Donn McClean’s 3 Best Coral Gold Cup Winners Of All Time

Date IconLast Updated: 1 Dec 2023
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Donn McClean’s 3 Best Coral Gold Cup Winners Of All Time
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In this piece, Donn McClean dives into the amazing history of the Coral Gold Cup and highlights three exceptional champions that left an indelible mark on the great race.

McClean wisely selects and profiles three standout winners, recounting their electrifying victories, unique characteristics and the profound impact they've had on the sport.

Readers are treated to a blend of nostalgia and appreciation for these extraordinary equine athletes.

Ahead of the Coral Gold Cup you will find the best odds available on betting sites, and now we’ll let Donn take a look back at three of the greatest winners in the history of the race.

Arkle, 1964 and 1965

No doubt who is number one on this list. When you are talking National Hunt racing, Arkle is number one on most lists. The primary difficulty in discussing Arkle in the context of the Coral Gold Cup is in limiting your discussion to the Coral Gold Cup.

Arkle’s first run in the Coral Gold Cup - the Hennessy as it was then and all the way to 2016 - was in 1963 when, in receipt of 5lb from the 1963 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Mill House, he could finish only third behind The Big Horse. The mere result doesn’t tell the full story of the race though, because Arkle made a bad mistake at the third last fence that day, from which he did well to recover.

By the time the 1964 Hennessy Gold Cup rolled around, Arkle had avenged that defeat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and had added an Irish Grand National to his CV, a race that he won under the welter weight of 12 stone. 

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Arkle carried 12st 7lb in the 1964 Hennessy, but that burden didn’t stop him either. Tom Dreaper’s horse won by 10 lengths, from Ferry Boat and The Rip, with Mill House back in fourth place.

Arkle was saddled with 12st 7lb in the Hennessy again in 1965, another Cheltenham Gold Cup on his CV, as well as a Whitbread and another Leopardstown Chase, and he duly won it again. 

No horse has carried 12st 7lb to victory in the Coral Gold Cup since. Indeed, Burrough Hill Lad is the only horse since Arkle to carry more than 11st 13lb to victory.

As well as all his other remarkable achievements, Arkle was the second horse to win the Hennessy Gold Cup twice, after Mandarin in 1957 and 1961, and still the only horse ever to win back-to-back renewals of the race.

One Man, 1994

A seriously progressive staying novice chaser in 1993/94, One Man started off the 1994/95 season by easily landing a three-runner two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Ayr in early November. 

Available at bigger prices for the Hennessy before that, he was sent off the 4/1 second favourite on the day behind David Nicholson’s mare Dubacilla, and he ran out an impressive winner.

In truth, Gordon Richards’ horse travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out that day.  Always travelling well for Tony Dobbin, his jumping was sharp and accurate and he moved up nicely behind the leaders as they neared the end of the back straight. 

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Still on the bridle as they raced across the top of the track and over the cross-fence, he tracked Cogent into the home straight, moved to the front over the third last fence, and kicked clear of his rivals before easing down close home.

One Man went on to win the Tommy Whittle Chase and the King George that year, before finishing only sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Imperial Call, in a test that ultimately stretched his stamina beyond its limit. 

He won another King George though the following year, before going back to Cheltenham and dropping down in trip and, remarkably, proving his pace and his versatility by winning the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles. 

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Denman, 2007 and 2009

Denman had never raced outside of novice company when he ran in the Coral Gold Cup for the first time in 2007 but, as the winner of the Royal and SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham the previous March, his handicap rating of 161 determined that he would have to carry top weight of 11st 12lb.

Despite that, and adding in the fact that he hadn’t had a prep run before the race, they sent Paul Nicholls’ horse off at no bigger than 5/1 and he ran out an impressive winner under Sam Thomas.

Lots of water flowed under the bridge before Denman got a chance to go back to Newbury for the Coral Gold Cup in 2009.  He won a Lexus Chase and an Aon Chase and he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008, getting the better of his fellow famed stable companion Kauto Star in one of the most high-profile Gold Cups of the modern era - with Neptune Collonges finishing third to complete a Paul Nicholls 1-2-3 in the race. 

Treated for a heart murmur though in 2008, and off the track for almost a year, Denman ran three times in the spring of 2009, and he was beaten on all three occasions.

He faced an arduous task, then, in the 2009 Coral Gold Cup, on his seasonal debut, his first race since he had fallen at the second last fence in the Aintree Bowl the previous April, and set to shoulder 11st 12lb again. 

The punters retained the faith though, sending him off the 11/4 favourite, as did his rider Ruby Walsh, and he drove him to a three-and-a-half-length victory over his stable companion What A Friend, to whom he was conceding 22lb.