Racing: Whitbread call time on the Mackeson

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The Independent Online
It still looks good, tastes good and maybe even does you good, but Mackeson is no longer good enough to be associated with the handicap chase that is the traditional curtain-raiser to the National Hunt season each November. The much trendier Irish stout Murphy's is to replace its less fashionable stablemate as the name attached to the Cheltenham race.

With Irish theme pubs replacing the traditional English boozer at every corner, Murphy's is outselling Mackeson by the bucketload to the thimble, prompting Whitbread, which houses both beers, into the change.

Mackeson, under whose banner the two-and-a-half mile chase has been run since its inception in 1960, will now be moved to one of the supporting races on the card.

"Unlike most other big-race name changes over the years, this one is not caused by a sponsor pulling out," Jeremy Wilton, head of sponsorship at Whitbread, said. "On the contrary, as racing's longest-standing sponsor, we remain totally committed to the sport."

The decline in sales of Mackeson, which has struggled to cast off its "Ena Sharples" image, was the reason cited by Wilson for the change.

"With the sweet stout market much smaller than it was in the Sixties and Seventies, it is Murphy's which has shown dramatic growth in recent years.

"The size of Murphy's compared to Mackeson in the market is a reality to which, sooner or later, we had to respond."

The National Hunt fraternity is hardly known for its love of change but, like the Murphy's, the leading trainer David Nicholson is not bitter.

Nicholson, who saddled Very Promising to victory in the race in 1986 and Another Coral in 1991, said: "It is always sad when they change the old names but you have got to go forward, and I would prefer to drink Murphy's than Mackeson any day.

"I endorse the sponsor's product - my missus drinks Murphy's every day for lunch in the winter."

n The Richard Hughes-ridden Daring Destiny, trained by Karl Burke, foiled last year's winner, Hever Golf Rose, in the Group Two Jacobs Goldene Peitsche at Baden Baden yesterday.