The is the penultimate race of the festival. By the time this comes around the Gold Cup has been run and everything is starting to wind down. If history tells us anything it’s that you’ll have been witness to another brilliant year, filled with excitement, laughter and hopefully some winnings.
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.
|Course||Grade||Fences||Distance (m)||Winner / Purse|
|New Course||Grade 3||14||2m 62y (3275m)||£61,897 / £108,200|
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.
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 three 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 held by Paul Nicholls, who has trained the race’s winner four 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
With just two races remaining of the entire Festival week, it isn’t outrageous to suggest that some punters will be drifting off by the time the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase is getting ready to be run.
The Gold Cup dominates proceedings in the same way as the Grand National does at Aintree, so the races that come after it have to offer something pretty special to retain interest. This race does that by giving people a glimpse into the potential of future jockeys, with the fact that some of the horses have also gone on to win big things doing the race no harm whatsoever.
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.