Inside Track: No Grey areas as Grimthorpe Chase hots up

Howard Johnson
Howard Johnson
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One of our biggest jumps fixtures takes place on February 28 and March 1, with the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase and Cheltenham Preview evening featuring on the Saturday.

The classiest winner of the Grimthorpe in recent seasons was 2004 winner Grey Abbey; a flashy, exuberant chaser trained by Howard Johnson who had his own little fan club whenever he used to go to the races.

Grey Abbey was ridden regularly by current Flat jockey Graham Lee, but Alan Dempsey, now a stipendiary steward, rode the gelding to win this particular running of the Grimthorpe where Grey Abbey defied top weight of 11 stone 12 pounds, winning by ten lengths.

After the 2006 and 2007 runnings were forced to abandon, it was a welcome relief that the 2008 race got the go ahead and was won by the very useful Cloudy Lane for Donald McCain and Jason Maguire.

Cloudy Lane won very impressively by eight lengths and was then sent to Aintree where he went off joint favourite for the Grand National, finishing sixth behind Comply Or Die.

He did have his Aintree day in the sun four years later, however, when he won the 2012 Foxhunters Chase under Richard Harding.

In 2011, John Wade struck gold with his then-highly progressive Always Right under James Reveley. Always Right then went on to be a very close third behind Beshabar in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on his next start.

The 2012 running was an absolute thriller when Pentiffic, a clear leader from some way out, was getting tired before coming down at the last and it was left to Junior and Ikorodu Road to fight out a pulsating finish on the run-in, where Ikorodu Road won by a short head under Charlie Poste.

Ikorodu Road tried to land the big race again in 2013 but could only finish fourth behind the Henry Daly-trained Quentin Collonges, who made all of the running under Andrew Tinkler, just fending off a late burst from Mr Moss after the last.

The annual William Hill-sponsored Cheltenham Preview Evening takes place after racing, where we have a great panel chaired by ATR’s Simon Mapletoft. The star panel also includes trainer Sean Quinn and jockey Brian Hughes, and there are some great prizes to be won on the evening such as free bets, raceday hospitality and a stay in the nearby Crown Hotel in Bawtry.

There is no extra charge for the evening’s entertainment, so please stay behind after racing if you can to take advantage of the advice on offer for the big race week in March.

Ladbrokes St Leger Festival tickets are now on sale – for raceday tickets or more information, visit www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk.