Racing: Arkle and sparkle: Ten of the greatest Festival races of all time

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1964: Gold Cup

It was billed as a showdown; it turned out to be the day that steeplechasing changed forever. In one corner, England's giant hero Mill House; in the other Arkle, pride of all Ireland, with defeat in the Hennessy Gold Cup to avenge. The seven-year-olds were at the top of their form; Mill House started 13-8 on, Arkle 7-4. Mill House led, but even his strength and power could not shake off the shadow behind. Going to the last, Pat Taaffe asked Arkle (below) to go, and in three flashing strides the king began a reign that lasts to this day.

1966: Champion Chase

Flyingbolt, Arkle's more versatile stablemate, was the only horse rated within spitting distance of "Himself". The chestnut was the best horse to win the two-mile crown, which he did in a canter from Flash Bulb and Flying Wild. A day later, in the Champion Hurdle, he had only Salmon Spray and Sempervivum in front of him. He then won the Irish Grand National under 12st 6lb.

1977: Champion Hurdle

In hurdling's golden age this was perhaps highest-quality renewal of the title ever run. On heavy ground which was not guaranteed to suit, the reigning champion Night Nurse was a generous 15-2; he showed his contempt for the doubters with a magnificent display of hallmark speed and precision in the air. Monksfield and Dramatist came at him at the last but Night Nurse's bold, imperious leap settled it.

1978: Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The glorious future was there for all to see on Champion Hurdle day. But not in the main event. In the opening novices' race Golden Cygnet simply toyed with 17 rivals, producing a blinding burst up the hill to win by 15 lengths in a time nearly two seconds faster than that achieved by Monksfield, flat out to beat Sea Pigeon, later. But it was all "if only"; a month later the young star was dead, killed by a fall at Ayr.

1983: Gold Cup

In a field of 11, five were trained by Michael Dickinson. Impossibly, at the end of the race they filled the first five places, an unprecedented feat before or since. The quintet was headed by the favourite, Bregawn, who had set a searching gallop from the fourth fence. He beat Captain John five lengths with Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House following on. The stewards relaxed the rules to let all five into the unsaddling enclosure.

1984: Arkle Trophy

One of the great Irish/English head-to-heads: Bobsline v Noddy's Ryde. Noddy's Ryde attacked from the front and as he quickened again going to two out only Bobsline could go with him. The chestnuts raced stride for stride down the hill into the straight and rose to the last as one. Bobsline edged ahead, Noddy's Ryde fought back. The Irish horse won, but a dead-heat would have been the fairest outcome.

1986: Gold Cup

Two years after taking the Champion Hurdle, Dawn Run started 15-8 favourite to become the first to add the Gold Cup. The Irish mare was third over the last but her stamina, courage and 5lb distaff allowance enabled her to overhaul Wayward Lad and Forgive 'N' Forget up the hill. Her reign was tragically brief; she won races despite, rather than because of, her jumping and three months later she broke her neck at Auteuil.

1989: Gold Cup

The dream result. Desert Orchid won the Gold Cup, and in inimitable style. The race was run in a morass and going to the last behind Yahoo defeat for the nation's darling was on the cards. But the grey had other ideas; he edged towards Yahoo up the hill, caught him, eyeballed him and forced himself a length and a half clear. It was not his classiest hour ­ he was a stone worse at Cheltenham than elsewhere ­ but perhaps his finest.

1998: Champion Chase

It was emotional in the instant, and even more so in retrospect. In two tries at the Gold Cup, One Man, the dual King George VI Chase winner (below), had failed miserably. He was given his chance for Festival glory with a drop back in distance and, jumping immaculately, put the bad memories of the track behind him to beat Or Royal four easy lengths and put himself among the great winners of the two-mile crown. Two weeks later at Aintree, he broke a hind leg.

2002: Supreme Novices' Hurdle

For the first time in two years the faithful gave the Festival roar and the opening race was a glorious reminder of what disease had taken away. The two market leaders, Like-A-Butterfly and Westender, ridden by two of the greatest jockeys, Charlie Swan and Tony McCoy, fought it out up the hill in a classic battle of the nations. The Irish mare prevailed by a neck but who won or lost was almost less important than that the game was played at all.

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