Best Mate: Cheltenham Festival Legend
Best Mate’s story starts in November of 1999 when he was entered into a Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham by trainer Henrietta Knight. He impressed in his very first race, winning by three quarters of a length.
Best Mate won another two races in his first season, his worst finishes being two second places. His early performances set the tone for the remainder of his career. Best Mate never finished a race placed further back than second, and never fell at a jump.
The 2000/2001 National Hunt season saw Best Mate go from strength to strength under Henrietta Knight’s careful tutelage. The budding champion was only raced four times during the season, and won three of his races. Apart from his 75% win ratio, Best Mate’s wins amounted to annihilations of the field with his poorest win seeing the runner-up beaten by 13 lengths.
Once Henrietta Knight realised she had a champion on her hands she made the decision to avoid entering Best Mate, Cheltenham Festival legend, into handicap events, wishing to preserve his confidence for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The 2001/2002 season saw Knight’s patience rewarded as Best Mate won the 2002 Cheltenham Gold Cup by over a length. Later on in the year he landed another of the major prizes in National Hunt racing, winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
In 2003 Best Mate confirmed his class, winning a second Cheltenham Gold Cup in which he drove his dominance home by winning the race by ten lengths. The win at the Cheltenham Gold Cup capped off another impressive achievement which saw Best Mate win every race he ran in the 2002/2003 season.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was back at the Cheltenham Festival for the 2004 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Running on the back of a victory of Leopardstown, he contested a hard fought race to emerge winner by half a lap. His third win at the Cheltenham Gold Cup made him only the fourth Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to win the race on three occasions.
Unfortunately Best Mate, Cheltenham Festival legend, was struck down before he had the opportunity to challenge Arkle for the title of the greatest racehorse in Cheltenham Festival history. Whilst competing at the Gold Cup at Exeter the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner pulled up and died minutes later of a heart attack leaving the racing world in mourning.