Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harbour Pilot's Ship Could Come in to Upset Best Mates's Treble Bid

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harbour Pilot's Ship Could Come in to Upset Best Mates's Treble Bid

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM CUNNINGHAM

IF you were old enough to be there when Arkle won his third consecutive Gold Cup, you may well be reading this with the aid of a magnifying glass from the comfort of a seat in an old folks' home. And if you weren't old enough to go racing back in 1966, then throw a sickie and head for Cheltenham tomorrow to see Best Mate make his bid for sporting immortality.

The script for this year's [pounds sterling]350,000 showpiece is blindingly simple.

In short, Best Mate will be backed off the boards and jump 22 forbidding black fences with uncanny precision before bounding clear up the hill.

Cue 60,000 adoring fans in a state of collective euphoria, and cue the Channel 4 close-up shots of Henrietta Knight and Terry Biddlecombe leaping into each others' arms like Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable at the end of Gone With The Wind.

History beckons the most charismatic chaser seen in decades and you could be forgiven for thinking fate has already decreed that it finally is time for Arkle's treble to be equalled.

One by one, potential threats to Best Mate's dominance have fallen by the wayside or dented their chance with lacklustre performances.

Young pretenders such as Strong Flow and Kingscliff will miss the race through injury, while Jair Du Cochet's hopes of dethroning the king met a sorry end when he broke a leg on the gallops last week.

No wonder the question on most lips at Cheltenham this week has revolved around which horses will fill the placings.

But from a betting viewpoint, the most important question of all relates to whether punters want to risk [pounds sterling]100 in order to win [pounds sterling]50? And, without wishing to detract in any way from the achievements of a superb chaser, I don't.

Best Mate clearly has the best form in tomorrow's line-up and, granted normal luck in running, jockey Jim Culloty ought to be saluting the stands at about 3. …

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