Cheltenham - At The Races

16:10 Cheltenham 15 Mar 2019

St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase (Class 2) (5YO plus)

Winner £26,685 - 24 ran

5

3m 2f 70y

Good to Soft

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Last year’s race

Pacha Du Polder
  • Winner: Pacha Du Polder
  • Jockey: Miss H C Tucker
  • Trainer: P F Nicholls
  • Owner: The Stewart Family
  • Age: 11 Weight: 12st 0lb
  • Starting Price: 25/1
  • Season Form Figures: Pacha Du Polder
  • Previous Best: 1st - Foxhunter Chase, Cheltenham Festival (Mar 2017)

The stranglehold that the Irish held on the Foxhunter came to an end two years ago with Paul Nicholls landing a 1-2 with Pacha du Polder (16/1) and Wonderful Charm thus ending their six-year winning streak and the winner then repeated the dose the following season at 25/1. That was Nicholls’s fourth success in the race surpassing Fred Winter and joining Richard Barber, and Pacha du Polder will be retired after this season’s Foxhunter where he bids to become the race’s first three-time winner.

Traditionally, the leading Irish trial was the Raymond Smith Hunters’ Chase run on Irish Gold Cup Day at Leopardstown which has highlighted the last five Irish-trained Foxhunters’ winners but that race has now changed title and moved to Punchestown 2½ weeks later.

The Champion Hunters’ Chase at the previous spring’s Punchestown Festival won by Caid du Berlais (fifth in last season’s Cheltenham Foxhunter) has featured six of the last 12 winners. Also note the hunter chase at Down Royal on Boxing Day in which Stand Up And Fight, Sizing Coal and Kruzhlinin as horses to finish in the first two in that race have come on to win here for four years running until 2017.

Stand Up And Fight officially turned seven years of age a week later so he is the horse attempting to give J P McManus a fifth Foxhunter winner that those who like to latch onto the youngest of the most-fancied contenders are likely to land on. That line of thinking would have found you Rushing Wild (9/1) in 1992, Elegant Lord (3/1) in 1996, Earthmover (3/1) in 1998, Castle Mane (9/2) in 1999, Kingscliff (11/4) in 2003, Cappa Bleu (11/2) in 2009, Salsify (7/1) in 2012 and Salsify again (2/1) in 2013 when he was still the joint-youngest horse in the race.

Horses aged over ten have won just four times in the last 28 runnings despite being responsible for approximately 50% of the field in that time frame but what is hugely significant about their victories is that three of that successful ageing quartet were former winners of the race; Earthmover, On The Fringe and Pacha du Polder.

25 of the last 30 winners of Cheltenham Foxhunter had the opposite profile having been brought up from a point-to-pointing background

Whereas 12 of the last 17 winners of the Aintree Foxhunter were ex-handicappers (or better) who had their attentions turned to hunter chasing, 25 of the last 30 winners of Cheltenham Foxhunter had the opposite profile having been brought up from a point-to-pointing background from the outset. Point-to-pointers yet to run under Rules can win as Rushing Wild and Cappa Bleu have shown but with 24 of the last 25 winners having already won on a park course, it’s not easy for them.

Eight of the last 15 winners contested the previous season’s Foxhunter. Third place has been a curiously good position to finish in the previous year’s Foxhunter as five of those went on to win it in a later year and Oscar Delta, who finished third in both 2011 and 2012, was all set to win in 2013 before losing Jane Mangan with 150 yards left to race. A close-up third last season for the second season running was Barel Of Laughs behind Pacha du Polder and Top Wood who made a bold bid to make all at 50/1, who then won over this C/D in May but he is now aged 13.

The Willoughby De Broke Hunters’ Chase at Warwick has featured three winners since 1998 which is an excellent return when we consider it has been abandoned on six occasions in the last 16 years. In a deeper renewal than usual this season it was the prolific-winning point-to-pointer, Hazel Hill, who was a runaway winner but he has the age stats to defy (except if a previous winner of the race) being an eleven-year-old.

Four of the last nine winners contested the long-standing Stratford Foxhunters’ Champion Hunters’ Chase in the early summer in which Chosen Dream caused a 66/1 upset last season having the Aintree Foxhunter winner and favourite, Balnaslow, back in fourth.

Last-time-out winners have won 24 of the last 33 runnings. They had also recorded five 1-2-3s and a 1-2 in the last ten runnings and in-running punters should take note that six of the last 23 winners made virtually all the running and a 50/1 outsider almost did so last season finishing runner-up, though Top Wood is now aged 12.

At a glance summary

Positives
The youngest of the fancied contenders
From a point-to-point/hunter chasing background as opposed to handicaps
Irish-trained and especially if contested the Punchestown Hunter Chase in February, the Down Royal Hunter Chase on Boxing Day or the Champion Hunter Chase at last season’s Punchestown Festival
Contested Stratford Champion Hunters’ Chase
Ran well in last season’s race
Front runners
Trained by Paul Nicholls
Owned by J P McManus
Negatives
Aged 11+ (except a previous Foxhunter winner)
Not won under Rules
Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2018 Soft 24 Pacha Du Polder 11 12 0 - 34114-3 23 days P Nicholls (69 miles) Miss H C Tucker 25/1 7:17.20
2017 Good 23 Pacha Du Polder 10 12 0 - 56-3341 35 days P Nicholls (69 miles) Bryony Frost 16/1 6:42.90
2016 Good 24 On The Fringe 11 12 0 - 2211-17 41 days E Bolger Ms N Carberry 13/8 6:53.70
2015 Soft 24 On The Fringe 10 12 0 - 23-1122 33 days E Bolger Ms N Carberry 6/1 6:59.70
2014 Good 24 Tammys Hill 9 12 0 - 1-61213 20 days L Lennon Mr J J Smyth 15/2 6:50.60
2013 Soft 23 Salsify 8 12 0 - 1F-1221 34 days R Sweeney Mr C J Sweeney 2/1 7:15.30
2012 Good 22 Salsify 7 12 0 - U-112P1 33 days R Sweeney Mr C J Sweeney 7/1 6:44.40
2011 Good 24 Zemsky 8 12 0 - 211521 30 days I Ferguson Mr D O'Connor 33/1 6:37.10
2010 Good to Soft 24 Baby Run 10 12 0 - 132-121 21 days N Twiston-Davies (1 miles) S Twiston-Davies 9/2 6:56.00
2009 Good to Soft 24 Cappa Bleu 7 12 0 - F21-111 26 days Mrs S Crow (77 miles) Mr R Burton 11/2 6:54.30