Ten things you may not know about the Hennessy
Bobs Worth: one of eight horses to do the Hennessy and Gold Cup double
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Ten things you may not know about the Hennessy By STEVE DENNIS 4:30PM 25 NOV 2016
1 The introduction of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Handicap Chase on November 16, 1957 marked the second instance of commercial race sponsorship from outside the sport – the Whitbread Gold Cup, run at Sandown the previous April, was the first. The 59 years between then and now make the Hennessy brand the longest-running commercial sponsor in British racing.
2 The first Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup was run at Cheltenham, with prize-money of £5,272 to the winner (that season the Cheltenham Gold Cup was worth £5,788 to the winner), and was won, suitably, by the great Mandarin, owned by Peggy Hennessy, a member of the sponsoring family. The first Hennessy was run over 3m1f; the following year the distance was increased to 3m3f100y.
3 In 1960, following representations to Hennessy by Newbury clerk of the course Geoffrey Freer, the race was moved to the Berkshire track, to its current date in the last week of November, and to its current distance, 3m1f214y. Its slot at Cheltenham was filled by the Mackeson Gold Cup, a different sort of drink but just as intoxicating a race.
4 The Cognac element of the race title was dropped for the 2008 running, although the reference still adorned the identically named Grade 1 race run at Leopardstown in February until it was also removed before the 2010 renewal. The Irish race is no longer sponsored by Hennessy.
5 Eight horses have won the Hennessy and Cheltenham Gold Cup: Kerstin, Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Bregawn, Burrough Hill Lad, Denman and Bobs Worth. Only one horse – Many Clouds – has won the Hennessy and Grand National.
Arkle: Won the Hennessy twice, but was also beaten in race twice
PICTURE: Gerry Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
6 The incomparable Arkle was beaten only four times over fences, and two of those defeats came in the Hennessy. In 1963 he slipped when landing over the third-last and was beaten into third by Mill House and Happy Spring. Three years later – after winning the intervening two Hennessys – he was undone by the concession of 35lb to the high-class grey Stalbridge Colonist and beaten half a length, after Stan Mellor's opportunistic tactics on the winner had helped tip the balance.
7 Lord Oaksey, racing writer, broadcaster and philanthropist, is the only man to ride a Hennessy winner and breed one. In 1958, amateur rider John Lawrence (as he was known before his elevation to the peerage) partnered Taxidermist to a thrillingly late, short-head victory at Cheltenham; 53 years later his homebred Carruthers – owned by a group led by the noble lord himself – was victorious at Newbury.
8 Only three men have ridden and trained a Hennessy winner. Derek Ancil rode and trained 1960 winner Knucklecracker; Andrew Turnell won on April Seventh in 1975 and trained Cogent to win in 1993; Paul Nicholls won on Broadheath and Playschool (1986, 87) and trained Strong Flow (2003) and Denman (2007, 09).
9 In 2002, the race was won by the Willie Mullins-trained Be My Royal, who subsequently tested positive for morphine. Mullins contested the potential disqualification – his feed supplier Connolly's Red Mills admitted that traces of morphine had been found in their product – and it wasn't until January 2004 that Be My Royal was disqualified and the race awarded to the runner-up Gingembre. An appeal by Mullins – who was exonerated from any liability regarding the presence of morphine – was rejected in October 2005, with Gingembre confirmed as the 2002 Hennessy winner almost three years after he had passed the post.
10 AP McCoy was champion jockey 20 seasons in a row and rode more than 4,300 winners, but the Hennessy was one of the very few major races that eluded his grasp. He finished no closer than third, and that on four occasions, on Eudipe (1997), Take Control (2001, 03) and Merry King (2014). Other multiple champion jockeys never to win the race include Josh Gifford (although he trained 1978 winner Approaching), Bob Davies, Ron Barry, Terry Biddlecombe, Tommy Stack, Jonjo O'Neill and Richard Dunwoody.
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