National Hunt Chase Racecard
The National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase is the second-oldest race at the Cheltenham Festival, but has actually been run the most number of times because the Grand Annual handicap wasn’t run for a large period of the late 19th century.
JOCKEY & TRAINER
The inaugural running of the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase was in 1860, but the race was transferred permanently to Cheltenham in 1911.
Often referred to colloquially as the ‘four miler’, the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase is a Grade 2 National Hunt steeplechase for amateur riders, which is open to horses aged five years or older.
It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham, and, as the name suggests, is run over a distance of about four miles (3 miles 7 furlongs and 170 yards), and during its running there are twenty-four fences to be jumped.
The race is for novice chasers, those horses that have not won a race over fences before that season, and was upgraded to Grade 2 status in 2017 having previously been a listed contest.
The race’s title has been added to in recent years to commemorate notable names from the world of horse racing.
The 2008 running was titled the Peter O'Sullevan National Hunt Chase in celebration of the 90th birthday of the ‘Voice of Racing’ Peter O'Sullevan, while the 2012 running was titled the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
The 2013 race was run as the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase in memory of John Oaksey, a notable amateur National Hunt jockey and racing journalist who died in September 2012.
The National Hunt Chase included the name of former champion jockey Terry Biddlecombe, who died in January 2014, in its title that year, while the 2015 race name celebrated the life of trainer Toby Balding.
The most successful National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase trainer is Jonjo O’Neill , who has won the race six times since 1995, with: Front Line (1995), Rith Dubh (2002), Sudden Shock (2003), Native Emperor (2004), Butler's Cabin (2007), and Minella Rocco (2016).
Willie Mullins has won the race twice as a trainer, including with Rathvinden in 2018, but he also won the race twice as a jockey when riding for his father Paddy Mullins, the trainer of Dawn Run who is the only horse to ever complete the Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double.
Dawn Run was ridden by Jonjo O’Neill on both occasions. Willie Mullins recorded National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase wins as a jockey with Hazy Dawn (1982) and Macks Friendly (1984), and is one of a large number of jockeys that have won the race on two occasions.
One of those is his own son Patrick , who won the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase with Back In Focus (2013) and Rathvinden.
The 2017 renewal of the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase was renamed in honour of JT McNamara , the amateur rider who sustained a serious back injury and a broken neck after a fall at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival which left him paralysed and using a wheelchair.
McNamara won the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase twice, with Rith Dubh (2002) and ten years later with Teaforthree (2012). McNamara passed away in 2016. No jockey has won the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase more than twice in recent times.
In terms of Timeform ratings, a smart performance of usually needed to win the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase.
That was the case in 2017 when Tiger Roll prevailed for trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Lisa O’Neill.
Tiger Roll produced a then career-best effort that day, but even bigger days were to come, the former Triumph Hurdle winner going on to add a third Cheltenham Festival win when winning the 2018 Cross Country.
Less than a month later, he added the biggest win of his career when landing the 2018 Grand National at Aintree. He has since added a fourth Cheltenham Festival win, when successfully defending his Cross Country Crown in 2019.
As you’d expect given the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase’s distance of four miles, many of the field go on to compete in the Grand National.
The most successful National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase jockeys still riding are Derek O'Connor, who has won the race with Chicago Grey (2011) and Minella Rocco (2016), Patrick Mullins, who won the race on Back in Focus (2013) and Rathvinden (2018), and Jamie Codd, who added to Cause of Causes’ 2015 win when guiding Le Breuil to a gutsy success in the 2019 renewal.