Topham Chase Stats and Trends

The Cheltenham Festival may dominate the springtime, but it is far from the only high-profile jumps-racing meeting at this time of year. Around one month after events at Prestbury Park, attention switches north to Aintree for the most iconic race of them all. First run in 1839, the Grand National is now long established as the most famous jumps race on the planet and duly receives a three-day feast of supporting action.

Kicking off on a Thursday and running through to Saturday, each day features a mixture of handicaps, novice races, quality graded contests, and one showstopping event over the Grand National fences. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a big field in full flow over The Chair, Becher’s Brook and Foinavon, and the always-excellent Topham Chase provides the jumping highlight on the Friday of this meeting.

Making its debut in 1949, the 2m5f trip of the Topham may not be as demanding as the 4m2½f of the Grand National, but this Premier Handicap serves as a thrilling warm-up to the main event, and with £150,000 (2024) in total prize money on offer, invariably attracts a high-quality field.

One of the most notable aspects of this contest has been just how tough it is to identify the winner, with the race featuring a succession of long-odds victories in the current century. So, what should punters look for when attempting to zero in on the most likely contenders? Here, we examine the 23 editions between 2000 and 2023 (no race in 2020) and pick out the most eye-catching stats and trends.

Age Trends

Topham Chase Age of Winner

The Topham Chase is open to all horses aged five and older who have started a chase in the current season. Gwanako became only the second five-year-old to prevail when landing the prize for Paul Nicholls in 2008. At the other end of the spectrum, Sirrah Jay set the record for the oldest-ever winner when coming home in front in 1993 at 13 years of age.

The current century has witnessed a decent spread across the age groups, but runners aged nine or 10 have fared much the best – registering twice as many wins as any other age. Overall, 18 of 23 (78.26%) winners were between seven and 10 years of age.

Weight Carried by Winner

Topham Chase: Weight Carried by Winner

No horse will carry more than 12st in the Topham Chase, whilst the minimum weight was 10s2lb ahead of the 2024 edition. As such, the bottom five runners in the above table would have carried a couple of pounds more if lining up in 2024. Nevertheless, the results suggest a strong bias towards those with a lesser burden. Between 2000 and 2023, 17 of 23 (73.91%) winners carried 11st or less.

Rating of Winner

Topham Chase: Rating of Winner

In common with many leading handicaps in the UK, the quality of the Topham Chase appears to have increased over time. As with all such races, there have been peaks and troughs, but the trend line shows an increase of more than 10lbs over the course of the 23 editions examined. Up to and including the 2011 edition, 11 of the 12 winners boasted a rating of 133 or less, for an average of 128.16. Since 2012, 9 of 11 winners had a rating of 135 or above, for an average of 141.45.

Finishing Position Last Time Out

Topham Chase: Finishing Position Last Time Out

A positive recent outing is rarely a negative but is far from essential in this race. 12 of 23 winners (52.17%) finished in the first three last time out, but just under half were unplaced or pulled up on their previous outing. There are a couple of likely reasons for this near 50/50 split. Firstly, many trainers may not have had their horses at peak fitness for their prep run in order to avoid a hike in the handicap. Secondly, wherever the previous run happened to be, it almost certainly represented a significantly different challenge to that presented by the National fences, decreasing the relevance of a recent win or placed effort.

Leading Trainers

Topham Chase: Leading Trainers

The big guns of Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, and Willie Mullins have all tasted success in this race, but all are behind Pembrokeshire-based handler Peter Bowen in the current century. Having also won with Wont Be Long Gone in 1990, Henderson sits joint top of the all-time trainer’s table alongside Bowen.

Fate of the Favourite

To say that this race hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for favourite backers would be an understatement. Between 2000 and 2023, only one favourite or joint-favourite came home in front – handing supporters of the market leader a rather whopping loss of £19 to £1 level stakes.

Seven winners returned a single-figure SP; nine were between 9/1 and 16/1, leaving six at 20/1 or bigger. Cregg House (2005) and Ultragold (2017) provided the biggest shocks – each defying truly huge odds of 50/1.

Other Stats

  • 18 of 23 winners had run within the previous 31 days; Only one arrived on the back of a break of more than 60 days
  • 19 of 23 winners had previously won over 2m4f or further
  • Only 6 of 23 winners had previously won at Aintree. 13 of 23 had previously run at the track
  • 17 of 23 winners had previously won at Class 2 level or above
  • 19 of 23 victors had previously lined up in a race rated at Grade 3 level or higher
  • 9 of 23 most recently ran at the Cheltenham Festival
  • The now retired Barry Geraghty topped the jockeys’ standings over this period with three wins, followed by Harry Cobden, Ruby Walsh, Sam Waley-Cohen, and Tom O’Brien on two apiece
  • Unfuwain led the way amongst the stallions, courtesy of Always Waining’s successive wins in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Beneficial was the only sire responsible for two different winners – Eastlake (2016) and Livelovelaugh (2021)