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Cheltenham to Rename 2008 Running of National Hunt Chase in Honour of Sir Peter O’Sullevan 23/01/08

Cheltenham Racecourse is to rename the 2008 running of the National Hunt Chase at The Festival in honour of Sir Peter O’Sullevan, master commentator, journalist, racehorse owner and charity fund-raiser, who shortly celebrates his 90th birthday.

The race, on Wednesday, March 12, will be known as the Peter O’Sullevan National Hunt Chase for one year, as Cheltenham’s celebration of his 90th birthday on March 3.

The National Hunt Chase is the race around which The Festival was originally established and 2008 is the 138th year of the contest. In its early years, the race moved around the country, but since 1911 it has been firmly located at Cheltenham.

This year, the long distance novices’ chase reverts to the Old Course and a distance of four miles, with the prize money increased by 50 per cent to £75,000. In 2007, it was won by subsequent Irish Grand National winner Butler’s Cabin. Graduates from the race in recent years include Silver Birch, Hot Weld, Miko De Beauchene, Celestial Gold, Stormez and Timbera.

Edward Gillespie, Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, said: “Anyone with even a passing interest in horseracing is in awe of the contribution that Sir Peter has made to the sport in so many ways.

“He was a hugely successful journalist, enjoyed many profitable transactions with his friends in the bookmaking industry and has been a tireless worker for charity, but it is as the doyen of racing commentators that he is best known and loved.

“He always seemed to find the ideal way to describe the most iconic races and in Cheltenham’s rich history, his commentaries of the Gold Cup wins of Arkle in 1964, 1965 and 1966, Dawn Run in 1986 and Desert Orchid in 1989 will never fade.

“We are delighted that Peter has allowed us to name a race after him at The Festival for 2008, which will give generations of racegoers the opportunity to show their appreciation of ‘the voice of racing’.”

Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who first visited The Festival in 1935 to witness the epic Gold Cup encounter between Golden Miller and Thomond II and was successful as an owner at the National Hunt Meeting 39 years later, commented: “I am greatly flattered and honoured to have my name associated with the historic National Hunt Chase. I was ‘lucky’ enough to commentate on the race for many years, including in the days when the course took the runners out of view behind the car park at the back of the stands!

“Cheltenham has always been a special place for me as an owner, journalist and commentator, but also as a lifelong fan of our wonderful sport. Seeing my name linked with a race at The Festival this year will rank alongside the privilege of commentating on Arkle’s breathtaking Gold Cups and the joy of calling home for BBC viewers my own little Triumph Hurdle hero Attivo on March 14, 1974.”

Sir Peter will also have his name added to a race at Glorious Goodwood this year on Wednesday, July 30, and Goodwood’s Managing Director Rod Fabricius was keen to add his own tribute: “For many years, the things that best summed up Glorious Goodwood were the stunning setting, the competitive racing and the commentaries of Peter O’Sullevan.

“We’re therefore thrilled that Sir Peter will have a race named in his honour at that meeting in 2008. I entirely echo Edward’s sentiments about the impact that Peter has had on racing as a whole, but he also has a special place in the hearts of everyone here at Goodwood and we are looking forward to welcoming him back as a very special guest this summer.”

Reacting to this news, Sir Peter O’Sullevan said: “I’m thrilled to receive a similar honour at Goodwood. For eight decades, no less, my annual return to the most scenic racecourse in the world has been a personal highlight. Both Cheltenham’s and Goodwood’s charming gestures will make 2008 especially memorable for me.”

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