The first race I ever saw at the Cheltenham Festival was 1989 Triumph Hurdle.
16 March 1989 is mainly known for Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup and I’ve covered that in a previous blog. The Triumph Hurdle kicked off proceedings as normal. The race was run in barely believable conditions; officially heavy ground but with standing water clearly viewable on the track,
Royal Derbi ridden by Hywel Davies, led throughout and jumped the last in front. Royal Derbi was a very popular hurdler in the early 1990s, winning a Bula and a Fighting Fifth as well as an AIG Champion Hurdle. Jumping upsides was the Jenny Pitman trained Don Valentino but they were both swallowed up in the dying strides in the awful ground by Highland Bud, a rare hurdler in the Sheikh Mohammed colours and Ikdam, a 66-1 outsider.
The film of the race shows that in the home straight Ikdam must have been at least 20 lengths behind the leading pair but under little know jockey Nigel Coleman he came with a wet sail to get up in the dying strides. Indeed, the first time Peter O’Sullevan called his name was in the last 50 yards.
This was welcome to Cheltenham. A 66-1 winner!
As well as Desert Orchid, some remember that in those conditions there were actually two 66-1 winners that day as Observer Corps under jockey Tom Morgan beat the following year’s Gold Cup winner Norton’s Coin in the Cathcart.
It really was the most memorable of brutal days! I was hooked.