Statue of Best Mate at Cheltenham
|Foaled||January 28, 1995|
|Breeder||Jacques Van't Hart|
|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)
|British Horse Racing Board's Jump Horse of the Year, Champion Three-Mile Chaser for second year running.|
|Statue and Best Mate Enclosure at Cheltenham Racecourse Added to Cheltenham's Hall of Fame at the 2007 meet, along with Desert Orchid|
|Last updated on February 14, 2007|
||This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information. (March 2012)|
Best Mate (bay gelding, 28 January 1995 - 1 November 2005. Sire: Un Desperado, Dam: Katday) was a famous Irish-bred, English-trained racehorse and three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was considered one of the most loved horses in the history of horse racing in the UK, with his sudden death while racing making front page news.
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Mate won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with jockey Jim Culloty, matching the record of Arkle, but was withdrawn from the 2005 race eight days before the event due to bursting a blood vessel on the gallops.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 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 dismounted, the horse stumbled and went onto his knees. Best Mate's death was national news, with headlines including 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.
Best Mate never fell at a fence or hurdle. Out of 22 starts, he came first in 14 of them and second in 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, 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 had raced in more handicaps. He ran in one handicap chase (2001/2002 First National Gold Cup), where he failed by 1/2 length to give 20 lbs to Wahiba Sands. He was the first horse to win the Gold Cup more than once since L'Escargot in 1970 and 1971.
EU 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 were 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. 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 is a former Grade 1 winner over hurdles and a former Scottish Grand National runner up.
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. In a DVD about him, 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.||”|