Magical Menorah made Oaksey Chase his own

Popular gelding invariably shone on end-of-season card at Sandown.

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There could have been no better time and place for Menorah to end his career than the last day of the season at Sandown three years ago.

By then a 12-year-old, the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah bowed out by maintaining his perfect record over jumps at the Esher track and bringing up a fourth successive Oaksey Chase win.

Menorah had won the first two renewals of the race – which is named in honour of the late Lord Oaksey – when it was a Listed contest, but its elevation to Grade Two level in 2016 did not arrest the winning streak.

Partnered by Richard Johnson on each occasion, Menorah’s 2016 success proved a nice add-on to what was already a special day for the rider.

He said: “It’s a big day at the end of the season and I remember the first year I won the championship, the presentation was straight after that race and it made it really special.

“He’s a horse that gave us lots of great days.”

Sandown is not for every horse, with the famous Railway fences causing more than one or two to come unstuck.

But Menorah thrived for the test, with typically faster spring ground also benefiting the King’s Theatre gelding.

Johnson said: “That race just really seemed to suit him – everything was perfect for him. He loved decent ground and the track suited him.

“At Sandown, you need a horse that gets in a rhythm, the right sort of horse and he fitted the bill nicely. You could usually count on decent ground there, too.”

Running in the colours of Graham and Diana Whateley, Menorah gave the team plenty of big days out, with his record also encompassing Charlie Hall and Peterborough Chase wins, plus Grade One glory in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

With a total of 14 victories under his belt, Menorah was given every opportunity to bow out on a winning note and he duly obliged with a decisive win at his favourite track in April 2017.

Johnson said: “We asked the Whateleys what they would like to do, they felt it was the right time for him to retire, so it fitted to go to Sandown.

“It’s always nice to go out on a high and at the end of the season, it was a great swansong for him.”

While Menorah’s racing days are over, he remains an integral part of the Johnson family unit, enjoying his retirement at their Herefordshire home.

The four-times champion jockey added: “He was an absolute star on the racecourse and he’s still a star now.

“We still have him here, he’s out having a nice time in the field and he’s a huge part of our lives.”

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