Tuesday 13 February 2024

Ebor Handicap

Taking its name from 'Eboracum', the Roman name for York, the Ebor Handicap is worth £1 million in prize money, of which £600,000 goes to the winner, making it the most valuable race of its kind in Britain. Inaugurated, as the Great Ebor Handicap, in 1843, the race is run over one mile and six furlongs at York Racecourse, where it forms the centrepiece of the four-day Ebor Festival, staged annually in late August. Since 2019, when prize money was increased to its current level, the Ebor Handicap has been open to horses aged four years and upwards.

Flint Jack, who recorded back-to-back victories in the Ebor Handicap in 1922 and 1923, remains the only horse to win the race more than once. The legendary Lester Piggott remains the leading jockey in the history of the Ebor Handicap, with five winners between 1958 and 1983. His quintet included Gladness, who also won the Gold Cup at Ascot and the Goodwood Cup in 1958, and Jupiter Island, who subsequently became the first British-trained winner of the Japan Cup, in 1983. Other notable winners of the Ebor Handicap include Sea Pigeon (1979), who went on the win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 1980 and 1981, and Sergeant (2005), who completed a notable treble by winning the Northumberland Plate, Ebor Handicap and Cesarewitch Handicap in the same season.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Triumph Hurdle

The Triumph Hurdle is Grade 1 juvenile novices' hurdle run over 2 miles and 179 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Restricted, exclusively, to horses aged four years – who, of course, start the season aged three years – the race is currently scheduled as the opening contest on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Triumph Hurdle was inaugurated, at the now-defunct Hurst Park, in West Molesey, Surrey, in 1939 and, following the Second World War, was run, uninterrupted, until 1962. Hurst Park closed permanently that year and, in 1965, the Triumph Hurdle was resurrected at Cheltenham, becoming part of the Festival programme in 1968. The race was initially sponsored by the Daily Express, followed, briefly, by the Elite Racing Club and, since 2002, by JCB.

Four winners of what is, effectively, the seasonal championship for juvenile hurdlers in Britain – namely Clair Soleil (1953), Persian War (1967), Kribensis (1990) and Katchit (2007) – have gone on to win the Champion Hurdle later in their careers. Interestingly, the jockey of the 1954 winner, Prince Charlemagne, was none other than 18-year-old Lester Piggott, who would win his first Derby on Never Say Die later the same year.

Veteran Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson has saddled seven winners of the Triumph Hurdle – First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009), Soldatino (2010), Peace And Co (2015) and Pentland Hills (2019) – making him the most successful handler in the history of the race. Anyone looking ahead to the 2023 renewal, scheduled for 1:30pm on Friday, March 18, might also like to bear in mind that seven of the last ten winners were trained in Ireland; at this still early stage, the once-raced French filly Lossiemouth heads the ante-post betting market.