Racing TV goes through the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase Challenge Cup with all the key trends, statistics, history and replays.
When and where can I watch the Grand Annual? 4.50pm, Cheltenham Racecourse, Friday, March 15. Live on Racing TV.
Which Grade? Grade Three
Which Course? New Course
What Distance? 2m 1/2f (14 fences)
What Prize-money? £110,000
What Age? 5yo+
What Weights & Allowances? Handicap. Minimum weight 10st 0lb. Penalties: After February 25th, 2019, a winner of a steeplechase will carry 5lb extra.
Key Statistics and Trends:
Runs under the girth:
A bit of Festival experience can prove valuable here. 13 of the past 15 winners had run at the meeting before and seven of the last 15 winners ran in the previous renewal of the same race! Coming into the contest on the back of a great performance is not so important, with just one of the last 13 winners having scored on their previous appearance.
(Green) and Gold star:
Leading owner JP McManus has a fantastic record in the race having owned four winners and a further eight placed horses in the race.
Only four winners since 1990 had been off the course for more than 45 days, although interestingly, the last three winners had been away from the track for longer. Last year’s winner, Le Prezien, was having his first start since December 2018, and 2017 winner, Rock The World, had not been seen since in public since the previous October, while 2016 winner Solar Impulse had been off since December.
The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase has the longest history of any race at The Festival and widely considered the oldest in the British steeplechasing calendar.
It was first run at Andoversford, near Cheltenham, in April, 1834, over three miles of open country. The race died out in the 1860s, like much of the Jump calendar, but was revived at the turn of the century.
Johnny Henderson’s name was added to the race title in 2005. Henderson, who died in December 2003, was aware in 1963 that there was a danger that property developers would buy Cheltenham Racecourse, so together with other Jockey Club members he formed Racecourse Holdings Trust (now known as Jockey Club Racecourses), a non-profit-making organisation, that raised £240,000 to purchase the racecourse and safeguard its future.
Henderson, whose son Nicky is the leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, served as patron at the course until his death. The 2006 renewal provided an emotional success for Henderson with Greenhope.
Three winners have progressed to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - Pearlyman (1986) & Queen Mother 1987 & 1988; Katabatic (1990) & Queen Mother 1991; Edredon Bleu (1998) & Queen Mother 2000.
Run over an extended two miles, the maximum field was reduced from 24 to 20 by the BHA in 2019 for safety reasons after three horses were fatally injured in the 2018 renewal.
The Grand Annual will now the penultimate race on the Friday with the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle closing the card.
Last six winners and the closing stages:
2018 - Le Prezien:
Le Prezien was produced to perfection by Barry Geraghty to bring the curtain down on the Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
Gino Trail set sail for home a long way out and was still in front over the last despite being hampered by loose horses.
But he had no answer to the late challenge of the JP McManus-owned Le Prezien (15-2), who powered up the hill to score by four and a half lengths. Gino Trail's trainer Kerry Lee also saddled the third Top Gamble, who was a neck away. Theinval was fourth.
2017 – Rock The World:
Sizing John had already lit up the final day of the 2017 Festival in taking the Gold Cup and there was still more to come from the seemingly unstoppable combination of Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power, who teamed up to land the closing event of the meeting.
Rock The World had not been seen since disappointing at the track in October of that season, but it was soon after that his wind was operated on, and from that point connections concocted a plan that would see the bold-jumping nine-year-old arrive at the Festival fresh and primed to the minute for his big target, as Harrington explained afterwards.
"What a day,” she said.
“He was fantastic, that horse. He was third last year and he had a wind op after he ran here in the autumn. I couldn’t run him at home as the ground was too heavy, so I gave him a couple of racecourse gallops.”
2016 – Solar impulse:
Solar Impulse provided trainer Paul Nicholls with a quickfire Cheltenham double on the final day of the 2016 Festival after Ibis du Rheu had landed the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle just 40 minutes earlier.
The champion trainer, for whom this was a 40th Festival winner, said: “Yesterday, when I was doing the declarations, I was thinking I've got to do something to get the best from this horse and decided to put the blinkers on, 10 minutes before the deadline. Sometimes you get a gut feeling and it pays off. The day before I made a pig's ear by not declaring blinkers for Arpege d'Alene [second in the Pertemps Network Final], but you don't know if that would have made the difference or not."
2015 – Next Sensation:
The 2015 renewal was renamed the AP McCoy Grand Annual as the 20-time Champion Jockey bowed out from the Festival for the final time. It was not to be a dream ending for McCoy, who could finish only fourth on the well-backed Ned Buntline (runner-up the previous season), but it did prove a perfect result for the Scudamore family, and a poignant one at that.
Next Sensation had been strongly fancied for the race 12 months earlier, where he had finished an honourable fourth, but he bounded up the Cheltenham hill this time round to score by an emphatic four lengths, drawing tears from rider Tom Scudamore after the line.
He explained: “We lost Grandad (Grand National-winning rider Michael Scudamore senior) and Grandma in a short space of each other in the summer. Grandad was an integral part of our lives. If it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here, whether it be me riding or Michael training.”
2014 – Savello
The success of Tony Martin-trained Savello in 2014 completed a most extraordinary day for owners Gigginstown Stud and jockey Davy Russell.
The eight-year-old competed a remarkable 82,653/1 four-timer for the owners after Tiger Roll (JCB Triumph Hurdle), Very Wood (Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle) and Don Poli (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle) had all won earlier in the afternoon.
“I'll never forget this day - it's been incredible," said Michael O'Leary, owner of Gigginstown House Stud.
“You wait two years for a winner at The Festival and then four come along in one day. We've got a couple of guests in our box and a couple of them have done a £2 accumulator on our horses - they've won over £150,000!”
Savello was also the last leg of a 3,926-1 treble for the jockey, who had earlier won the Gold Cup on Lord Windermere and the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle on Very Wood.
2013 – Alderwood:
Alderwood’s success in 2013 proved a pivotal result in the destination of the Great Britain v Ireland Festival contest, with the teams tied at 13 winners each going into the concluding race.
Alderwood, trained by Willie Mullins, was sent off a well-backed 3-1 market leader and duly ran out a comfortable three-and-a-quarter length victor under Tony McCoy, handing team success to the Irish.
On being told that he had clinched it, Mullins said: “I should think that will be the first and only time I'll win anything for Ireland.”
Both Alderwood and runner-up Kid Cassidy carried the colours of owner J P McManus, who was asked if he was happy to win it for Ireland, to which he replied: “I'm just happy to win it!”
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