The Grade Three Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase takes place over an extended three miles at Cheltenham on Tuesday, 15 March, and has attracted 85 entries, including 12 trained in Ireland.
Among the six-strong Paul Nicholls-trained contingent is the 2006 Grade One Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victor, Noland, who returned to form when winning the Grade Two Aon Chase at Newbury on February 18, a race in which the Philip Hobbs-trained Fair Along was third. Nicholls has also engaged Grade One victors Taranis and Breedsbreeze.
Other Festival winners among the entries include last year’s hero Chief Dan George from the Jimmy Moffatt yard, the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs, winner of the 2010 Fulke Walkwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Pigeon Island, who landed the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase last year, and last season’s Byrne Group Plate winner, Great Endeavour, trained by David Pipe, who was successful with An Accordion in 2008.
Nick Williams has engaged last season’s Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Reve De Sivola, while Ian Williams could saddle fellow high-class novice Weird Al. Malcolm Jefferson has engaged King Fontaine and Cape Tribulation.
Ogee was third in this race last year for trainer Renee Robeson, while the Alan King-trained Blazing Bailey has been in fine form of late, winning at Cheltenham and Ffos Las since the turn of the year. King took the race with Fork Lightning in 2004.
The Irish contingent includes Siegemaster, Rare Bob and Deal Done from the Dessie Hughes stable, as well as recent Grade Two-winning novice Roi Du Mee and the promising Beautiful Sound, both trained by Gordon Elliott.
STEWART FAMILY SPINAL RESEACH HANDICAP CHASE – Facts and Figures
- The Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase was sponsored between 1981 and 1996 by the Ritz Club. Astec Buzz Shop backed the race in 1997, with William Hill being the sponsor from 1998 to 2010. Leading owner Andy Stewart and his family are backing this year’s race in support of Spinal Research.
- Five horses have used the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase as a stepping stone to the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. These are:
- Silver Fame (1950) Gold Cup 1951
- Four Ten (1953) Gold Cup 1954
- Limber Hill (1955) Gold Cup 1956
- Kerstin (1956) Gold Cup 1958
- Charter Party (1986) Gold Cup 1988
- The shortest-priced winner was Silver Fame in 1950 at 5/4. The longest-priced scorer was Joes Edge, who belied odds of 50/1 to win in 2007.
- Only two horses have won the race twice – Sentina in 1957 and 1958, and Scot Lane in 1982 and 1983. Unguided Missile, successful in 1998, had been runner-up in 1996.