21 Jan Four memorable runnings of the Sky Bet Chase
THIS Saturday marks the 70th running of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. Or the Great Yorkshire Chase to give it its original title. First run in 1948, the Sky Bet Chase has become a bit of an institution in the northern jump racing scene. Down the years it has proved to be, on occasions, a very useful trial for both the Aintree Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Freebooter won it in 1950 before winning that year’s National. In 1953 Knock Hard triumphed at Doncaster before grabbing Cheltenham Gold Cup glory a few weeks later. ESB was one of the more famous winners of the Sky Bet Chase in 1957. That April he famously won the Grand National when the Queen Mother’s Devon Loch did the splits yards from the winning post. Nicolaus Silver won at Doncaster in 1962. The grey had won the Grand National in 1961 and it wasn’t until Neptune Collognes’ victory in 2012 that another grey horse won the National. Freddie, Charlie Potheen and Playlord were other good winners of the race in the 1960s and early 1970s. This year the likes of ante-post market leaders Definitly Red and Gold Present have a lot to live up to.
Here we focus on four of the more memorable runnings of the Sky Bet Chase…
1982: BREGAWN. Trained at Harewood by the mighty Michael Dickinson, Bregawn won the Great Yorkshire Chase in 1982. Unusually for a Dickinson horse, he was ridden that day by the brilliant John Francome and the pair got on like a house on fire. Although it wasn’t a typical Francome ride. If you watch the race he was pushing and shoving a good way from home. But the horse, who stayed really well, did the business. A few weeks later Bregawn chased home Silver Buck in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However his biggest day in the sun came a year later when leading home the Dickinson “famous five” in the 1983 Gold Cup. Relive the victory of Bregawn at Doncaster in 1983. Note the familiar names behind him, including Sunset Cristo, Skegby and Sugarally.
1993: YOUNG HUSTLER. A familiar friend of northern racegoers, Young Hustler, on his day, was a high-class chaser. Nigel Twiston-Davies did not believe in wrapping him in cotton wool because Young Hustler simply adored his racing. In fact, the 1993 Great Yorkshire Chase was his 10th run of that season. And he was only a novice. In the race he spread-eagled the field and showed how much he loved good ground. Remarkably, he was only six and was 9lb out of the handicap. Young Hustler went on to win the RSA Chase that saeason. Watch his Great Yorkshire Chase victory here. He went on to run in three Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the Charlie Hall and was brought down in Minnehoma’s Grand National.
One of the easiest winners of the Sky Bet Chase was…
1996: ADDINGTON BOY: Novice chasers have a good record in the Sky Bet Chase and Addington Boy arrived at Doncaster with three wins under his belt in 1996. Mark Dwyer had an armchair ride on Gordon Richards’ eight-year-old who made a mockery of his rating of 128. Relive the victory here. Addington Boy was always highly rated and he ran in two Gold Cups, finishing fifth to See More Business in 1999. By that time he had been transferred to the West Witton yard of Ferdy Murphy. He was also fourth in the 1999 Grand National and fifth in the 2000 running to Papillon.
1999: MAJOR BELL. This renewal of the race lives in the memory for the way Major Bell conjured up a stunning late finish to pinch the race in the dying strides. It was a memorable ride by Adrian Maguire and gave Scottish trainer Alistair Whillans a big victory. Although spare a thought for runner-up Mr Strong Gale and Choc Thornton. Watch Maguire’s power-packed finish here. Major Bell was no world beater and only won one more race in his career. But this was his day in the sun.
Do you have a particular memory of the Sky Bet (Great Yorkshire) Chase? Leave a comment below.