Friday, March 9, 2012

Cheltenham Winners – Short Lived Glory

Cheltenham glory is something to be aspired to but it can also be a brutal and stamina sapping exercise which takes plenty out of the winners and quite often that physical peak that they are brought to for the Festival can never be attained again. There have been some high-profile examples of this, horses that you thought would have the world at their feet but subsequent victories have been beyond them.

We kick-off our list with Golden Cygnet who recorded and emphatic success in the 1978 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, in fact his time was quicker than the subsequent Champion Hurdle winner (Monksfield) later that same afternoon. Much was expected of Golden Cygnet; unfortunately he never got a chance to prove those claims that he would have been one of the greatest hurdlers of his generation. After Cheltenham he only ran twice more and it was in the second of those that he was fatally killed in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, when taking a heavy fall. Fans of Cheltenham betting will have been deeply upset.

Monsignor was similarly hailed as a new hurdling great; he had landed a surprise win in the 1999 Champion Bumper at the Festival and went through the subsequent season unbeaten over hurdles, even beating eventual Gold Cup winner Best mate in the process. That victory came at a price however as he suffered an injury and from that leg problems developed that meant that despite a few false dawns he never saw the racecourse again and all we were left to remember him by was that 1999 Festival Bumper win. Those placing Cheltenham 2012 bets need to bear this in mind.

Royal Gait the 1992 Champion Hurdle winner was unusual in the most part as he was owned by Sheikh Mohammed, he was disqualified in controversial circumstances from his win in the 1988 Gold Cup and after that he was off the course for nearly three years with leg problems. Nursedback to health by Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe he went into the 1992 hurdling championship with just three runs over timber, two of which he had won. Despite the inexperience and physical problems he scored in a driving finish but was seen only once more as he died after crossing the line when finishing fourth at Leopardstown in his very next race.

Of all the runners that we looked at the fall of grace of Cooldine is one of the most dramatic; he looked a future chasing star when winning the 2009 RSA Chase by 16 lengths in very easy fashion. But since that day and it was a gruelling one it has been all downhill for Cooldine who is without a victory in 11 subsequent races and his latest race saw him finish a very one-paced fourth of five runners at Clonmel.

Just four reasons for treading carefully when the latest "superstar" pops up at the Cheltenham Festival this year.

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