The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (also known as the National Hunt Steeplechase) is the most-run race in the history of the Cheltenham Festival.
It is not the oldest race, with the Grand Annual taking that honour. However, the Grand Annual was not run for large parts of the nineteenth century, while the National Hunt Steeplechase has run for over 150 years of running despite being cancelled on several occasions throughout its long history.
The National Hunt Steeplechase was first run in 1860 and for more than 50 years was held at a wide variety of different venues, including its present home. It was moved permanently to Cheltenham in 1911 and for the following two decades came second only to the Grand National in terms of most important races on the National Hunt jumps calendar.
The first ever winner was Bridegroom, ridden by Edmund Burton at Market Harborough. The first race when the event moved permanently the Cheltenham in 1911 was taken by jockey Arthur Smith on Sir Halbert.
The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over a distance of 6.4km or approximately 4 miles, making it the longest jumps race at the Festival.
Horses must leap 24 fences over this distance, running the left-handed turf track. Open to horses aged five and over, five-year-olds must carry 11st 4lb in weight, while those aged six and above are given 11st 6lb. The prize purse totals £100,000, with the winner pocketing £50,966 of that. The field is usually relatively large as amateur jockeys take the opportunity to try make a name for themselves at this prestigious racing event.
There have been nine jockeys to date who have managed to win the National Hunt Steeplechase twice, although as of 2015 no-one has yet managed a hat-trick.
Dermot Daly, Bunny Cox, George Small, John Fowler, Tony Fowler, Willie Mullins, Tony Martin, Marcus Armytage and J.T. McNamara have all ridden to victory on two occasions.
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has enjoyed the most success here, entering five winners since Front Line in 1995. This was followed by three consecutive wins with Rith Dubh in 2002, Sudden Shock in 2003 and Native Emperor in 2004, with O’Neill’s final win coming in 2007 with Butler’s Cabin.
Relaxation set the fastest winning time when finishing in 8m 0.6s in 2000. The longest price for a winning horse to date was 40/1, with both Another Rum and Topsham Bay coming in with those long odds.