Announced in 2014 to provide an opening for some of the most well-loved chasers in training, the Veterans’ Chase Series has become a fixture of National Hunt racing ever since.
It is a twelve-race series of contests for chasers aged ten and upwards and rated from o-150, with a final held in January.
Following on from the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, the final is staged at Sandown this Saturday at 3.00, live on ITV. We’ll have tips for this and all the rest of the horse racing, including our NAP Of The Day. Here’s the lowdown –
2015 -The inaugural running went to David Pipe’s Soll. He landed the second and fourth legs of the Series at Exeter and Newbury respectively in February 2015. Sent off 7/1 for the Final at Sandown in January 2016, he stayed on strongly to overcome the Venetia Williams’ trained Aachen.
2016 – One of the most popular horses in training landed the Series. Charlie Longsdon’s Pete The Feat had finished second in the third leg but only managed a distant tenth at Ascot in April. He put that form behind him at Sandown the following January, running out a cosy winner under a light weight at odds of 20/1. He finished second in the 2018 edition but failed to complete last year.
2017 – Buywise ended a three-year losing streak when scoring here. Held in tenth in the first leg of the series, he stayed on strongly under a smart ride from Leighton Aspell to collar the then fourteen-year-old Pete The Feat in the finale.
2018 – The dual Grade Two winner Houblon Des Obeaux ran out a mightily impressive winner under Charlie Deutsch. Venetia Williams’ veteran was rated seven pounds lower than when finishing third in a qualifier at Ascot the March previous. He unfortunately lost his life at Sandown last month.
- Leg One – The first leg of this year’s series was cancelled due to the equine flu.
- Leg Two – Nicky Richards’ Looking Well got his head in front for the first time in three years when scoring at Doncaster in February.
- Leg Three – Newbury held the next leg which went the way of Carole’s Destrier, trained by Neil Mulholland.
- Leg Four – The Richards’ yard once more landed the spoils with Takingrisks. A cosy winner at Carlisle, he followed that with a 25/1 success in the Scottish National.
- Leg Five – David Pipe’s Rathlin Rose ended a poor run of form with success at Ascot. He’s returned to his inconsistent self ever since that victory, beaten a long way in the ninth leg in November.
- Leg Six – Hammersly Lake landed a three-runner race with the minimum of fuss at Fakenham in April. Sadly, the eight-time winner lost his life the month following.
- Leg Seven – Off since finishing down the field in the Grand National, Vieux Lion Rouge made a winning return to action at Chepstow in October.
- Leg Eight – Trained by Venetia Williams, Burtons Well returned from a 664 day break with a career best performance at Aintree.
- Leg Nine – Last year’s winner Houblon Des Obeaux ran out a stylish victor at Sandown.
- Leg Ten – Evan Williams’ King’s Odyssey scored narrowly at Warwick.
- Leg Eleven – The weather claimed the eleventh leg at Leicester
- Leg Twelve – Claud And Goldie defied an eight month absence with a strong finish to land the twelfth leg.
Houblon Des Obeaux
The 2019 Series’ Finale will be held in memory of Houblon Des Obeaux, who tragically lost his life in the London National last month. Trained by Venetia Williams, he ran out a mightily impressive winner of the 2018 Finale. All looked set for a defence of his crown having returned to action in November with a facile win at Sandown.
Grade One placed as a juvenile hurdler, he provided connections with years of success. He landed a Grade Two over fences the following year and entered the illustrious roll of honour of the Denman Chase when winning the 2016 edition by twenty-eight lengths.
He was exactly the type of horse for whom the Veterans’ Series was created. Still enjoying his racing despite entering the twilight of his career, the series provided him with another big day in the sun last January. He will be sorely missed by both connections, and the wider racing world.
The current favourite is the Anthony Honeyball trained Jepeck. The eleven-year-old could only finish second in the fourth leg back in March when behind Takingrisks. He’s been in fine form this winter over hurdles however, landing two novice contests on testing ground. A mark of 132 is far from excessive for the relatively lightly-raced gelding.
Evan Williams’ King’s Odyssey landed the tenth leg at Warwick in November. He only had half a length to spare there when ahead of Smooth Stepper. A five pound rise will demand a personal best performance from the son of King’s Theatre.
A couple at the foot of the weights are of definite interest. Nick Williams’ Horatio Hornblower arrives here seeking a three-timer. Partnered by Chester Williams in both runs this season, he made light work of a soft ground handicap at Ffos Las on his return. It wasn’t quite as straight forward at Doncaster last time, but he rallied gamely late on to score when giving weight to the field.
Fourth in a Grade Three from a mark of 133 in November 2017, Dark Flame was having his first run since when chasing home Houblon Des Obeaux in the ninth leg. That was a huge run returning from a 736 day lay off. He backed that effort up with a second in the infamous void race at Sandown. With the form of that race franked by Doing Fine, he’s a hugely interesting contender.