St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase Betting Tips & Predictions – Cheltenham, Friday 15th March 2019

The course and distance are the same, and whilst the class of runner and prize money may be a notch or two below that of the Gold Cup, for the amateur riders taking part, this means just as much. The highlight of the season for these jockeys is always a big field affair which makes for a cracking spectacle and betting heat.

A competitive renewal once again, but overall we fancy the market may have this right and see the green and gold silks of JP McManus coming home in front once again.

Top Tips

Stand Up And Fight to win @ 4/1

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

Run over the Gold Cup trip of 3m2 ½f, this Class 2 contest offers the amateur riders the chance to race for £45,000 in total prize money, with the ground expected to be good to soft on the day.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good to Soft 3m2½f Class 2 £45,000 24 Runners 1/4 1-4

Recent Winners

This is one of the Festival’s toughest races to weigh up from a trends perspective. With winners fairly evenly spread between the ages of seven and 11 over the past decade, there doesn’t appear to be any angle in this regard, other than perhaps ruling out the very oldest runners in the field.

The other piece of advice would be to stick to the upper echelon amongst the amateur riders as they do tend to get first choice of rides. Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor in particular are two names to note.

2018 Pacha Du Polder 25/1 Paul Nicholls Miss Harriet Tucker
2017 Pacha Du Polder 16/1 Paul Nicholls Bryony Frost
2016 On The Fringe 13/8 Enda Bolger Nina Carberry
2015 On The Fringe 6/1 Enda Bolger Nina Carberry
2014 Tammys Hill 15/2 Liam Lennon Mr J J Smyth

Analysis: Bolger Runner Up To The Task

There are a handful or runners who have claimed this prize on two separate occasions – including three in the past 10 years. Until now though no horse has managed to land a hat-trick of successes in the race. 2017 and 2018 champ Pacha Du Polder therefore goes for a place in the history books in this year’s edition. At 12 years of age now though does he really have one last big day in him?

O’Connor To Fight Off His Rivals?

Enda Bolger has landed this race three times in the past and sends out the clear favourite this year in the form of the seven year old, Stand Up And Fight. Going in the green and gold of JP McManus – who is already enjoying an excellent week – it’s easy to see why punters have latched onto the chances of this one. A comfortable success in a Hunter Chase at Down Royal in December suggested that this race may well be the ultimate destination, and in Derek O’Connor he certainly has the right man in the saddle. On the downside he was turned over in a Point To Point last time out.

Hazel To Come Up The Hill Best Of All

Amongst those who have primarily plied their trade in the point to point sphere, one who really catches the eye is the Philip Rowley-trained Hazel Hill. By Milan this one is amongst the most attractively bred in the field and certainly knows how to win. 11 from 16 in the Point To Point Sphere, the 11 year old is a perfect three from three under rules. Having hacked up by a combined 23 lengths in his two starts so far this season, he arrives right at the top of his game and looks likely to go well.

Conti The Class Act?

Gordon Elliott took a little time to warm up this year but has certainly found his stride now and looks to boast strong claims in this one in the form of Ucello Conti. Good enough to run in the past two Grand Nationals – albeit unseating each time – he’s a perfect three from three this season and warmed up for this with an effortless success at Navan last time out. Jamie Codd is one of the top amateurs in the game and takes the ride.

Final Verdict: Stand Up And Fight To Win

We like the chances of Stand Up And Fight here. Already having shown a fair level of form, as a seven year old he has far more scope for improvement than the majority of his rivals and goes for a man who knows how to win this.

About the Foxhunter Chase: The Amateurs Tackle the Gold Cup Fences

Horse Jumping Fence at Cheltenham
Steven Jones, flickr

The Cheltenham Festival is exactly as one might imagine – a true festival of horse racing. All aspects of National Hunt racing are celebrated including the tradition of allowing amateur jockeys to race against each other.

That is the case with the Foxhunter Chase which is a massive opportunity for amateur riders to grab the headlines at Prestbury Park.

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

Amateur jockeys always view the chance to ride in the Foxhunter Chase as a real honour as it is the race that that immediately follows the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for many the biggest race of the entire season. Moreover, the Foxhunter Chase is run over the exact same distance of three miles and two and a half furlongs and over the same 22 fences.

The chance to see another race over the world famous New Course at Cheltenham ending with that daunting climb up the hill guarantees the crowds hang around to watch the Foxhunter Chase. It also demands a lot from the runners and riders.

Before we get into what it takes physically to win the Foxhunter Chase it’s worth pointing out the mental toll that running at the Cheltenham Festival exacts on the horses.

They are the real stars of the show and get a lot of attention as soon as they arrive at Prestbury Park. It is understandable that some of them will react badly to the crowds and the noise and fail to give their best, especially if they have an inexperienced jockey on board. Punters would be advised to have a look at the character of the competitors before parting with any of their hard earned.

A Race for Specialists

The championship races at Cheltenham basically come down to class. There are specific characteristics needed to win them but each is designed to decide who is the best horse in a particular division. It’s not quite as straightforward with the Foxhunter Chase.

The trainers who send their horses to the Foxhunter Chase have normally come to the conclusion that they have done all they can in handicaps after either succeeding or failing to make an impact amongst graded company. Additionally, many Irish horses who developed a formidable point-to-point record at home have gone on to do well.

The British Horseracing Authority became concerned that the reputation of the hunter chases in general and the Foxhunter Chase was being diminished as big name trainers had begun dropping in horses capable of competing at a higher level into the field. So, they introduced changes in 2018 mandating that horses who contest hunter chases for licensed trainers were subsequently only able to run in hunter chases for the remainder of the season.

Those changes were broadly welcomed, especially by the many people in horse racing who hold hunter chasing close to their heart. It hasn’t stopped the biggest trainers from entering horses into the Foxhunter Chase but should maintain the competitiveness of a race which has a reputation for providing thrilling finishes.

Capitalise on the Recent Trend of Multiple Winners

The qualifying criteria for the Foxhunter Chase demands that horses must have finished in the top two twice in hunter chases or have won at least two point-to-points. This only serves to hammer home the idea that this is a race for specialist hunter chasers as does the recent trend of multiple winners.

Since its introduction to Cheltenham in 1904 a handful of horses have won the Foxhunter Chase twice. So far, no horse has won it three times but that could change as multiple winners are becoming increasingly common. Below is a table showing the two time winners, including three such horses between the 2012 and 2018 editions.

Double Foxhunter Chase Winners

HorseFirst WinSecond Win
Pacha du Polder 2017 2018
On The Fringe 2015 2016
Salsify 2012 2013
Earthmover 1998 2004
Fantus 1995 1997
Double Silk 1993 1994
College Master 1961 1962
Whinstone Hill 1958 1960
The Callant 1956 1957

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