AS good as it gets - Cheltenham on Thursday last: Best Mate winning his historic third Gold Cup for Henrietta Knight and her toughie-softie husband, Terry Biddlecombe, a thrilled jockey Jim Culloty and the irrepressible owner, Jim Lewis, who with his wife and friend, shares Matey with all the rest of us - so we can all feel he's a local winner!

It would have been even better for us if Truckers Tavern had repeated his last year's second. But Ferdy Murphy's charge made a mistake at the third and was never going well to be pulled up after five out.

If the Gold Cup was the cake and its icing too, then the Cathcart was our cherry-on-the-top. Our Armageddon, one of Racing Week's Fifteen to Follow, gave us the highlight of the Festival and of the jumps season altogether.

Richard Guest's charge, pulled up only two days earlier in the Arkle after nearly unseating Larry McGrath, took his chance on Thursday over the longer trip in this Grade 2 event.

The northern raiders hit the front from the start and repelled all challenges. There is no better sight than a chaser front running, attacking his fences boldly, and Our Armageddon gave us this in spades redoubled.

The trainer, whose first Cheltenham win this was, paid tribute to his staff for their hard work and praised McGrath in particular for looking after the horse on the Tuesday and pulling up, so they had a chance another day. "That will be it for the season," he added.

Of our other runners, Tusk, belonging to Hogarth Racing, Stillington trainer Harry Hogarth's syndicate, and trained by Henrietta Knight, was well fancied for the Triumph Hurdle, but only managed 12th. Some excuse came from being hampered on the last bend, perhaps. Tim Easterby's Edmo Yewkay was pulled up after looking handy early doors.

In the Foxhunter, Peter Beaumont's prolific points winner Upham Lord, with Guy Brewer up, looked to be making progress but blundered at the 15th and eventually fell. Remarkably, the duo went to Fakenham next day and led throughout the hunter chase to score easily, a first win under rules for three years.

In Thursday's County Hurdle, Benbyas was a respectable sixth and in the prize money for Declan Carroll. Interestingly, the versatile Benbyas is due to run in the very first Flat race on turf at Doncaster as we go to press - one week Cheltenham, seven days later sunny Donny! Alan Swinbank's Through The Rye, another of our 15, was a disappointing 12th in the County.

Further brief highlights of the jumps week - Henry Oliver made a remarkable recovery after a Guest horse's error. At Carlisle, Moscow Leader sprawled after the last ditch, but the young jockey sat tight, pulled his mount back together and eventually went well clear after the last jump to score by an easing-down two and a half lengths.

Alan Dempsey took a Hexham double last Thursday, including one for owners Graham and Andrea Wylie and trainer Howard Johnson.

Old-stager Nowell House, owned by nonagenarian John Walsh, was a Wetherby winner for Mick Easterby, who is in good form. The winner was partnered by young amateur Tom Greenall, the son of Lord Daresbury, and was praised by Easterby as a rising star. He had won in his father's colours on Saturday too, in the Ascot hunter chase, Sikander A Azam prepared by David Easterby.

Sadly, conditional rider Neil Mulholland broke a leg at the Wetherby meeting, cutting short his good season for his boss Ferdy Murphy. Farewell, at least from the saddle, to Stephen Swiers, winner of 100 between the flags and 100 under rules. The 39-year-old amateur from near Wetherby has given up race-riding after more than 20 years.

Tomorrow the Lincoln, the traditional chief curtain-raiser for the turf season on the level - Yorkshire owner Guy Reed hopes to run last year's winner Pablo to success again. Trained by Barry Hills, the homebred runs off a higher weight and may not find everything as easy.

Karl Burke is considering running Blue Sky Thinking, but the rather fragile runner was seen Saturday in the Winter Derby at Lingfield, so the Wensley trainer was waiting to see how he had recovered.


Thursday last week. - Cheltenham: Our Armageddon (trained by R Guest, at Brancepeth; owned by L J Garrett), ridden by L McGrath.

Hexham: The Nomad (M Easterby, Sheriff Hutton; S Brewer, D Sugars & B Parker), A Dempsey; Albany (H Johnson, Crook; A & G Wylie), A Dempsey; Iron Express (G Moore, Middleham; D Parker), B Kiniry.

Southwell AW: Supreme Salutation (D Chapman, Stillington; trainer), T Culhane.

Friday. - Fakenham: Upham Lord (P Beaumont, Brandsby; Mrs E W Wilson), Mr G Brewer (claiming 5lbs allowance).

Wolverhampton AW: Mount Royale (N Tinkler, Langton; Langton Partnership), K Tinkler; Doctor John (A Turnell, Malton; Dr J Hollowood), C Catlin.

Saturday. - Lingfield AW: What-A-Dancer (A Swinbank, Melsonby; A Barnes), R Winston.

Newcastle: Sound Of Cheers (F Kirby, Danby Wiske; permit holder), K Johnson; The Butterwick Kid (T Tate, Tadcaster; R T A Tate), Mr R Tate (7).

Ascot: Sikander A Azam (D M Easterby, Sheriff Hutton; Lord Daresbury), Mr T Greenall (3).

Sunday. - Carlisle: Moscow Leader (R Guest; Miss P Overy), H Oliver.

Monday. - Wetherby: Powder Creek (M Reveley, Lingdale; T M McKain), R McGrath; Nowell House (M Easterby; J Walsh), Mr T Greenall (7); Sir Storm (G Moore; J R F (Management Consultants) Ltd), A Ross.

Wolverhampton AW: Torrent (D Chapman; trainer), T Culhane; Jake Black (J Quinn, Settrington; G A Lucas), D Holland.

Tuesday. - Southwell AW: Cumwhitton (R Fahey, Musley Bank; J Roundtree), P Hanagan.

Wednesday. - Towcester: Red Brae (P Niven, Barton-le-Street; C D Carr), P Moloney.

Lingfield AW: Golden Quest (M Johnston, Middleham; Syndicate 2002), J Fanning