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Cheltenham - Racing: Dawn Run stays for Gold Cup glory

As a Champion Hurdle winner in 1984, many horse racing fans and pundits did not believe Dawn Run would have the stamina to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 3m2f distance and the uphill finish at Prestbury Park did not favour the Irish-trained mare, however, she proved how versatile she was in 1986 when she powered up the hill in one of the most spectacular finishes to the race in its rich history, scoring by a length.

Under the hands of Jonjo O'Neill, she was switched from the inside rail to the middle of the track for the closing stages of the contest, reeling in the leader Wayward Lad.

The race is also known for the great Sir Peter O'Sullevan's commentary. As she started to rally with 50 yards to go, O'Sullevan commented: "And the mare's beginning to get up."

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband event of the Cheltenham Festival and the victory ensured Dawn Run added her name alongside the likes of Arkle, Mill House and L'Escargot at the time on the Cheltenham roll of honour board.

Dawn Run's success is also remembered for the amazing scenes we saw in the winner's enclosure.

The winning connections were joined by hundreds of spectators who could not contain their excitement and spilled into the area to greet the winner on her return. Scenes like that have yet to be repeated at the home of jumps racing.

Record Gold Cup time set

Given what she achieved in the Champion Hurdle two years earlier, there was no doubt about Dawn Run's speed.

She jumped her obstacles at impressive speed and accuracy and when she crossed the line in first place in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup, she had broken the record for the fastest time in the race.

Her time of 6mins 35secs was much quicker than the average for the staying race. She took two seconds off the previous best and it was a record which lasted 14 years until Looks Like Trouble broke it in 2000.

Dawn Run was only the fourth mare to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and she is still the last to achieve the feat.

Many mares now don't even feature in the race and the addition of the mares' chase - a race which was inaugurated in 2021 - allows them to take on their own on day four of the Festival.

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Far from ideal preparation

Dawn Run's 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup win came after a difficult start to her chase career.

The Champion Hurdle winner featured just once in her novice campaign. She was successful at Punchestown on her debut over fences, but then an injury kept her off the track for the rest of the season.

Paddy Mullins' runner went into the 1986 Cheltenham Festival with very little experience over fences.

She had made mistakes in all of her chase races prior to the Gold Cup, but despite her inexperience, she showed how tough she was, outbattling seasoned chasers in the race.

Unfortunately for her fans, Dawn Run did not win another race after her Gold Cup success, but she is honoured at Cheltenham Racecourse with a statue in the parade ring.

The closing stages of the 1986 Gold Cup continue to be played every year around Festival time, as racing fans never tire of seeing her rally to victory.

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