Ruby Walsh: I climbed the back of a grandstand to watch the Gold Cup on my first Cheltenham trip

Ruby recalls his first trip to the Cheltenham Festival on the latest episode of our From the Horse’s Mouth podcast


I went on my first trip to the Cheltenham Festival in 1996, aged 16, as a spectator. Ireland had four winners the first year I was there and it was freezing cold!

I didn’t realise until I went back this year just how big a centrepiece the Gold Cup is. I remember as a 16-year-old, as big a crowd as there was at Cheltenham, there seemed to be a bigger crowd when the Gold Cup came on, and that was the same again this year.

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al boum photo wins cheltenham gold cup

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People just seemed to appear out of nowhere. I remember clearly that I watched all the races in my first year but when the Gold Cup came on I wasn’t able to find a place in the stand to watch Imperial Call win.

I had to climb up on the back of a temporary stand to actually watch the race.

We were back the following year. I went on the horse plane on the Monday with Commanche Court, Istabraq, Theatreworld and Finnegan’s Hollow.

Commanche was in the Triumph Hurdle – I was 17 and my dad was training him. Istabraq won his race, Finnegan’s Hollow fell, Theatreworld was second in the Champion Hurdle and Commanche won.

A 50 per cent strike rate on the aeroplane down to my companionship, whispering in their ears!

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And Commanche Court obviously went on to finish runner-up behind Best Mate in the 2002 Gold Cup.

That win in 1997 was a brilliant experience and a brilliant result for a small yard.

It was an old-fashioned Triumph then – 30 horses in a huge field, you needed a lot of luck but Commanche was a wonderful little horse and it was a great occasion.


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