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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cheltenham Festival Organisers See Famous Trophy Stolen During Break-In

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Many horse racing fans are already beginning to count down the days until the start of one of the biggest events on the calendar- the Cheltenham Festival.

Similar to the importance of the Kentucky Derby as the jewel of the Triple Crown in horse racing (USA), the UK’s most popular racing fixture on the calendar is staged annually in March. The record-breaking numbers are once again expected in the Cotswolds to see some of the biggest stars in the world strut their stuff.

However, the preparations for organisers ahead of the Festival in 2023 have recently been dealt a blow, as one of the famous trophies awarded at the meeting has been stolen.

Trophy Stolen

It was reported over the weekend that investigations are underway to rediscover a number of stolen items from Camelot Silverware in Sheffield. Among the prized assets that have been stolen from the store include the distinctive Grand Annual Steeple Chase trophy.

The trophy was in the possession of the trophy in preparation for the Festival in March, ensuring that the accolade looked fresh ahead of the winners’ pictures being taken in just over a months time. As well as getting their hands on the prestigious trophy, winning connections also pick up prize money in the region of £70,000.

It’s likely that if the trophy isn’t found between now and the start of the Festival in March, then plans will likely be underway to create a replica before the real thing is hopefully found.

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Grand Annual Steeple Chase History

The Grand Annual, or Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, is one of the most prestigious races to be run at the Cheltenham Festival. It is the oldest race on the card over the four-day meet, as it was first competed back in 1834. It was previously famous for being the final race of the entire week at Cheltenham, but this was altered ahead of the 2022 renewal.

The race will see a field of horses aged five and older compete over a distance of one mile and seven furlongs, with a total of 14 fences to be jumped. It is one of the prestigious handicaps competed at the Festival, and it has been a popular betting race for punters throughout its history.

Only two horses have ever won the race on two occasions, with Top Twenty becoming the first to achieve that feat in 1959, before Dulwich won both editions in 1974 and 1976. Global Citizen won the race in 2022 for trainer Ben Pauling, while other popular recent winners of the race include Sky Pirate, for Jonjo O’Neill, and Chosen Mate, for Gordon Elliott.

Likely Contenders in 2023

The Grand Annual once again looks set to be a wide-open contest in 2023. Final Orders is the current favourite in the betting for trainer Gavin Cromwell. This race at Cheltenham looks to have been the target for the seven-year-old for a long time, and he was mightily impressive on his previous start at Leopardstown, landing the Paddy Power Cheltenham Handicap Chase by four lengths from Barnacullia.

Saint Roi is one of the likely runners that will land in the Grand Annual after falling short in graded company this term. On his previous start, he unseated his rival in the G1 Irish Arkle, but he has won once from three starts this term, and runners for Willie Mullins are always challenging to oppose heading to the Festival.

Third Time Lucki could be the leading British hope in the race this year, as Dan Skeleton appears to have unlocked his potential once again following a wind op. The eight-year-old finally returned back to winning ways at Sandown in February, beating Fast Buck by a length. He already has proven Cheltenham form in book, having won over fences at the track in October and November in 2021.

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