Which is the oldest race run at the Cheltenham Festival?

Of the main ‘championship’ races run at the Cheltenham Festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which was established in 1924, three years before the Champion Hurdle, is the oldest. However, the oldest race still run at the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand Annual Chase; since 2005, has borne the name of John ‘Johnny’ Henderson, late father of trainer Nicky Henderson, who, as founder of Racecourse Holdings Trust, is credited with securing the future of Cheltenham Racecourse in the Sixties.

Nowadays, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase is a prestigious Grade 3 handicap steeplechase, run over 2 miles and 62 yards on the New Course at Prestbury Park and open to horses aged five years and upwards. The Grand Annual Chase has been a fixture of the Cheltenham Festival since 1913, but the inaugural running actually took place nearly seven decades earlier, ‘in the neighbourhood of Andoversford’, which lies approximately six miles east of Cheltenham, in 1834. The initial contest was an eventful affair, eventually won by Fugleman, owned and ridden by Mr. R. D’Oyley. The Grand Annual Chase was discontinued in the latter part of the nineteenth century and, in the early twentieth century, staged at various other venues before returning, permanently, to Cheltenham.

Which was Willie Mullins’ first Cheltenham Festival winner?

Willie Mullins, who has won the Irish National Hunt Trainers’ Championship every season since 2008/09, has also been no stranger to the winners’ enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years. Indeed, the County Carlow handler is the most successful trainer in the history of the March showpiece meeting, with 72 winners, and has been crowned leading trainer seven times.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a notable omission from Mullins’ CV but, of the other three main ‘championship’ races, he has won the Champion Hurdle four times, the Stayers’ Hurdle twice and, after finishing runner-up six times, the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, courtesy of Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020. Everyone needs to start somewhere, of course, and in Willie Mulllins’ case his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival was Tourist Attraction in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1995. Ridden by Mark Dwyer, the 25/1 chance led on the run-in and stayed on well to beat Ventana Canyon, trained by Edward O’Grady and ridden by Charlie Swan, by two lengths.

How many times did Jenny Pitman win the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Jenny Pitman will always be remembered as the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National. However, the year winning the National, with Corbiere, in 1983, she also became the first woman to train the winner of the other premier steeplechase in Britain, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Her second landmark victory in as many years came courtesy of the hugely talented, but fragile, eight-year-old Burrough Hill Lad, ridden by Phil Tuck, who also would win the Hennessy Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase later in1984 . Seven years later, in 1991, ‘Mrs. P.’ won the Cheltenham Gold Cup again, with another eight-year-old, Garrison Savannah, ridden by her son, Mark, who prevailed by just a short head.

Less than a month later, Garrison Savannah was sent off 7/1 co-favourite for the Grand National, as he attempted to become the first horse since the legendary Golden Miller, in 1934, to win both races. He jumped the final fence with a healthy lead and, although weakening in the closing stages, eventually finished an honourable second, beaten 5 lengths.

Which are the biggest outsiders to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Unlike, say, the Grand National, which has been a handicap for most of its existence, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a conditions, or weight-for-age, steeplechase. Horses aged six years and upwards carry 11st 10lb, five-year-olds carry 11st 8lb and mares receive a 7lb allowance so, as might be expected, the ‘Blue Riband’ event of the British National Hunt calendar is rarely won by an outsider.

Far and away the biggest outsider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since it was first run, as a steeplechase, in 1924, was Norton’s Coin, who defied odds of 100/1 when defeating Toby Tobias and Desert Orchid by three-quarters of a length and four lengths in 1990. Owned and trained by Sirrell Griffiths, a dairy farmer and permit-holder based in Nantgaredig in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales, Norton’s Coin was described, justifiably, as the ‘Shock of the Century’ on the front page of the ‘Racing Post’ the following day.

Indeed, in the entire history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup no other horse has won at odds longer than 33/1; the two 33/1 winners were Gay Donald, trained by Jim Ford, in 1955 and L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore, in 1970. Cool Ground, trained by Toby Balding, prevailed at odds of 25/1 in 1992, as Cool Dawn, trained by Robert Alner, in 1998, but the only other winners that could be classified as ‘outsiders’ were the 20/1 winners Mr. Mulligan in 1997 and Lord Windermere in 2014.

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