Now here’s a conundrum for you. We’ve just seen the 4 mile National Hunt Chase (I’ll just use it’s regular title here), a race in it’s 153rd year. Yet National Hunt racing has only regularly taken place at Cheltenham since the early 1900s, with the festival established in 1911. So what about the early years of the race?
Well, the race was introduced in 1860, and has been the longest contest at the Festival since its inception. It’s also one of the oldest in the National Hunt Calendar. And with so few established courses at that time it’s no surprise that many different tracks have hosted it. 24 of them in fact, including such long lost, if not forgotten places such as Crewkerne, Abergavenny and Four Oaks Park.
In its early days the National Hunt Chase travelled around the East Midlands, taking place at Burton Lazars, Market Harborough, Bedford and Cottenham in its first 10 runnings. Strangely, it did go to Cheltenham in 1861, it’s second year, but wasn’t run there again until 1904 and 1905. After a five year sojourn at Warwick it returned to Cheltenham in 1911 where it finally settled.
It has always been a race for amateur jockeys, and in that first race at Cheltenham The Freshman was ridden by the first of several multi-talented sportsmen. George Ede was already a regular in Hampshire’s county cricket team, who later went on to ride a Grand National winner on board The Lamb in 1868. Two years later he died from injuries sustained in Liverpool’s Grand Sefton Chase. John Maunsell Richardson was a similarly talented cricketer/jockey who won the race in 1870.
As it is an amateur race, multiple winners, whether horses or jockeys, are few. But one trainer who has enjoyed considerable success in the race is Jonjo O’Neill. Five horses from his stable have won the race most recently with the high class Butler’s Cabin in 2007. He went on to win the Irish National just a month later, this time ridden by Tony McCoy.
Will Teaforthree go on to similar success?