Early Festival Firsts – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE brings you his first of four Cheltenham Festival special columns…

FIRST Cheltenham Gold Cup took place back in the 1820s – albeit this was a 3 mile, weight-for-age flat race, which was held ‘on the windy heights of Cleeve Hill’ recorded racing writer John Welcome, contested by three year olds and upwards.

FIRST Cheltenham meeting carrying the tag ‘Festival’ was run in 1911 as a two-day fixture at Prestbury Park. The spectators were soaked by heavy rain. The going was heavy and the ‘big race’ was the National Hunt Steeple Chase, won by Sir Halbert.

FIRST Festival to be run over three days took place in 1923.

FIRST Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was Red Splash at 5/1, on Wednesday, March 12, 1924 partnered by Dick Rees, the first jump jockey to ride 100 winners in a season; trained by Fred E Withington. 8 ran.

FIRST beaten odds-on Gold Cup favourite was Dick Rees-partnered 8/13 Alcazar, who in 1925, finished runner-up to 3/1 second favourite, Ballinode, ridden by E Leader, trained by F Morgan.

FIRST Champion Hurdle winner – Blaris, ridden by George Duller – the first jumps rider to introduce riding with a pronounced crouching seat – for trainer W Payne in 1927.

FIRST dual Gold Cup winner was 7/4 favourite, Easter Hero in 1929 (7/4) and 30 (8/11). In 1928 riding the same horse, Dick Rees had been unseated when his mount refused in France’s Grand Steeplechase, only to stand up, salute the crowd with a rude gesture, and then take a pee in full view of the delighted spectators. Easter Hero was initially owned by a Belgian millionaire, Captain ‘Low’ Lowenstein, who paid £7000 for him, but shortly after went missing presumed dead after a flight to Brussels. The horse was then acquired by US millionaire Jock Whitney, one of the ten richest men in the world and the youngest ever member of the Jockey Club when elected in 1928.

FIRST year both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup not run – 1931, because of frost.

FIRST time the Festival was run over successive Saturdays – March 14 and 21, 1942. On the latter date Frenchie – full name Herbert Charles Denton – Nicholson, trained by R Hobbs – won the Gold Cup on 9/2 Medoc II, owned by Lord Sefton. Nicholson was 3rd in the Champion Hurdle on Ephorus, behind winner, Seneca.

FIRST and only horse to win five consecutive Gold Cups – Dorothy Paget-owned Golden Miller from 1932-36, (13/2; 4/7; 6/5; 1/2; 20/21) under four different jockeys.

FIRST Gold Cup winner to add a Grand National victory to his record – Golden Miller did so in 1934.

FIRST Festival cancelled due to the War, was the 1943 meeting, but it returned in 1945 as Brains Trust took the Champion Hurdle under Fred Rimell at 9/2, trained by his brother-in-law, Gerry Wilson. A record 16 horses went to post for the Gold Cup and jockey Cliff Beechener got a great tune out of 11/2 Schubert, only to passed at the last by 11/4 favourite, Red Rower, under Welsh rider/trainer, Davy Jones – one of whose claims to fame was riding a treble in one afternoon at Liverpool on the flat, over hurdles and over fences. Jones once rode a poor horse for owner, Colonel Peter Marsh, Britain’s leading manufacturer of sausages at the time ,and after the race told military man and racing writer, Tim Fitzgeorge Parker, who was training the horse at the time, ‘His owner will know how to place him better than you will!’


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Author: Eugene Morris