchid. It was a miraculous achievement for jockey Graham McCourt and trainer Sirrel Griffiths, and no horse has won at such long odds since then.
1980 – Winner: Master Smudge
The 1980 Gold Cup has gone down in infamy somewhat. Tied Cottage won the race after leading from the front throughout the proceedings, but was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance. This handed victory to second-placed Master Smudge, ridden by Richard Hoare and trained by Arthur Barrow, although it was two months after the event when the decision was made to strip Tied Cottage of the win.
1970 – Winner: L’Escargot
The first Gold Cup of the 1970s saw a maiden triumph for a jump racing legend in the form of L’Escargot. Trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, L’Escargot won the 1970 race by one-and-a-half lengths, before repeating the trick a year later to make it two in a row, this time winning by a 10-length margin. L’Escargot is also famous for denying Red Rum the win at the 1975 Grand National, and he is one of only two horses to have won both the Grand National and the Gold Cup.