Lord Oaksey

Lord Oaksey  In the latter part of his career, John Oaksey, or Lord Oaksey, was better known as a journalist, broadcaster and fundraiser for the Injured Jockeys Fund but, in his younger days, was a highly successful amateur jockey. Born John Lawrence in 1929, he adopted the name John Oaksey when he became the third Baron Oaksey, and fourth Baron Trevethin, on the death of his father in 1971.

Despite not having “any natural ability”, at least not according to legendary commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, Oaksey rode over 200 winners and was Champion Amateur Jump Jockey twice, in 1957/58 and 1970/71. He recorded four victories at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the National Hunt Chase on Sabaria in 1959, the Kim Muir Handicap Chase twice, on Jimmy Scott in 1966 and Black Blaize in 1971 and the Foxhunter Chase on Bullocks Horn in 1973. In so doing, he became the only jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival to win all three races reserved, exclusively, for amateur riders.

Following his death, after a lengthy illness, in 2012, the National Hunt Chase the following year was run as the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase in his honour. Indeed, his legacy at the Cheltenham Festival continued three years later when Coneygree, whom he bred from his inexpensive mare Plaid Mare, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for his daughter and son-in-law, Sara and Mark Bradstock. Sara Bradstock said afterwards, “It’s because my father was the greatest. That’s where we’ve got this luck from; he deserved it and he’s looking down. He’s not here, but he is here in spirit.”

J.P. McManus

J.P. McManus  The green and gold silks of John Patrick “J.P.” McManus are familiar throughout the world of National Hunt racing, on both sides of the Irish Sea, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Cheltenham Festival, where they’ve been carried to victory no fewer than 53 times. McManus, who has a net worth of €2.1 billion, is reputed to have collected £250,000 in a single bet when Mister Donovan won what is now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, and hasn’t looked back since.

The Limerick-born Irishman has won the Champion Hurdle seven times, with Istabraq three times, in 1998, 1999 and 2000, Binocular in 2010, Jezki in 2014 and Buveur D’Air twice, in 2017 and 2018, the Stayers’ Hurdle three times, with Baracouda twice, in 2002 and 2003 and More Of That in 2014, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Synchronised in 2012.

McManus is far and away the leading owner at the Cheltenham Festival, some 29 winners ahead of his nearest pursuer, Gigginstown House Stud, although, with 17 winners at the Festival since 2014, Michael O’Leary’s operation has made substantial inroads into his lead in recent years. But, as McManus himself put it, “Racing is a great leveller. The day you think you have mastered the game, you will be made to pay for it the following day.” Nevertheless, with a string of horses in training in Ireland and the United Kingdom, McManus is likely to continue his love affair with the Cheltenham Festival for a good while yet.

Master Oats

Master Oats  Master Oats, who died in 2012, at the age of 28, after a long and happy retirement, is best remembered for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1995. In so doing, he completed a famous big race double for trainer Kim Bailey and jockey Norman Williamson, who’d won the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook two days earlier.

In the early part of his career, Master Oats hardly looked a champion, but a bad bleed after winning at Uttoxeter prompted a change of training tactics, which set him on the road to Cheltenham glory. At a rain-sodden Prestbury Park, he was sent off 100/30 favourite, but after a couple of unsettling mistakes at the eighth and ninth fences, made a monumental blunder at the eleventh, which Norman Williamson was lucky to survive. Survive he did, though, and Master Oats led after the second last and drew away in the closing stages to beat his old rival, the mare Dubacilla, by 15 lengths.

All in all, Master Oats won 10 of his 21 starts over fences, including the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, the Coral Welsh National at Newbury (transferred from Chepstow) and the Pillar Property Investments Chase at Cheltenham, as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in the same 1994/95 season. His Timeform Annual Rating of 183 is the same as more recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Denman and Don Cossack and 1lb superior to Best Mate.

Master Oats also ran three times in the Grand National. He fell for the only time in his career at the second last fence on the first circuit in 1994, but finished seventh on his attempt to become the first horse since Golden Miller to complete the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grand National double in 1995 and fifth, under 11st 10lb, on his final racecourse in 1997.