10th - 13th March

16:10 Cheltenham 13 Mar 2020

St. James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase

Class 2 | 5YO plus

Winner £26,685 - 21 ran

3m 2f 70y

Good to Soft (Soft in places)

Draw Advantage: None

Last year’s race

Hazel Hil
  • Winner: Hazel Hill
  • Jockey: Mr A Edwards
  • Trainer: Phillip Rowley
  • Owner: Mrs D Williams
  • Age: 11 Weight: 12st 0lbs
  • Starting Price: 7/2
  • Season Form Figures: 11
  • Previous Best: 1st - Open Hunters' Chase, Warwick (Jan 2019)

By Paul Jones

The stranglehold that the Irish held on the Foxhunter came to an end three 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 this season Bob And Co looks his most interesting contender if declared (could wait for Aintree). Alcala looks a more likely runner for him at present

The Champion Hunters’ Chase at the previous spring’s Punchestown Festival won by Caid Du Berlais for the last two years has featured six of the last 13 winners which is now Ireland’s best guide. Also note the hunter chase at Down Royal on Boxing Day in which Dylrow beat Billaway (won a better hunter chase since reversing places with the winner) as horses to finish in the first two in that race have come on to win here four years running up until 2017.

Minella Rocco or Staker Wallace could attempt to give J P McManus a fifth Foxhunters’ winner. However, whereas 13 of the last 18 winners of the Aintree Foxhunter’ were ex-handicappers (or better) who had their attentions turned to hunter chasing, 26 of the last 31 winners of Cheltenham Foxhunter had the opposite profile having been brought up from a point-to-pointing background from the outset. Minella Rocco did start off by winning a point-to-point but obviously he is much better known for his career at the highest level.

Point-to-pointers yet to run under Rules can win as Rushing Wild and Cappa Bleu have shown but with 25 of the last 26 winners having already won on a park course, it’s not easy for them.

26 of the last 31 winners of Cheltenham Foxhunter had the have been brought up from a point-to-pointing background from the outset.

Those who like to latch onto the youngest of the most-fancied contenders got their fingers burnt supporting Stand Up And Fight last season. However, 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 five times in the last 29 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. Hazel Hill will try to become the next now being aged 12 after his 4l success over Shantou Flyer last season.

Eight of the last 16 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. Top Wood finished third last season after finishing second in 2018 but he is now aged 13.

The Willoughby De Broke Hunters’ Chase at Warwick has featured four winners since 1998 which is an excellent return when we consider it has been abandoned on six occasions in the last 17 years. Minella Rocco took this season’s race taking advantage of Bob And Co proving to be uncontrollable on his British debut. Both have won since, in fact Minella Rocco took advantage of Hazel Hill jumping badly out to his left when beating him at Wetherby.

Four of the last ten winners contested the long-standing Stratford Foxhunters’ Champion Hunters’ Chase in the early summer in which Wonderful Charm beat Caryto Des Brosses.

Last-time-out winners have won 25 of the last 34 runnings. They have also recorded five 1-2-3s and two 1-2s in the last 11 runnings and in-running punters should take note that six of the last 24 winners made virtually all the running and a 50/1 outsider almost did so in 2018.

At a glance summary

The youngest of the fancied contenders
From a point-to-point/hunter chasing background as opposed to handicaps
Contested the Down Royal Hunter Chase on Boxing Day or the Champion Hunter Chase at last season’s Punchestown Festival
Contested the Willoughby de Broke Hunters’ Chase
Ran well in last season’s race
Front runners
Trained by Paul Nicholls
Owned by J P McManus
Aged 11+ (except a previous Foxhunter winner)
Not won under Rules

Previous Winners

Year Winner Trainer Jockey Age/Wt SP
2019Hazel HillPhillip RowleyMr A Edwards11 12-07/2
2018Pacha Du PolderP F NichollsMiss H C Tucker11 12-025/1
2017Pacha Du PolderP F NichollsBryony Frost10 12-016/1
2016On The FringeE BolgerMs N Carberry11 12-013/8f
2015On The FringeE BolgerMs N Carberry10 12-06/1
2014Tammys HillL LennonMr J J Smyth9 12-015/2
2013SalsifyR SweeneyMr C J Sweeney8 12-02/1f
2012SalsifyR SweeneyMr C J Sweeney7 12-07/1
2011ZemskyI R FergusonMr Derek O'Connor8 12-033/1
2010 Baby Run N A Twiston-Davies S Twiston-Davies 10 12-0 9/2jf
2009 Cappa Bleu Mrs Edward Crow Mr R Burton 7 12-0 11/2
2008 Amicelli Mrs C Coward Mr O Greenall 9 12-0 33/1
2007 Drombeag J O'Neill Mr J T McNamara 9 12-0 20-1
2006 Whyso Mayo R Hurley Mr D Murphy 9 12-0 20-1
2005 Sleeping Night P F Nicholls Mr C J Sweeney 9 12-0 7-2f
2004 Earthmover P F Nicholls Miss A Goschen 13 12-0 14-1
2003 Kingscliff Mrs S Alner Mr R Young 6 12-0 11-4f
2002 Last Option R Tate Mrs F Needham 10 12-0 20-1
2001 No Race
2000 Cavalero H J Manners Mr A Charles-Jones 11 12-0 16-1
1999 Castle Mane Mrs C Bailey Mr B Pollock 7 12-0 9-2
1998 Earthmover R Barber Mr J Tizzard 7 12-0 3-1
1997 Fantus R Barber Mr T Mitchell 10 12-0 10-1

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