Thursday 18 January 2018

Cheltenham Festival – ‘Championship’ Races 2000

Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle was notable for the victory of Istabraq, who justified odds of 8/15 to win the race for the third year running. Owned by John P. MCManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Charlie Swan, the 8-year-old quickened clear in the closing stages for an impressive, 4-length win over Hors La Loi III. In so doing, he became just the fifth horse – after Hattons’s Grace (1951), Sir Ken (1954), Persian War (1970) and See You Then (1987) – to win the Champion Hurdle three times.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

The Queen Mother Champion Chase featured a dramatic finish between Edredon Bleu, trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by A.P. McCoy, and Direct Route, trained by Howard Johnson and ridden by Norman Williamson. Having jumped well throughout, Edredon Bleu was sent for home with four fences to jump and, although collared on the run-in by Direct Route, rallied bravely to win by a short head, with favourite Flagship Uberalles a further 6 lengths away in third. To add insult to injury, Norman Williamson received a ten-day ban for using his whip in the wrong place.

Stayers’ Hurdle

The Stayers’ Hurdle was won, in workmanlike style, by Bacchanal, owned by Lady Lloyd-Webber, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Mick Fitzgerald. The 6-year-old tackled the long-time leader Limestone Lad approaching the last flight and, despite wandering on the run-in, stayed on well to win by a length.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup had the distinction of being run in a new record time, 6 minutes 30.3 seconds, and was won by Looks Like Trouble, owned by Michael Worcester, trained by Noel Chance and ridden by Richard Johnson. Despite blundering at the tenth fence, the 8-year-old jumped boldly – on occasions, almost recklessly – for most of the way and stayed on gamely on the run-in to beat Florida Pearl by 5 lengths.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Cheltenham Festival - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase

The Jordan Henderson Grand Annual chase is another one of the popular races that mark the final day of the annual Cheltenham festival. It is a grade three competition that is held on the left-handed, turf surface New Course.

Horses of age five years and above go head to head, hoof to hoof in a bid to come out tops over the 3,319 metres (2mi  furlong) 14-fence dotted track. Handicaps are given to the participating
horses as a way of evening out the race. It boasts the honour of bringing down the curtains on the four-day festival.

This race prides itself as the oldest event at the festival, having been first run in 1834. The initial editions were held in the neighbouring Andoversford course across three miles of an unrestricted track.

The race has undergone a lot of evolution since then, including the standardization of the track and the inclusion of handicaps. It has also had several interruptions due to war and natural calamities, especially in the first century.

The Grand Annual was prefixed with the Johnny Anderson in 2005 in honour of the horseracing enthusiast by the same name. Johnny is credited with saving the Cheltenham course from encroaching developers and therefore preserving a highly regarded culture. His son, Nicky
Henderson, has been a seasoned trainer and a popular figure at the festival.

For a grade three race, the purse for the Johnny Henderson Chase is pretty handsome. The 2015 event saw competitors share a purse of around £100, 000. The winner took the lion’s share of close to

Horses of age eight, nine and ten years appear to flourish best in the Grand Annual. Since the turn of the 21st century, horses in this age bracket have won 12 of the 17 editions held (The race was also a casualty of the 2001 foot and mouth scare). Only one five-year-old horse (Hipparchus in 1954) has won the race since 1946.