Arkle: Cheltenham Festival Legend

Arkle is Ireland’s most famous racehorse. Born near Dublin, Arkle was bought by the Duchess of Westminster, and stayed close to his place of birth as he was handed to Tom Dreaper for training.

In 1963 Arkle was entered into his first Cheltenham Festival as a novice, competing in the Novices’ Steeplechase. Although Tom Dreaper knew he had a quality horse in his hands, even he was surprised when Arkle destroyed the rest of the field and won the race by 20 lengths.

Arkle was entered into the 1964 Cheltenham Festival with grander ambitions. Tom Dreaper entered the young horse into the Cheltenham Festival’s showcase event, the Gold Cup in a field featuring the reigning champion Mill House.

By this time word of Arkle’s ability had spread and in an unprecedented move all but two other trainers removed their horses from the field. The race marked the end of Mill House’s dominance as Arkle beat the three other participants to win his first Cheltenham Gold Cup.

This was not the end of Arkle’s exploits. He entered the 1964 Irish Grand National as such a formidable favourite that a special handicap was introduced to give the other competitors a chance. He ignored the extra weight and effortlessly added the Irish Grand National to his list of titles.

By the time Arkle was entered into the 1965 Cheltenham Gold Cup his exploits had crossed over into mainstream culture and he became something of an Irish national hero. Legends of Arkle abounded, including rumours that he was fed on two pints of Guinness a day.

The 1965 event saw Arkle, Cheltenham Festival legend, confirm his unassailable superiority as a jumper when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup by an unprecedented 20 lengths.

In 1966 Arkle won his third and final Cheltenham Gold Cup. His reputation saw him given odds of 1/10 to win the Cup – the lowest odds ever allocated to a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. The bookies estimation of his prospects in the race proved to be accurate and Arkle claimed his third consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup, becoming only the third horse since Golden Miller and Cottage Rake to do so.

Arkle, Cheltenham Festival legend, may well have gone on to equal Golden Miller’s feat of five Cheltenham Gold Cup winners’ titles, had his brilliant career not been prematurely ended by a minor injury at the 1966 King George VI Chase.