Big Race History: Charlie Hall Chase

Events RSS / Malcolm Pannett / 25 October 2009 / Leave a comment

2004 Charlie Hall-winner Grey Abbey (right) in action in the 2002 race accompanied by Hussard Collonges who was second to eventual winner Marlborough

The Charlie Hall is one of the first big chases of the National Hunt season. This year's renewal will be the richest ever race staged at Wetherby. Malcolm Pannett delves through the archive...

"Davy Lad just managed to beat Cancello by three parts of a length - after making a catalogue of jumping errors - before becoming the first of four horses who have won the Wetherby showpiece and the Cheltenham Gold Cup"

The race now known as the Charlie Hall Chase has been won by four Cheltenham Gold Cup winners and has featured a host of horses that have performed with credit in jumping's top races.

Started as the Wetherby Pattern Chase it was first run in 1969 replacing the Emblem Handicap Chase which had commemorated the winner of the 1863 Grand National.

The last winner of that race, the Neville Crump-trained Arcturus, also won the first running of the new event in the hands off Pat Buckley who had won the 1963 Grand National aboard Ayala. Arcturus and Buckley had already won the Scottish Grand National in 1968.

The Irish-trained Davy Lad (1975), who had won the Sun Alliance Hurdle in 1975, just managed to beat Cancello by three parts of a length after making a catalogue of jumping errors before becoming the first of four horses who have won the Wetherby showpiece and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The race was renamed the Charlie Hall Memorial Pattern Novices' Chase in 1978, in honour of the trainer of the same name whose widow still attends each year to present the prize, and was won by Fighting Fit who accelerated away from Cavity Hunter to win by 15 lengths. Ken Oliver's charge also utilised his turn off foot towards the end of the season when from 12th place entering the straight he cut down Aldaniti to win the Scottish Grand National. Fighting Fit also won the following season's Hennessy Gold Cup.

Jenny Pitman's Burrough Hill Lad (1984) (see below) added the Charlie Hall to his victory in the previous Cheltenham Gold Cup while Charlie Hall winners past and future finished first and second in the 1985 Cheltenham Gold Cup with Righthand Man (1982) beating all bar Forgive'N Forget (1986).

The dual winners of the race are Wayward Lad (1983 and 1985); Celtic Shot (1990 and 1991); Barton Bank (1993 and 1995) One Man (1996 and 1997); See More Business (1999 and 2000) (see below); and Ollie Magern (2005 and 2007).

Other notable winners include Cybrandian (1987) second to The Thinker in the snowy Cheltenham Gold Cup of 1987; Durham Edition (1989) second in two Grand Nationals (Rhyme N Reason and Mr Frisk); Young Hustler (1994) winner of the RSA Chase and Becher Chase who was third to The Fellow and Jodami in the 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup; Sackville (2001) triple Grade 1-winner in Ireland; Marlborough (2002) National Hunt Chase and Racing Post Chase winner; and Our Vic (2006) winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase who also took the scalp of Kauto Star in the 2008 Bowl Chase.

The 1976 race ended in a dead-heat between Set Point and Current Gold, while the 1971 race was abandoned due to snow and frost.

25 years ago - Reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner Burrough Hill Lad, who had run away with the Hennessy Gold Cup two weeks earlier, further enhanced his reputation as the best chaser in training by beating dual King George-victor and the previous season's Charlie Hall-winner Wayward Lad. The Jenny Pitman-trained son of Richboy won by a convincing 10 lengths with a further six back to Donegal Prince in the race that was run in the second week in December rather than the normal late October/early November spot. Burrough Hill Lad went on to win an epic dual with Combs Ditch for the King George but missed the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he was an odds-on shot, after sustaining an injury during exercise the week before the race.

10 years ago - The current Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner beat the future Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner with useful sort Simply Dashing sandwiched in between. See More Business, trained by Paul Nicholls, responded gamely to Mick Fitzgerald's urgings, after being headed by the Noel Chance-trained Looks Like Trouble six from home, running out a comfortable five-length victor with the same distance back to Looks Like Trouble in third. The latter went on to reverse placing at Cheltenham while See More Business returned to Wetherby the next seaon to beat Bobby Grant by 30 lengths.

Five years ago - Grey Abbey (pictured above) extended his winning run to four by making all to beat Sir Rembrandt by three lengths with Royal Emperor, the only other finisher, tailed off in third. Howard Johnson's flamboyant grey hadn't been seen since winning the Scottish National the previous April but showed no signs of ring rustiness as he attacked the fences with his usual vigour, he went on to win the Pillar Properties Chase at Cheltenham and the Betfair Bowl at Aintree.

Last year - State Of Play, who had been runner-up to Ollie Magern the previous year, recorded his first victory since winning the 2006 Hennessy Gold Cup. Sent off at 5/2 favourite Evan Williams' charge tucked in behind the pacesetting Ollie Magern, who was seeking a third triumph in the race, until after the last fence. Ollie Magern didn't jump the last two fluently which made the task easier and State Of Play eased past to win by a length inside the last 100 yards. State Of Play finished the season with a creditable fourth place in the Grand National.

Tags: Arcturus, Burrough Hill Lad, Davy Lad, Fighting Fit, Forgive'N Forget, Grey Abbey, Righthand Man, See More Business, State Of Play

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