Strictly speaking, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the trophy presented to the winning owner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase, a Grade One, weight-for-age steeplechase run over three miles and two-and-a-half furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival in March each year. However, the term ‘Cheltenham Gold Cup’ is typically used to refer to the iconic steeplechase known, in some quarters, as the ‘Blue Riband’ of steeplechasing.
Inaugurated, as a steeplechase, in 1924, the Cheltenham Gold Cup has increased in value and prestige down the years. Indeed, with total prize money of £625,000 it is, nowadays, the most valuable steeplechase of its kind in and, along with the Grand National, one of the two most celebrated steeplechases in the British National Hunt calendar.
It would be fair to say that the roll of honour for the Cheltenham Gold Cup reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of staying chasing talent since the early twentieth century. In fact, according to Timeform, of the ten highest-rated steeplechasers since the early Sixties, no fewer than six – namely, in order of preference, Arkle, Mill House, Kauto Star, Desert Orchid, Burrough Hill Lad and Long Run – won the Cheltenham Gold Cup at least once. Arkle, the highest-rated steeplechaser of all time, according to Timeform, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times, in 1964, 1965 and 1966; on the third occasion, he beat five rivals by thirty lengths and upwards at odds of 1/10, thereby becoming the shortest-priced winner in the history of the race.