See More Business must defy the omens

History offers no favours as the 1999 Gold Cup winner tries to show he is special

There is a veteran racing journalist who likes to tell the story, which he swears is true, of three Irishmen he saw arguing beside the bronze statue of Arkle at Cheltenham on Gold Cup day. The discussion was growing heated, and as voices were raised, the source of the dispute became clear. Far from arguing about Arkle's merits as a steeplechaser, the men were almost coming to blows over the question of whether, had injury not ended his career in 1966, Arkle would have won four, five or six Gold Cups.

There is a veteran racing journalist who likes to tell the story, which he swears is true, of three Irishmen he saw arguing beside the bronze statue of Arkle at Cheltenham on Gold Cup day. The discussion was growing heated, and as voices were raised, the source of the dispute became clear. Far from arguing about Arkle's merits as a steeplechaser, the men were almost coming to blows over the question of whether, had injury not ended his career in 1966, Arkle would have won four, five or six Gold Cups.

There has been no horse before or since like Arkle, although Golden Miller, who won five Gold Cups in a row in the 1930s, might have run him close. Most of today's punters know him only from the black-and-white footage of mid-1960s Festivals which sometimes plugs a gap during televised racing. A good measure of his astonishing talent, though, is the handicap rating of 212 allotted to him by Timeform after the 1966 season. Compare that to the end-of-season ratings of the Gold Cup winners of the last 30 years, and even great chasers like Desert Orchid (187) are almost two stone adrift.

At least two points strike you as you study this list of horses who, one afternoon in March, could claim to be steeplechasing's champion. The first is that some distinctly ordinary horses - Alverton (153), Davy Lad (151) and Master Smudge (150), albeit on the disqualification of Tied Cottage - have won the Gold Cup. The second is that in almost every case, it was just the one afternoon. L'Escargot, in 1971, was the last horse to win two Gold Cups. Indeed, only five horses since - The Dikler, Forgive N'Forget, Charter Party, Desert Orchid and Jodami - have managed to reach even a place the following year.

That is a statistic you will hear many times in the run-up to next Thursday's race, when See More Business will be a warm favourite to finally break the sequence. Still more disturbing for his supporters, though, is this fact: in the 76-year history of the Gold Cup, only five horses have won two or more (Easter Hero and Cottage Rake were the others). By contrast, there have been no fewer than eight multiple winners of the Champion Hurdle in the last 30 years alone.

Given that See More Business was rated a relatively modest 173 by Timeform at the end of last season, there seems no obvious reason why he should succeed where horses like Desert Orchid failed. Just as horses do not know their odds, however, neither do they read Timeform (if they did, some of those labelled rogues and thinkers might sue). And while any number of omens appear to count against See More Business as he attempts to join a very select band of chasers, there are other reasons to think that he has the outstanding chance his current price of 2-1 would suggest.

As far as his rating goes, See More Business has moved well beyond last year's final assessment during the course of the latest season. "He is now on 182," Geoff Greetham, Timeform's editorial director, said yesterday, "which reflects his victory in the King George, which was the best of his career so far. Looking down the historical ratings, there aren't too many up there."

Indeed there are not. Should See More Business retain this rating until the end of the season he will stand alongside Captain Christy, and within a pound or two of Master Oats and Burrough Hill Lad, in Timeform's view the third- and second-best Gold Cup winners of the last 30 years. A convincing victory might even see his rating move further towards the 187 awarded to Desert Orchid at the end of the 1989 season.

Merely by turning up at Cheltenham in excellent form, See More Business will have achieved more than most defending champions. "For all the statistics," Greetham says, "we are not talking about a horse repeating his form of 12 months ago, we're talking about him repeating his current form. This horse is coming for the Gold Cup having already shown this season that he is running to at least as good a rating as he did last year. His King George win was very impressive and we rate that more highly than his win in last year's Gold Cup."

Among recent winners, several horses like Imperial Call, who was pulled up behind Mr Mulligan in 1997, had been in disappointing form prior to their returns to Cheltenham. Jodami, meanwhile, ran to an almost identical level of form in the 1994 Gold Cup as he had shown when winning in 1993. It just so happened that, on the day, The Fellow ran a little bit better.

This, perhaps, is the lesson to be drawn from history as See More Business attempts to carve out a generous slice of it for himself. Statistics do not beat horses - other horses do. See More Business may have improved significantly since last year, when he beat the 66-1 outsider Go Ballistic by a length, and he may produce his best form next Thursday too, but still not win, simply because this year's opponents, including up-and-coming chasers like Gloria Victis and Looks Like Trouble, are much better than the 1999 vintage.

Should he retain his title, however, See More Business will fully deserve to be remembered as one of Cheltenham's finest champions. They may even accord him the ultimate tribute for any Gold Cup winner - and name a bar after him.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot