Racing: Legend's spirit alive in daunting presence and deft technique

Everybody knows that Arkle the legend will never be beaten but here yesterday a flesh-and-blood horse called Kicking King won the greatest steeplechase of them all in a way that made more than a little magic of his own.

He won quite beautifully a Gold Cup that was supposed to be stripped of the highest class after the withdrawals of the three-times champion, Best Mate, and the second favourite Kingscliff. This, though, according to one of the most formidable judges of horseflesh that racing has ever known, was the least of the achievement of the seven-year-old new pride of Ireland.

As the electricity generated by perfect performances from Kicking King and his exultant jockey, Barry Geraghty, ran through the Gloucestershire valley, the suggestion was that something more than a golden spring day had been seized. It came from Charlie Swan, who made extraordinary history of his own here with three Champion Hurdle wins on the back of the beloved Istabraq, who said that Kicking King could well have besieged the future as well as a little of the past once owned so exclusively by the fabled Arkle.

After congratulating trainer Tom Taaffe, son of Arkle's three-times winning rider Pat, Swan said: "This was a great performance and, yes, I have to say this is the horse that could go beyond Arkle's three wins. Best Mate drew level, and it is sad that he couldn't race today, but you just couldn't say enough about Kicking King's performance today. As a seven-year-old he obviously could come back and win three more times. That's a lot to say, but then he has a good trainer in Tom Taaffe and looking at him today he seemed to have all the ability in the world.

"Everything was so perfect in the performance - he was running keen most the time. This was a horse totally in control of everything around him."

Here again we saw the folly of downgrading the blue riband of steeplechasing, the race which investigates the last fibre of a champion's will and, just when it is supposed to be in terminal decline, throws up a star like Kicking King - a handsome flier who made nonsense of talk that he might not stay the most demanding three miles, two furlongs and 110 yards in all of racing.

Not only did he stay, he did it so imperiously there was never any question that he would do anything but conquer.

Three fences from home the victory had become a formality. He jumped it with a conviction, and then a quickening pace, which banished all challenge. No, maybe he wasn't as pulverising as Arkle, maybe down the years the kind of power and consistency that tore up the handicaps will remain some way beyond the range of the new champion. Arkle, after all, was a phenomenon of the ages. What the evidence says about Kicking King is that he is a marvellous athlete of thrilling potential, a horse of daunting presence and deeply impressive technique.

The same has to be said of him as it was of Best Mate. You can only be the best of your day, and there was no doubt here last night that Kicking King had established that credential. The passing of the crown was for the trainers, Taaffe and Best Mate's Henrietta Knight, a moment of great joy and poignancy. When Knight saw Taaffe walking from the winner's enclosure she rushed to him and they embraced for quite some time.

It was rather more than the polite exchange of congratulations and thanks. It was a close-up of the emotion and pain that comes when you guide a horse through the perils of a year, when you bring him to a moment of supreme achievement. "That was incredible, Tom," said Henrietta. "It was a wonderful achievement - a great thing to see."

Henrietta's husband, the gnarled old former champion jockey Terry Biddlecombe, was less delicate. He burst into a victory conference where Taaffe was promising a winning party that would stretch into something nearly as epic as his horse's performance, and yelled, 'Taaffe, well done'."

Well done, indeed. Well done for the brilliant renewal of racing legend, of high achievement and careful stewardship of the highest talent. Taaffe endlessly told the story of how when the four-year-old Kicking King won a bumper at Leopardstown, his son was being born without his attendance. They called the boy Pat, reported Tom to a stream of interrogators, and then he said that all they needed now was to find the new Arkle.

Kicking King may not be the new Arkle - that item may forever be locked in the strongroom of racing - but when he so beautifully responded to the promptings of his jockey he was more than a passable substitute. He had become a new name, a quick, fine talent and some racing insiders were saying that if their sport was boxing there would be instant pressure for a dream race at Kempton Park next Boxing Day, a King George Vl battle between Best Mate, the supplanted champion, Moscow Flyer, the heart-throb of Cheltenham this week, and the contender who here swept so spectacularly to the title.

It probably won't happen, but there is intrigue and excited speculation about the next few years in the life of Kicking King. He won more than the blue riband of chasing. He brought the great festival of Cheltenham back to triumphant life on what will always be its most important day.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little