Racing fans seem to relish talented and charismatic steeplechasers more than any other horse and this weekend two much-loved past heroes will be celebrated with races run in their honour.
On Saturday Aintree will remember the former Grand National winner in the Rewards4Racing Many Clouds Chase and on Sunday, Huntingdon will mark the life of Edredon Bleu who died earlier this year.
The People’s Horse
Many Clouds meant so much to so many people; his owner Trevor Hemmings for whom he delivered a third victory in the Grand National, his trainer Oliver Sherwood, and work rider Nathan Horrocks who are all on record as saying he changed their lives and jockey Leighton Aspell with whom he forged a deep bond.
A big old-fashioned type of chaser, he was a gentle and loving friend to his lad, CJ and all the visitors to Sherwood’s Lambourn yard.
But it was his win in the biggest race of all that catapulted him to a wider stardom. He was the youngest Grand National victor since Bindaree, winning the iconic race at the age of eight. Although he was carrying the second highest weight of a winner since Red Rum, he still managed to win in the second fastest time ever.
His defeat of the seemingly unbeatable Thistlecrack lit up Cheltenham in 2017, but was followed by his sudden collapse after the line. Despite immediate veterinary attention, the people’s horse was gone.
Oliver Sherwood disconsolately told ITV Racing “He wanted to win that race, by God he wanted to win it. He was beat at the last, he fought the last 50 yards to get up and win. He was the horse of a lifetime.”
The race run in his honour at Aintree is a race he ran in, finishing second after a titanic battle with winner Don Poli in 2015 and won in 2016. It was renamed in 2017.
Meanwhile on Jockey Club Estates’ Lambourn Gallops, a lone oak planted by the gallops team grows in tribute to Many Clouds.
Four on the bounce
If Edredon Bleu stood in the shadow of mighty Best Mate, also owned by Jim Lewis and trained by Henrietta Knight, he was hugely talented in his own right.
French-bred, he had a gallic flair that made him a joy to watch. Fast and nimble over chase fences, he is best known for winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival™ in 2000 and the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day in 2003.
But it was his performances in the Peterborough Chase, now renamed in his honour, which stand out. Huntingdon just suited his running style down to the ground and he won the race four times on the bounce. Jim Culloty partnered the horse to his first three wins in 1998, 1999 and 2000, while Norman Williamson was in the saddle for his final appearance in 2001.
In a ten-year racing career he ran 57 times, winning on 25 occasions. His only other start at Huntingdon was over hurdles in only his second race in Britain and he finished last of eight!
His trainer Henrietta Knight said: "Edredon Bleu was a total star and he loved his races at Huntingdon. The racecourse ideally suited his quick jumping style and I feel honoured to have trained such a fantastic little horse."
Henrietta Knight said: “Edredon Bleu was a total star and he loved his races at Huntingdon. The racecourse ideally suited his quick jumping style and I feel honoured to have trained such a fantastic little horse.”
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the national charity of the British Army and is a partner for Peterborough Chase Day.
Want to join us at Aintree or Huntingdon?