The exhilaration can be felt in the grandstands. Racing fans are often heard to collectively gasp when an extravagant‐jumping chaser stands off an obstacle.
We have been treated to some thrilling performances from some of the very best down the years. Here’s a look at some of the most exciting recent – and not so recent – jumpers to take away the breath of the racing public.
Dessie was the ultimate Christmas jumper.
He wowed Boxing Day crowds at Kempton in the late 1980s and early 90s with some spectacular leaps.
David Elsworth’s grey won the King George VI Chase four times as well as a stack of other big races, including a memorable success in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Whether it was his snowy white coat, his dashing frontrunning style or his breath‐taking trademark leaps, he jumped his way into the hearts of the nation.
Dessie was so popular he even had his own fan club and the merest mention of his name conjures up images of him soaring over the Kempton fences.
When people use the phrase old‐fashioned chaser they are talking about Dublin Flyer.
It’s no coincidence his career was skilfully managed by an old‐fashioned trainer in Captain Tim Forster.
In the mid‐1990s there were few more popular horses than the giant 14‐times winner.
He won the 1995 Topham Chase with a round of jumping rarely seen over Aintree’s Grand National fences. It was a flawless performance and he went on to land what is now the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on his next start with another exhilarating frontrunning display.
His regular rider Brendan Powell summed it up best when he said: “If you could paint the picture of a perfect chaser, it was him.”
No horse in jump racing history has won more races on the bounce than Altior.
From his hurdles debut in 2015, he won a record 19 consecutive races over the course of the next four years.
Not a huge, imposing horse but supremely athletic. His slick fencing helped him to win two Champion Chases, two Celebration Chases and a Tingle Creek.
His jumping often had to be pin‐point accurate under pressure and it usually was. His domination of the two‐mile chase division was built on that ability to waste little time in the air but he was more than capable of standing right off his fences.
Nicky Henderson has trained some of the very best horses to excel at the minimum distance over fences and Altior will go down as one of the greats.
Traditionalists might sneer at some of the newer Cheltenham Festival races.
Without them we might never have seen two of the most brilliant performances from Vautour. In the familiar pink colours of flamboyant owner Rich Ricci and trained by Irish champion Willie
Mullins, he gave Ruby Walsh one of the biggest thrills of his career when landing the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase in 2015. His jumping was awesome as he cruised home by 15 lengths.
A year later, in the Ryanair Chase, he put in another sensational performance.
Vautour’s chase career only lasted nine races but his stunning Festival victories mean he will never be forgotten.
Possibly the greatest two‐mile chaser of them all, Sprinter Sacre was a true fairy‐tale hero. In winning his first ten races over fences, no one could get near him.
He cruised clear of top‐class Cue Card to win the 2012 Arkle Trophy and returned to the Cheltenham Festival the following year to hand previous winner Sizing Europe an even more severe beating in the Champion Chase.
A big horse but incredibly athletic – a bit like a powerfully‐built, agile rugby winger – he was unbeatable until heart problems struck.
His recovery was, perhaps, trainer Nicky Henderson’s greatest feat. He nursed him back to a second Champion Chase victory, three years after his first.
When he was asked to go long and stand off his fences, using his huge stride, it was poetry in motion the likes of Wordsworth would struggle to do justice.
When he burst on to the scene as an enthusiastic French import, Un De Sceaux was rather too headstrong for his own good.
After seven wins in an unbeaten hurdles campaign he switched to fences with an eager‐anticipation. He was simply breath‐taking on his chase debut, attacking his fences with rare appetite, until his bravery became his downfall. He failed to organise his feet after jumping the third‐last and came down.
It was a fall he didn’t deserve but anyone who witnessed it knew they had spotted brilliance. His desire to jump at lightning speed stayed with him throughout his career. That career yielded victories in the Arkle Trophy and Ryanair Chase as well as a stack of other top prizes outside the Cheltenham Festival.
Trained by Willie Mullins, he made his fans hold their breath at times but that breath was taken away by some sensation jumping much more often.