The Veterans’ Chase series has proven a wonderful initiative, and yesterday the BHA confirmed that it is to continue in 2016.
The event was trialled in 2015 and culminated with a thrilling series final at Sandown on Saturday January 2. The David Pipe trained Soll got up in the shadow of the post to deny Venetia Williams’ Aachen. A total of 15 runners contested the final with a combined age of 177 years.
Trainers, owners and fans alike were pretty much unanimous in their praise of the series. Though the handicap system is still in place, these terrific old warriors undoubtedly have a greater chance of getting their heads in front. The opportunity of keeping them in training longer, along with sustaining the enthusiasm of their owners is clearly a positive for the industry.
Soll had already won a couple of qualifiers prior to the Sandown victory, whilst Aachen had taken the qualifier at Doncaster. The third home, Reaping The Reward, had finished runner-up to Aachen at Doncaster, whilst the oldest horse in the final at 14, Tullamore Dew, had won a qualifier at Carlisle in December.
The 2016 series will be run over 10 qualifying races, open to 10-year-old’s and over. The first race takes place at Exeter on Sunday 14 February with a handicap limit of 150. The event concludes at Sandown on Tolworth Hurdle day 2017. Eight of the races will again be scheduled for Sunday’s.
Each of the 10 qualifiers will have a minimum total prize fund of £30,000, with £100,000 in prize money for the final. Any horse taking part in a qualifying race will become eligible to run at Sandown in the ‘grand finale’.
“We’re thrilled with the success of the Veterans’ Chase Series in 2015 and delighted to have the opportunity to repeat it in 2016,” said Paul Johnson, Head of Racing for the BHA. He went on to add: “The data clearly illustrates the value of investing into the Series, but perhaps more important than this is the pleasure it has brought Racing fans to see some grand horses given their day in the sun once again. We’ve seen some memorable and heart-warming stories emerge as a result.”
We can anticipate a host of exciting races with the potential of a number of classy elder statesmen taking part. Imagine the excitement if horses such as The Giant Bolster or Bobs Worth should line up. On a personal note, I’ll be hoping that Knockara Beau gets the green light for one of the races. He’s two from three at Carlisle, and they host a qualifier in March. Here’s hoping.