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St. James's Palace Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (Class 2)
Foxhunter Chase Betting Tips
Amateur jockeys are the focus of the Foxhunter Chase, held this year on Friday 17th March. Also known as the Amateur Gold Cup, each declared entrant and their amateur rider must take on a distance of three miles two furlongs and 22 fences.
Our tip for the 2017 Foxhunter Chase is On The Fringe, who bids for a record third win in the race for Enda Bolger. Digging in grimly to win the race last year after looking beaten on the turn for home, this twelve year old is all heart and has Jamie Codd to partner him, who has already won two races at the Cheltenham Festival and remains one of the leading amateurs currently riding.
He went on from his second triumph in the Foxhunter Chase to win the equivalent race at Aintree in April in good style and gained another win at Punchestown a few weeks later. He is entitled to improve for his comeback run at Leopardstown last month, running well and going by far the best of the field two out before a lack of race fitness caught up with him. He was weak in the market that day, going off 4/1, and was far from disgraced under a hands and heels only ride. He eventually finished three lengths behind the long odds on favourite Foxrock who skips this race and looks likely to have a live chance in the Grand National off a mark of 147.
The main danger in the field looks set to be the 153 rated Wonderful Charm, with trainer Paul Nicholls having booked Katie Walsh to ride. He has won both his Hunter Chasers comfortably this year, but the form of those races doesn’t look strong and he is zero from five at Cheltenham.
The key Foxhunter Chase Betting trends are as follows:
- 9 of the last 10 Foxhunter Chases have been won by horses between the ages of 7 and 10 years old
- All of the last 10 winners had won over 3 miles, either under rules or in a point-to-point
- 8 of the last 10 winners had run in the 45 days prior to the Cheltenham Festival
- 8 of the last 10 winners had never competed in a handicap chase in their career
- 8 of the last 10 winners were Irish bred; the two exceptions were French and German bred
- 5 of the last 10 winners had contested the Foxhunter Chase in a previous year.
Enda Bolger, widely admired as one of the top cross country trainers, took this race the last two years with On The Fringe – his third race win coming 19 years after his first. A top class jockey booking can make all the difference in an amateur riders race, and Nina Carberry, Colman Sweeney, Sam Twiston-Davies and J.T. McNamara have all won this race within the last ten years.
Trends Analysis: The Foxhunter Chase is a real puzzle given the necessary qualifying conditions; Cappa Bleu was making his first start under rules when winning this race in 2009. Previous three mile experience – as well as previous course experience – are both beneficial. The trends suggest that it is best to stick to up-and-coming point-to-pointers or Hunter Chasers rather than the bigger names who have previously competed in competitive graded handicap chases. Enda Bolger is a trainer to always keep in mind.
Only horses who have met the qualifying conditions since a set period (normally the December before the Festival) are allowed to race. Those are:
- Finished first or second twice in hunter chases; OR
- Won two open point-to-point chases; OR
- Have won one open point-to-point race and finished first or second in a hunter chase.
Winner of the race for the past two years, On The Fringe has been very impressive in this race, no more so than in 2015 when winning by a staggering 17 lengths. Now a 12-year-old, he is showing no signs of slowing down and, despite a far from easy passage, he stormed up the familiar Cheltenham hill to win the race in gritty fashion, going on to capture two more races last season including the Aintree Foxhunters’ Chase and the Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown. Enda Bolger will be going down the same route this season, confirming his reappearance at Leopardstown in February and also dismissing claims that age was taking its toll on this Festival favourite: “We’re not going to change anything from last year. He will go straight to Leopardstown and then we’ll try and to do it all again. We’ve had a good run with him and we’re still trying to get a bit of weight off him. I’m delighted with him. He’s a good age for a hunter. They last if they’re good and he only really has three races a year“. He did indeed return in February when second to Foxrock in that race, not given a hard time with Jamie Codd only pushing him out. He had the exact same preparation for last year’s race and it’s clear to see that he is the class of this field, with conditions to suit and Jamie Codd taking the ride. He looks likely to make history and win the Foxhunter Chase for a record breaking third time.
Finishing like a torpedo in last season’s renewal, Paint The Clouds flew up the hill for Warren Greatrex and had he found his stride sooner it is hard to say whether he would not have won the race. Although soundly beaten by On The Fringe again when they clashed at Punchestown, he regained the winning thread when easily winning the Champion Hunters Chase at Stratford in May. Finishing third in the last two renewals of the race, Greatrex’s 12-year-old seems to love Cheltenham and the stamina test that it poses; if there is a good amount of pace in the race he should be in his element. Ground versatile, although ‘good’ seems to bring out his best, he should be in there fighting again for this season’s renewal. A best price 20/1 seems generous for a horse who saves his best for this race.
Possibly overshadowed by his rider Victoria Pendleton, Pacha Du Polder would almost certainly have challenged for the lead in the race last season if under more experienced handling. Pendleton never used the whip and he was lightly pushed out up the run in, finishing in promising fashion. Showing promise throughout 2016, he still remains with potential at these staying trips and possibly was not suited by the ground on his latest run at Worcester in August. If getting softer ground for the race and being under a more experienced amateur, he would have a good chance on the basis of last season’s run. He stays well so stamina is not a concerning factor and he is likely to be in there pitching towards the finish, so a general 20/1 could be underestimating him.
Paul Nicholls has won this race twice in the past and he has some good ammunition in this, with Wonderful Charm looking like his best hope in this year’s renewal. He returned this season when winning a Hunters’ Chase at Musselburgh in February, cantering to the line and winning hard on the bridle under Will Biddick. On his latest start it was another easy victory in a Hunters’ Chase, comfortably winning at Haydock two weeks later when always in command. It’s not hard to see why he is second favourite with all things in his favour, as he will stay this trip strongly and the ground is just as he needs it. He’s likely to have one of the top amateur riders on board and has to be respected, as this nine year old looks very likely to run a big race for powerful connections.
Unable to qualify for the race last season, Salsify has now done so with some promising runs in Hunter Chases at Gowran and Cork towards the end of last season. Winner of the race in 2012 and 2013 in very fortunate circumstances – with his main rival unseating when leading up the run in – he proved that he has still got races left in him when fourth in the Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown in April ahead of Paint The Clouds. Rodger Sweeney’s 12-year-old is looking to become the only horse in the race’s history to win it three times, and he should not be discounted as he runs well at Cheltenham as evidenced by his two previous wins over C&D. His stamina is assured and he is likely to put up a stern fight, but it has to be a concern that he was pulled up in the 2015 renewal. However, he should be a good Each Way angle for the race at 25/1.
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Do you remember Earthmover’s success in 2004? At 13 years old, Paul Nicholls’s stalwart became the oldest winner since Merry was involved in a dead heat in 1953 when putting four lengths between himself and Never Compromise.
There is unlikely to be a more dramatic finish to the race than in 2013, when Oscar Delta was four lengths clear and maintaining the advantage before jinking on the run in and unseating devastated rider Jane Mangan. That gifted Salsify his second win in the race, becoming the fourth horse to win back-to-back. However, On The Fringe matched that feat when he won the race last season, digging in gamely to recapture his crown after looking in trouble as they turned for home.
Last year’s race will also be synonymous with Victoria Pendleton and Pacha Du Polder, who finished fifth after months of publicity surrounding her ride.