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Best Mate

Best Mate
Sire Un Desperado
Dam Katday
Damsire Miller's Mate
Gender Gelding
Foaled January 28, 1995
Country Ireland
Color Bay
Breeder Jacques Van't Hart
Owner Jim Lewis
Trainer Henrietta Knight
Record 22: 14-7-0
Earnings £1,022,436
Summary
Best Mate is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Katday by Un Desperado. He was born on January 28, 1995 in Ireland, and was bred by Jacques Van't Hart.
Major wins
Mersey Novices' Hurdle (2000)
November Novices' Chase (2000)
Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2001)
Haldon Gold Cup (2001)
Cheltenham Gold Cup (2002, 2003, 2004)
Peterborough Chase (2002)
King George VI Chase (2002)
Ericsson Chase (2003)
Awards
British Horse Racing Board's Jump Horse of the Year, Champion Three-Mile Chaser for second year running.
Honors
Statue and Best Mate Enclosure at Cheltenham Racecourse Added to Cheltenham's Hall of Fame at the 2007 meet, along with Desert Orchid
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on February 14, 2007


Best Mate (bay gelding, 28 January 1995 - 1 November 2005. Sire: Un Desperado, Dam: Katday) was a famous English trained racehorse and three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was considered and treated as one of the most loved horses in the history of horse racing in the UK,[1] with his sudden death while racing making front page news.

The horse was owned by Jim Lewis and trained by Henrietta Knight.

Best Mate won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with jockey Jim Culloty, matching the record of Arkle, but was withdrawn from the 2005 race just eight days before the race itself having burst a blood vessel on the gallops. He also missed the 2001 festival due to the foot and mouth crisis where he was the hot favourite for the Arkle Challenge Trophy. He also won the 2002 King George VI Chase and the 2003 Ericsson Chase.

Best Mate collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack after being pulled up by jockey Paul Carberry whilst competing in the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter Racecourse on November 1, 2005. After the jockey had dismounted, the horse stumbled and went onto his knees. Best Mate's death was immediately headline news, with his last moments being enlarged and viewed on newspapers all over the country. Headlines included Who can fill the void left by Best Mate?, Best Mate leaves golden memories after giving his all for final time, Heartbreak at Exeter as Best Mate collapses and dies and Perfect horse Best Mate dies at trainer's feet.

Out of all of his races, Best Mate was never out of the first two, as well as never falling at a fence or hurdle. Out of the 22 starts that Best Mate ran in, he came first in 14 of them, and second in the other seven, the 22nd race being the one he was pulled up in shortly before his death. Of the seven races in which he finished second in, five were Group 1 races, and two were Group 2 races. There will always be inevitable comparisons with Arkle because of their three successive Cheltenham Gold Cup wins. However, the highest Timeform rating for Arkle was 212 while Best Mate's highest rating was 182. Timeform themselves felt that Best Mate's rating could have been higher if he'd raced in more handicaps.[2] It is known Best Mate was very ill when a foal at one point, and due to this his owner and trainer were always very careful not to overdo it with him. Best Mate's career was different from Arkle's in this respect, so the two cannot be compared. Clearly Hen Knight knew her star chaser better than most and campaigned him appropriately, hence the three Gold Cup wins. She did not run him in many handicaps, which shows she cared a lot about his health and wanted to save him for his gold cups. He ran in one handicap chase (2001/2002 First National Gold Cup) where he failed only just by 1/2 length to give 20 lbs to the decent Wahiba Sands. Best Mate was the first horse to win the Gold Cup more than once since L'Escargot in 1970 and 1971. As such it was a great performance by horse, trainer and rider.

regulations prevented the burial of his body on the Exeter course as Lewis and many racing fans desired. Instead Best Mate was cremated and his ashes buried beside the winning post at Cheltenham Racecourse on December 10, 2005. Lewis was in attendance even though his wife, Valerie, had died on December 8 after a 7 month battle against cancer.[3] There is now a bronze statue in memory to Best Mate near the farm at which he was trained, in Lockinge.

As of 2008 Best Mate has one full brother still in racing, Cornish Rebel following the death of Inca Trail in 2007. Cornish Rebel, a very talented horse, is a former Grade 1 winner over hurdles and a former Scottish Grand National runner up but is quirky and does not have Best Mate's qualities.

At the Cheltenham Festival the following year, a statue of Best Mate was revealed. He was made one of the elite 12 on the Cheltenham Hall of Fame in March 2007. He has even had a DVD produced all about him, and like Alastair Down narrates:

A horse, up a gallop. But not just any horse. This one, a three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, and in the process of establishing his pre-eminence, became one of those rare animals who get under our skin, and graduate to being public property. Many promise, but few deliver as Best Mate did.


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