Horse Racing: My 5 favourite moments from Sandown’s jumps season finale

We'd normally be celebrating the end of the UK jumps season at Sandown today, so top PR guru Paul Binfield recalls five of his favourite finales instead.

Sandown Races


2018, Step Back, Mark Bradstock, Jamie Moore

The connections of any big-race scorer are obviously delighted, but there was a real gleam in the eye of Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer and wife to winning handler Mark, in the hallowed Sandown winner’s enclosure.

This was because this was a race that her father Lord Oaksey, the respected broadcaster and journalist who passed six years’ earlier, loved. Indeed Oaksey, who was referred to on Channel 4 by John McCririck as ‘My Noble Lord,’ prevailed in the race under his initial name of Mr John Lawrence as an amateur rider on the Fulke Walwyn-trained Taxidermist in 1958.

After the race Sara joked with reporters that her father probably wouldn’t have been impressed with the way Step Back won from the front as he preferred them coming with a late rattle from the rear, but there’s little doubt that he would have been extremely proud of Team Bradstock and their charge.


2010, Church Island, Michael Hourigan, Adrian Heskin

A lot of people’s best racing memories are because they’ve backed the winner or they know the people involved. This one falls in the latter category as although I have met Adrian Heskin, I don’t really know him, but I am friends with top owner Max McNeill and his racing manager Iain Turner.

This was a huge win for the jockey as a conditional rider as he forged clear on his partner from the third last to eventually score by six lengths from Hoo La Baloo, but also it was the season when he had first come on to the McNeill family’s radar.

An earlier win in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham on A New Story had indicated he was a young rider of immense promise and he is now the McNeill family’s jockey, teaming up with big-race winners such as Djingle, top-class scorer The Worlds End and Keeper Hill last season.

2008, Monkerhostin, Philip Hobbs, Richard Johnson

One of the marvellous things about the Jumps code is the attachment that enthusiasts feel with certain animals, who can be around for many years, and, in his own way, Monkerhostin was one of those horses.

This fellow won the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2004 and the following year amazingly beat the great Kauto Star by four lengths in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. But that was his last victory before he lined up in this year’s renewal at the age of 11 off a handicap mark of 153.

At one stage in his career he was rated as high as 169 and stayed on strongly under the subsequent UK champion jockey, Richard Johnson, to score by two and a quarter lengths from Royal Auclair.

It was a glorious day weather wise and on the track with the winner defying both his advancing years and a ‘disrespectful’ starting price of 25-1.


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2005, Jack High, Ted Walsh, Garrett Cotter

Jack High’s victory was rather overshadowed by a titanic battle between training behemoths and arch rivals Paul Nicholls and Martin Pipe for that year’s trainers’ title which had gone down to the wire on the last day.

Well Chief’s defeat of Azertyuiop in the previous race, the Celebration Chase, was a blinder for the latter and Nicholls, responsible for saddling the runner-up, then needed everything to fall into place in the feature contest.

The odds were stacked in Pipe’s favour as he threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the race with seven combatants, while Nicholls sent three horses into battle. But neither man really figured with the latter doing best with Whitenzo in fourth position.

Pipe gained his 15th crown, while Ted Walsh landed yet another big prize for Ireland whose handlers had earlier enjoyed a good season at both Cheltenham and Aintree.


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2003, Ad Hoc, Paul Nicholls, Ruby Walsh

Paddy Power racing ambassador Ruby Walsh scoring on Somerset sorcerer Paul Nicholls’s Ad Hoc was a popular enough success with punters at 7-1, despite the winning pilot’s great friend and rival Tony McCoy finishing runner-up on 9-2 favourite Stormez.

But it was for other reasons this day was memorable.

Two races’ later Skycab kept on gamely up the famous Esher slope to round off late great Josh Gifford’s illustrious career with a winning ‘jolly’. The tears flowed from an emotional Gifford – but make no mistake, he was a hard man.

You couldn’t have been a four-time champion jockey in the era that he was riding, when safety concerns weren’t quite as important as they are now, without being one.

And it was an appropriate setting for the great man to bow out and hand over the reins to son Nick – he won the then Whitbread Gold Cup as a jockey on board Larbawn in 1969 and then as a trainer with the Richard Rowe-ridden Shady Deal in 1982.

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