New jump challenge ties together England’s Cheltenham Racecourse & Iroquois meeting near Nashville
Edited Press Release
Cheltenham Racecourse, the Home of Jump Racing in the United Kingdom, and The Iroquois, a race meeting staged near Nashville, Tennessee, each May, are offering a new $500,000 bonus for any horse who can win both the Ladbrokes World Hurdle (J-G1) going three miles at The Cheltenham Festival on March 17 and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle (NSA-G1), also at three miles, on May 14 as part of the 75th Iroquois Steeplechase.
The Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge is seen as a great way of reigniting the cross-Atlantic rivalry that was so exciting for jump racing in the 1970s and 1980s.
The bonus will be on offer to any horse that wins both races within the space of 12 months, opening the door to horses who are even placed at Cheltenham this March to make the trip to Tennessee in May and if winning there, try to gain the bonus at The Festival in March 2017.
To facilitate this new concept, investment manager Brown Advisory, based in both the United States and United Kingdom, has agreed to sponsor the bonus. If a horse were to win both races, they will amass a total more than $850,000 in prize money, which includes the $500,000 bonus. The bonus is subject to terms and conditions, which will be finalized shortly.
"I am hugely excited that Cheltenham Racecourse, along with our friends at Brown Advisory, is to partner with the Iroquois Steeplechase to offer this valuable bonus for long distance hurdlers,” said Robert Waley Cohen, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse.
"I remember well the heydays of America owners and racehorses in the UK 25 years ago and hopefully this tremendous initiative will provide some new and interesting stories as the links between British and America Jump racing are reignited."
Iroquois Steeplechase Chairman Dwight Hall, a former jockey and board member of the National Steeplechase Association, agreed.
"Throughout modern history, a number of great horses have crossed the Atlantic to race and we want to promote that international competition," Hall remarked. "This is a new tradition with significant implications – a successful horse could earn more than $850,000 by winning both races, considering their individual purses and the Brown Advisory Cheltenham Iroquois Challenge."
Willie Mullins, the most successful Irish trainer ever at The Festival, was happy with the partnership.
"I am delighted to hear about this $500,000 bonus,” Mullins stated. “It is good to see two racecourses getting together like this. We need to embrace international competition for the sport of jump racing to grow.
"I will support the Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge as much as possible and hope it will encourage similar international initiatives."
Others offered their support for the Challenge.
"We want to reignite cross Atlantic participation as we successfully had years ago,” said bloodstock agent Richard Pitman, a former jump jockey. “We have introduced this unique $500,000 bonus in the hope to do this. We are even trying to put the feelers out for Australia and France to be involved."
"Lots of jump horses used to cross over the Atlantic to race and we want to re-start this process,” agreed Charlie Fenwick, an American amateur who rode Ben Nevis to Grand National victory in 1980.
This isn’t the first time jump racing has partnered across the Atlantic.
The Sport of Kings Challenge linked Cheltenham and U.S. jump racing in the 1990s. Toby Balding sent over Morley Street to capture two Breeder's Cup Chases (1990 & 1991), while New Zealand-bred Grand Canyon proved a top grade hurdler both in the United Kingdom and the United States. The Paddy Mullins-trained Grabel made the trip to lift the $750,000 hurdle race at the Dueling Grounds, not far from Nashville, in 1990.
In fact, the Iroquois is actually named for a horse who was the first American-bred colt to win the English Derby in 1881, before retiring to stud at General William Harding's Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville.
Nashville is a 1 1/2-mile irrigated circuit, run on old turf with a nice uphill pull to the finish. Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury, Gloucestershire, on the outskirts of the historic spa town of Cheltenham.