The best of the Irish at Cheltenham

Irish horse, jockeys and trainers have an illustrious history of success at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It’s no overstatement to say that some of the world’s most famous horses have hailed from the Emerald Isle.

Nine-year-old Bellshill trained by WP Mullins will be taking part in this year’s encounter, looking to recreate the success of Arkle, Synchronised and Dawn Run. At the time of writing, Bellshill is considered to be among the best tips for the Gold Cup, there’s plenty of interest in the outsider priced at 16/1, with many believing he has what it takes to take the 2019 Gold Cup.

With pace, stamina and experience Bellshill is one of the best outside bets to win the Gold Cup and keep Irish eyes smiling.

In this article we take a look back at some of those horses and reminisce over their victories.


Shergar is undoubtedly the most famous Irish horse in history, mainly because of his kidnapping by the IRA in the 80s. However another Irish horse that should be remembered by fans everywhere is Arkle.

In 1964, 1965 and 1966 Arkle won the Leopardstown Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, proving his calibre as one of the most impressive jumpers in the sports history. In 1965 Arkle beat Mill House by twenty lengths to win the Gold Cup. If that seems impressive, Arkle went on to win the following year’s Gold Cup by thirty lengths!

This legendary horse had his career cut short after an injury in 1966, but his legacy remains untarnished. The skeletal remains of Arkle are currently on display at the Irish Horse Racing Museum.

(Arkle has been hailed by experts as the greatest steeplechaser that ever lived.)


AP McCoy rode this terrifically determined horse to success in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, before being devastated by the death of the horse a few months later. McCoy later went on to describe Synchronised as one of his favourite ever horses.

Synchronised wasn’t the fastest or most elegant of horses, but he mirrored the determined attitude of his jockey. Synchronised’s stamina shone through on the gruelling Gold Cup track as he saw off the challenge of The Giant Bolster and Long Run.

The fatal injury suffered by Synchronised at the Grand National a month later curtailed what could have been a dazzling career.

(AP McCoy discusses his affection for his favourite horse Synchronised.)

Dawn Run

The 1980s were the halcyon days of Irish racehorses and one that is often forgotten by modern day punters is Dawn Run. The Irish thoroughbred became the first horse to complete the Champion Hurdle – Gold Cup double.

She also remains the only horse to have ever completed the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle treble. When Dawn Run romped to victory in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup, it was the first time she had ever competed at that length.

During the race Dawn Run showed her inexperience, falling behind the favourites on several occasions before clawing back the lead in the final yards.

(Dawn Run was the inspiration for this song by Foster & Allen.)


It’s not long now until the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup kicks off on 12th March. The very best of British and Irish horses will battle it out over 22 fences and three and a quarter miles to win the Gold Cup.

As you now know, some of Cheltenham’s most successful horses ever have come from the Emerald Isle, Bellshill will be looking to add to Ireland’s illustrious history with the festival.


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