The Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run, owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, has reached the summit of Jump Racing at the age of just six years old. His rating of 182, achieved in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, sees him take over from fellow French import Kauto Star at the head of the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications in a feat which could mark the passing of the old guard and the dawn of a new era of Steeplechasing.
Topping the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications crowns a stunning season for the prodigiously talented chaser, which also saw him take Kauto Star’s William Hill King George VI Chase crown at Kempton, alongside that memorable Gold Cup success under his amateur rider, Sam Waley-Cohen. In addition, Long Run has become the second youngest horse to be rated over 180 in the twelve years of the Classifications, behind Master Minded in 2007/2008.
At the other end of the distance spectrum, Irish-trained horses won both Two Mile categories, with Willie Mullins’ Hurricane Fly coming out top of the Two Mile Hurdlers. He achieved a rating of 173 in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, seeing off a determined challenge from the previously unbeaten Peddlers Cross, and in doing so become the first ever Champion Hurdle winner to taste success on his first start at Cheltenham. Moreover, he finally ended the hoodoo of Montjeu-sired horses at the festival. His rating of 173 marks him out as the second-highest rated Two Mile hurdler since Istabraq.
Sizing Europe recorded his second successive Cheltenham Festival victory with a 5 length triumph over fellow Irish-trained Big Zeb, achieving a rating of 177 in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase. This was enough to secure the Two Mile Chaser crown for Henry de Bromhead’s popular star, despite suffering a reverse against the same rival at the Punchestown Festival later in May.
British Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, so used to dominating the Three Mile-plus chasing crown over previous seasons, had to settle for a monopoly on the Two-and-a-Half Mile categories.
His superstar hurdler Big Buck’s, recently voted Horse of the Year for a second consecutive season by the public, retains his Two-and-a-Half Mile-plus Hurdling crown. His rating of 174, achieved in each of his three Grade 1 victories in 2010/11, matches the rating he achieved in the previous two seasons, and sees him end the season as the top-rated hurdler. He also emulates the achievement of Baracouda in being champion staying hurdler for the third consecutive time.
Meanwhile, Master Minded’s sensational Melling Chase success, after the disappointment of his Champion Chase defeat, leaves him comfortably seven pounds clear of his nearest rival in the Two-and-a-Half Mile Chaser category (Poquelin, also trained by Nicholls). This was his third Grade 1 success of the season.
The Novice Hurdler crown is shared between the Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson yards. It seemed that Al Ferof had sealed the accolade for Nicholls when his thrilling late surge under Ruby Walsh in the Stan James Supreme Novices' earned him a rating of 154. However, this was matched by Spirit Son, beaten two lengths into second by Al Ferof at Cheltenham, when he routed the field by twelve lengths in the John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.
The Phillip Hobbs-trained Wishfull Thinking completes the honours list. After a 4 length defeat by Noble Prince at Cheltenham, he stamped his influence on the Novice Chaser division with an authoritative victory at Aintree before his handicap success off top-weight at Punchestown which earned him a rating of 164. It is the first time since Gloria Victis in 1999-2000 that the top Novice Chaser has earned his rating from a handicap, and also the first time that the top Novice Chaser has appeared in the Two-and-a-half Mile category.
Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping for the BHA, said:
“As is the case every season, the Jumps programme has thrown up no shortage of stories, drama and emotion in what has been yet another memorable year. Have we seen the emergence of a new star of the chasing world in the form of Long Run? Was the Cheltenham Gold Cup one of the most thrilling in living memory? Has Big Buck’s stated his case to be considered the greatest staying hurdler of all time? Whatever your views, one thing that’s certain is that 2010/11 has once again produced a number of moments that will live long in the memory, and left us all eagerly anticipating the next.”
Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee Senior Steward William Flood said:
“The Anglo-Irish Classifications are a unique institution which it is a pleasure to be involved in. It is the friendly rivalry between British and Irish racing that adds a certain extra kudos to the rankings every year, but at the same time highlights the close links between the two nations and our shared love of Jump racing. This year we are delighted to see another strong Irish representation in the rankings, and long may this continue.”
The full list of Award winners was as follows:
|CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLER
||= Al Ferof / Spirit Son
|CHAMPION NOVICE CHASER
|CHAMPION TWO-MILE HURDLER
|CHAMPION TWO-MILE CHASER
|CHAMPION TWO-AND-A-HALF MILE + HURDLER
|CHAMPION TWO-AND-A-HALF MILE CHASER
|CHAMPION THREE-MILE + CHASER
|BRITISH CHAMPION CONDITIONAL
|BRITISH CHAMPION JOCKEY
|BRITISH CHAMPION TRAINER
|BRITISH CHAMPION OWNER