Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase - Gold Cup Day

race7This is it. Twenty-seven races have been run over the course of four amazing days on the Cheltenham Racecourse. The Champion Hurdle, The Queen Mother Champion Chase, The Stayers’ Hurdle and, of course, the Gold Cup have all been run. Drinks have been drunk, money’s been won and bet-slips have been torn to shreds. The Cheltenham Festival is coming to a close.

Before the whole thing is over, though, there is one more race left to be run. The Grade 3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase is the oldest race of the entire Festival, having been run for the first time in April 1834 before the Cheltenham Festival even existed. Discontinued in the 1860s and revived at the start of the 1900s, it moved around for a time before settling back at Cheltenham in 1913. Known as the Grand Annual, the name of banker and racehorse owner Johnny Henderson was added to the race in 2005.

Race Facts

NameFencesDistanceWinner / PurseGrade
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase 14 2m, 62y £59,798 / £105,000 Grade 3

The Grand Annual is run left-handed on the New Course, matching all of the other races that take place on Day Four. It lasts for two miles and half a furlong, with fourteen fences that the horses need to jump over its duration. It is a handicap race for five-year-olds and upwards, so there’s no specific weight restrictions.

In 2017 the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase was won by Rock the World. Robbie Power was the jockey who brought home the horse trained by Jessica Harrington, with the trainer winning the race for the second time. The pot was worth £105,000 and the winner walked away with £59,798 of that.

Race Trivia

Records for the race go back as far as 1946. Despite that, only two horses have ever won it more than once. Top Twenty was the first horse to do so in 1958 and 1959, with the second win coming thanks to jockey work by a certain Fred Winter, whose name will be familiar with anyone who knows the Cheltenham Festival well. The second horse to win the race twice was Dulwich, winning it for the first time in 1974 and then again in 1976. It might have won in 1975 too, but the race was abandoned due to water logging on the course.

Numerous jockeys have won the Grand Annual more than once. Davy Russell, Frankie Carroll, Jeff King, Paul Carberry, Tim Molony and Tommy Stack have all won it twice, whilst Tony McCoy won it four times during his career. The record, however, belongs to Graham Bradley who won it four times. His first victory came in 1986 courtesy of Pearlyman, then he repeated the trick with My Young Man in 1992. Sound Reveille was the horse he crossed the finish line first on in 1995, then he managed his fourth and final victory in 1997 with Uncle Ernie.

Often when you have jockeys who have won the race numerous times you’ll also find trainers who have done the same, such is the relationship between the two parts of the horse racing world. It’s no major surprise, then, to discover that a number of trainers have won the race on more than occasion. Bob Turnell, Charlie Brooks, Clem Magnier, Colin Davies, Fred Winter, Jessica Harrington, John Edwards, Ken Oliver and Nicky Henderson all won the race twice during their career. The record for most wins as a trainer is split between Fulke Walwyn and Paul Nicholls, who have both trained the race’s winner three times. As well as the 1975 abandonment, the race was not run in 1949 because of frost, 1955 because of snow and 2001 because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

CBO Rating | 7/10

Where the race fits into Day Four - indeed the Festival as a whole - is simple: It’s the very last race to be run. As the dregs of the last few pints of Guinness are drained away and the remaining bets are placed, this is the final time that horses will take to the course for the Festival until next year. The average punter may well have decided to call it a day before now, with the Gold Cup and even the amateur Gold Cup, better known as the Foxhunter Chase, both having already taken place.

The more seasoned Cheltenham visitors won’t be in a rush to leave, knowing that this is their last chance to get a bet on and try to beat the bookies. It’s a good way to end the Festival, too. Handicapped races are always more open and exciting than non-handicapped races, such is the levelling of the playing field that that offers. You might prefer the bigger races of the week, but this one is still worthy of your attention.

Conclusion

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the finest weeks in not only the British horse racing calendar but in the entire world of the sport. Gold Cup Day is a fitting way to end the week and the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase is a suitable conclusion to the biggest day of the meeting. As the Festival organisers would no doubt say: Until next year.