Cheltenham Gold Cup stolen from tycoon's country mansion

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The Independent Online

The most prestigious trophy in National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, was stolen yesterday from a leading racehorse owner's Cotswold mansion.

It was part of an extraordinary haul worth more than £150,000 which included the Grand Annual Challenge Cup won at this year's Cheltenham Festival and the Britannia Handicap trophy awarded at Royal Ascot last month. The trophies were in possession of the multi-millionaire property developer Raymond Mould. Also taken was the Britannia Handicap trophy, the Tote Silver Trophy and the King George VI Cup which he won in 1993. A Grand National trophy and a bronze copy which he had specially commissioned were left behind on the landing of the house, he said.

The Gold Cup, which is recast each year and given to the winner, was awarded to the hurdler Charter Party in 1988 when it stormed home by six lengths under the stewardship of the three-time champion jockey Richard Dunwoody. Police said the raid at Mr Mould's sprawling property in the village of Wormington, Gloucestershire, happened between midnight and 6.50am yesterday. The 70-year-old tycoon was in London at the time.

Mr Mould said he believed the raid to have been "very well targeted" and was seeking to get permission from the police to offer a valuable reward for the trophies' safe return. He said he had been told to insure the Grand Annual Challenge Cup for £65,000.

But it was the Gold Cup which he won with his late wife and racing partner Jennifer, who died of cancer in 2000 aged 56, which was the most important to him. "The Cheltenham Gold Cup means a huge amount to me. It's the sentimental value, not the monetary value, that's at play here," he said.

"I'm trying to total up how much is gone but it's a lot more than the figures in the news," he said. "They've left the plinths behind which is good news. I know exactly what they have taken. What's the point in melting it down? To me it's worth a fortune."

Also taken were silver cutlery worth £25,000, bronze ornaments, a dark wooden clock with gold sides and a gold mechanism, two silver trophies, and a cigarette case. It is the second big robbery to rock the world of racing this year. In April, the racehorse trainer Howard Johnson and his wife Sue were threatened with a handgun and a large knife during a robbery at their home near Crook, Co Durham, in which £100,000 was stolen.

In his career as an owner, Mr Mould has won some of the sport's most lucrative races. In addition to the Gold Cup, which now carries a prize pool of £500,000, his horse Bindaree won the 2002 Grand National under the owner's distinctive colours of green silks with white stars .

Mr Mould made his estimated £60m fortune masterminding some of the most spectacular property deals of the past 40 years, famously defying the cycle of boom and bust by selling at the top and buying at the bottom of the markets. He and his partner Patrick Vaughan set up the business-park developer Arlington Securities in the 1970s, which became the largest property group in Europe. It was sold in 1989, just before a property crash, for £278m. The pair then moved into out-of-town shopping parks, before selling in 2005 for £811m.

Mr Dunwoody described winning the Gold Cup with Charter Party as one of the highlights of his career. He said: "The Gold Cup is the pinnacle of our sport. It is arguably the most prestigious race in our sport. It doesn't personally affect me but I am disappointed and it must be a huge disappointment to Raymond to have lost these trophies. Hopefully they will be able to recover them." Nigel Dimmer, whose family firm, Martin & Co, has cast a new Gold Cup annually since 1935, said: "It's terrible news, but the cup is replaceable." He said he was most concerned about the Grand Annual Challenge Cup won this year. "It is a beautiful piece of silver, a one-off and part of Cheltenham's heritage. I would appeal for it to be returned."

Trophy thefts

Just before the kick-off of the 1966 World Cup in England, the Jules Rimet trophy went on display at a stamp exhibition in London. Despite a police presence, by the following day, it had been stolen from its case.

Edward Betchley, a car salesman, contacted the FA and, through a newspaper advert, arranged to collect a ransom payment of £15,000 in Battersea Park, south-west London. He was arrested, although the trophy was eventually found by David Corbett and his dog, Pickles, under a hedge in Norwood, south-east London. Betchley insisted he was acting as a middle man and died in 1969 after being sentenced to two years for demanding money with menaces.

The trophy was stolen again in 1983 from its owner, the Brazilian Football Federation which kept it in Rio de Janiero. It has never been recovered. A replica was commissioned, which Fifa bought for £254,000.