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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Seven decades of great Yorkshire chasing on Town Moor

David Carr on the long history of a local favourite

Ziga Boy (Brendan Powell) wins the 2016 running of a race with a long and distinguished history
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1 Jump racing has been staged at Doncaster since the 1820s only to die out in the early 20th century. It returned to Town Moor after the second world war and the revival was marked by the founding of the Great Yorkshire Chase in 1948, which soon become one of the top staying handicaps of the season.

There was outrage among traditionalists when the Great Yorkshire Chase became the Sky Bet in 2004 – the late trainer Monica Dickinson said: "I think it is silly. It is the Great Yorkshire Chase – it is in Yorkshire and it is a great race." But Sk Bbet managing director Nick Rust, now BHA chief executive, said: "If racing is to continue to attract sponsorship investment, sponsors do need to achieve value for money – commercial sponsors aren't simply sponsoring out of some sense of charity."

3 Doncaster had the Racing Post to thank for securing a sponsor for the 1999 running. A report in these pages alerted former county cricketer Andy Lloyd to the fact the race had no backer and he tipped off Stakis Casinos, who stepped in to fill the gap for a contest won by the strong-finishing Major Bell, whose trainer Alistair Whillans watched from Ayr and admitted: "I walked out of the bar when the horses were coming to the last as I was sure mine was beaten."

4 Freebooter, E.S.B. and Nicolaus Silver all won the Great Yorkshire and the Grand National while Lucius finished second before his Aintree triumph in 1978, ridden by a certain Michael Dickinson whose father Tony trained the winner Autumn Rain. Doncaster staged a novice chase commemorating Freebooter for several years in the late 20th century.

Bregawn scored in 1982 and fellow Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Mandarin was fourth in 1961 but arguably the best horse to take part in the Great Yorkshire was Mill House, who finished third under 12st 7lb in 1967 before falling when favourite for an Arkle-less Gold Cup, then gained a final victory in the Whitbread at Sandown.

6 The 1953 winner Knock Hard was pushed and niggled throughout by Tim Molony then finished strongly from the last, causing his jockey to conclude that the horse hated jumping fences. A cardiograph subsequently showed that Knock Hard had a defective heart and could drop dead at any moment – but he raced on and two years later showed that same finishing burst to give Vincent O'Brien his fourth Gold Cup in five years.

The 1965 race was run on the day of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral, when the insistence on racing going ahead was apparently less than universally popular. It was won by King Of Diamonds but the race is best remembered for the fatal fall of dual Cheltenham Festival winner Buona Notte, one of the lowest points of jockey Johnny Haine's career.

George Slack was told he might lose his right arm after shattering his shoulder in a fall at Catterick in January 1956. When the jockey left hospital a month later he could not even get a fork up to his mouth but the strength gradually returned to his arm. He resumed race-riding after a 21-month recovery and won the Great Yorkshire Chase on Knightsbrook for Charlie Hall in 1960.

9 Gerald Balding won the Great Yorkshire in 1951 with Arctic Gold and 51 years later his younger son Ian emulated that feat by scoring with Moor Lane, but there was only four years between the father-and-son victories of Autumn Rain (Tony Dickinson, 1978) and Bregawn (Michael Dickinson, 1982).

10 The Great Yorkshire was run in Nottinghamshire in 2006 and 2007 as Southwell took the race over while Doncaster was redeveloped. Andrew Thornton was unbeatable at its temporary home, winning on A Glass In Thyne and Simon, a progressive young chaser owned and bred by Mercy Rimell whose husband Fred won the race a record four times from 1949 to 1975.

Arguably the best horse to take part in the Great Yorkshire was Mill House, who finished third under 12st 7lb in 1967
E.W. Terms
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