Cheltenham Festival Memories: Dawn Run 1986 Gold Cup
Dawn Run was the mare who rewrote the history books and sparked some of the greatest, if not the greatest, celebrations seen at a Cheltenham Festival when winning the Gold Cup in 1986.
Nobody would have thought that when bought for a paltry 5,800 guineas as an unbroken three-year-old that she would go on to to become the best mare that National Hunt racing has ever witnessed.
Trained by 10-times Irish champion handler Paddy Mullins, she was campaigned hard and not wrapped up in cotton wool like many of today’s stars.
She won the 1984 Champion Hurdle and went on to land the Gold Cup two years later – the only horse ever to complete the double.
Dawn Run is also the only horse to complete the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle treble, but it her win in the Gold Cup which will never be forgotten.
The darling off Ireland was sent off the heavily-backed 15/8 favourite under jockey Jonjo O’Neill and set off at the head off affairs with Run And Skip.
The pair raced clear in the early stages but the pack begain to close in the second half of the 3m 2f contest and Dawn Run began to make errors at the same stage.
But with O’Neill pushing and shoving, Dawn Run responded and was narrowly in second place approaching two from home four horses pulled away from the field.
As Forgive N’Forget and Wayward Lad began their challenges, O’Neill threw Dawn Run at the fence and she produced a flying leap to land in the lead.
But that was short-lived as Wayward Lad regained the advantage coming to the last fence, pressed by Forgive ´n Forget with Dawn Run seemingly struggling in third.
It looked as if the dream was over for her legion of supporters, but Dawn Run was a battle hardened warrior who didn’t know when she was beat.
With 100 yards to go, Wayward Lad hung left and started to empty as his stamina gave way and O’Neill switched Dawn Run outside Michael Dickinson’s charge for one last effort.
Dawn Run did then what Dawn Run did best and dug deep to find reserves and stage a late rally to get up and score by 3/4 of a length.
Cheltenham’s famous skyline began to rain hats thrown into the air in celebration and the roar as she crossed the line was deafening.
Dawn Run and connections then had to fight through crowds never witnessed before to get back to the winners’enclosure, and O’Neill and owner Chairman Hill were lifted shoulder-high by the mare’s supporters.
It was quite simply, one of the most dramatic Gold Cups ever witnessed and one which was won by a real legend whose achievements will never be surpassed.