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08 August 2023

Trusted with the celebrations of a 100 years of racing history, Assistant General Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse, Andre Klein shares his plans to showcase the relevance and impact of The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. Not to mention a few mountains he climbed…

Tell us about your role at The Jockey Club and how this special challenge came about?

I am Assistant General Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse, which gives me a very diverse area of responsibility. One of my principal tasks for this year is planning all the activity associated the centenary of the of our most important races, The Boodles Gold Cup. It’s quite a responsibility really!

Through the course of the season, we have a number of events, and special occasions to celebrate this important landmark. Many of these will resonate and appeal to existing racing fans and are celebrations of all the hero horses and humans that have made the race what it is today. Other activities are geared towards attracting new interest in the sport. Along the way we also hope we can utilise the year to fundraise and build some awareness for charities and good causes, such as Racing Welfare –  The Dawn Runs, as we called them, were exactly that.

Why Dawn Runs? Well, the initial idea was that we would set off at daybreak, but that timings (and general fitness!) caused a rethink for a mid-morning start.

How did the idea come about?

I love a challenge like this and over the years I’ve done similar seemingly madcap things for charity. I’ve run around every racecourse in New Zealand, which worked out at three and half marathons in five days and ran around every racecourse in Ireland, also in support of  Racing Welfare. Someone mentioned to me that we needed to elevate the profile of the Gold Cup and the idea of physically taking the Cup to the top of some mountains came to me from that comment. We wanted to link the climbs to appropriate links to our centrepiece race.

So, a trip up the remote Highland mountain, Arkle, on land formerly owned by Arkle’s owner, the Duchess of Westminster, made far more sense. Arkle is regarded as the greatest of Gold Cup winners, along with Golden Miller, so standing at the top was the perfect conclusion to our endeavour. Interestingly, Arkle stands next to another imposing peak named Foinavon, which leant its name to the infamous 100-1 Grand National winner of 1967.    

Did the Gold Cup make the trip with you?

Yes, it did and we were very anxious about its safety! It was wrapped heavily in bubble wrap and sat snugly inside my rucksack. We detached the base from the Cup itself but carried both up the slopes and scree with us. We weighed the Cup on scales in the weighing room at Leopardstown and it came in at around ten pounds, so not an insignificant weight on your back. I carried it up and down Carrauntoohil (just to show them how to do it) but I was hugely grateful that others volunteered to assist along the rest of the way. Putting the Cup and base back together on the peaks of these mountains, in the gale force winds and rain was an interesting challenge. I’ve done it so many times now, I could almost do it with my eyes closed.

How will the fundraising work in the centenary year?

For the majority of the year we will be fundraising for the Gold Cup Community fund, which we are running in conjunction with the Cheltenham Rotary Clubs. The funds raised will go towards local legacy projects in the neighbourhood of the racecourse. There are a number of fundraising activities and occasions planned, including a golf tournament at Cleeve Hill golf course, where a race was was staged early in the 19th century for a Gold Cup.

The Dawn Runs were in support of Racing Welfare, who will be one of the beneficiaries of another Gold Cup fundraising project. Artist Jeremy Houghton is painting a portrait of every Gold Cup, and hopes to auction them as a collection with the proceeds being split between four different charities: Racing Welfare, Injured Jockeys Fund, The British Racing School and the Cotswold RDA.

Three of us from the Jockey Club did the full tour. Megan Furse from the communications  team joined me and Olivia Tudor from our Marketing department. Simon Cooper from Weatherbys, who was also on the New Zealand and Ireland walks with me, so a regular colleague and sidekick on these adventures brought his son Alex along – he made a top class Sherpa carrying the Cup. We were very privileged to have support from some stellar names from the ex-jockey ranks. Barry Garraghty join us in Ireland, Graham McCourt in Wales and Richard Johnson took on the challenge of  Scarfell Pike. All are Gold Cup-winning riders and brilliant ambassadors for racing.

Grand National-winning rider, Marcus Armytage came along for the ascent of Arkle, which was the closest he had ever got to holding the Gold Cup, as he’d never even ridden in the race. Barry, Graham and Richard all kindly brought their Gold Cups with them. The team photos at the top of each peaks with all the Gold Cups will become treasured memories.

What else can you share of the celebration plans?

There is so much planned it’s hard to know where to start. People will get to feel the sense of occasion when the GC100 merchandise range is launched in October. I have had a sneak preview of what is available, and it is really exciting. There is a set of Gold Cup colour playing cards coming out and these will be a fundraiser for the GC100 fund. These will a Limited edition and I think will be in hot demand. One huge labour of love has been the GC100 book, for which we have turned to Chris Pitt, the racing historian to help compile. This won’t be a trudge through each year, but rather a colourful, pictorial summary of 100 heroes of the Gold Cup. Great photos and 300 to 500 words on each, with many guest contributors. I feel hugely privileged to be working on this book and am still pinching myself that I am so fortunate to do so. We are doing a 100-day countdown to the Gold Cup and each day will have something linked to the celebration. It could be a visit somewhere with the trophy, or a reveal of an interesting historic story or artefact. Then we will have a gathering of the Champions during the Festival. One of my favourite pictures in the book was taken in 1974 and has all the Gold Cup-winning riders in it. We would like to copy that image at some stage in 2024.

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