The annals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup are littered with horses that with a bit of luck would have had their names engraved on that role of honour. Pendil is a perfect example. None can be as gut-wrenching, however, as Tied Cottage.
Trained by Dan Moore, he of L’ Escargot fame, Tied Cottage was foaled in 1968 and was by Honour Bound out of Cottage Ray.
He made his Festival debut in the 1975 Lloyds Bank Hurdle now the Stayers Hurdle, where he led until the second last only to be run out of it by his stable-mate Brown Lad, who would write himself in the annals of racing history, as the only three time winner of the Irish National.
Tied Cottage would be back at Prestbury Park a year later and this time passing the post first, as he yet again made all the running to beat Davy Lad in the Sun Alliance Chase. Those places would be reversed a year later, as Davy Lad would go onto win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Tied Cottage would be second in what would become the first of five attempts to land chasing’s ultimate prize.
He missed the 1978 race; the race was run in mid-April and he ran in the Grand National instead. Starting second-favourite, he attempted to make all but crashed out at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, as one wag reported he was the first horse to attempt to jump the fence width ways, such was the angle that he took the fence at.
For the 1979 Gold Cup, the race was run in a snow-storm and as always Tied Cottage tried to make every post a winning one and by halfway he had all the runners strung out like it was last week’s washing. Conditions were more akin to a First World War battlefield than a racecourse, turning for home with two to jump, Alverton joined him and as they jumped the last together it appeared that he had the measure of Alverton, only for Tied Cottage to take a couple of steps and then sprawl on the sodden ground. Arguments still rage over who would have won however, his jockey Tommy Carberry (father of both Paul and Nina), has since said that Tied Cottage was out on his legs and he had no more to give.
The decision was then taken to run in the Irish National. On hearing of the horse’s owner Anthony Robinson determination to ride his horse, Dan Moore’s wife – Joan said “but Tony you’ll surely kill yourself”. His reply sums up the Corinthian attitude of the amateur jockey “I’m dying anyway, what have I to lose”? Riddled with cancer Anthony Robinson, who in his youth had won a race at the Cheltenham Festival, was determined to have one last hurrah. After his gruelling race at Cheltenham, Tied Cottage still ran true and battled to the line, as he fought back to win by a neck from Prince Rock.
With such a near miss in 1979, it was decided to aim Tied Cottage at the 1980 Cheltenham Gold Cup and the only amazing thing is that he was allowed to go off at 13-2. With the ground to his liking, but this time run in brilliant sunshine, he attempted to make every post a winning one and run them into the ground. As one by one they fell by the wayside, he was able to come to the last unchallenged and the memories of last year’s miss would now be forgotten, in winning by eight lengths from Master Smudge. The gods though would decree otherwise; in what must have been the cruellest twist of fate ever thought possible, it was announced on the eve of the Grand National that Tied Cottage had failed a dope test and would be disqualified. Trace elements of Theobromine in his feed caused his demotion - since then threshold levels have been introduced and he would be allowed to keep the race.
Owner Anthony Robinson just took the outcome on the chin and made a trip to Warwick Racecourse to hand the Gold Cup over to Master Smudge’s owner – Arthur Barrow, such was the magnitude of the man, knowing that he would never get another chance to win steeplechasing’s ultimate prize. The fickle hand of fate would deal its final card, as both the owner and trainer Dan Moore would die within the year.
With age and the on-coming years, Tied Cottage started to decline and he fell at the fifth in the 1981 Gold Cup, whilst in the 1982 Gold Cup he led them a merry dance and held out to the third last as a fourteen-year-old. His last Festival appearance was in the 1983 Christies Foxhunters, where he finished a very honourable fifth. For me though, he will always be remembered taking the 1979 Gold Cup by the scruff of the neck, as he attempted to run the rest of the field into the ground, only to valiantly go out on his shield.
Photos courtesy of Alpha Press
Blog by guest blogger, Grenville Davies