Foxhunter Chase Tips - 4:10pm Cheltenham

2020 Foxhunter Challenge Cup Hunters’ Chase Preview

One of the more traditional races ran at the Festival, the Foxhunter Chase was established in 1904. The race always follows the Gold Cup and is run over the same course and distance and is the richest race of its type during the National Hunt season.

The Foxhunter Chase has a habit of providing reoccurring winners, so much so that it has happened three times since 2012. Salsify, On The Fringe and Pacha Du Polder have all won it two years in succession. It’s now up to Hazel Hill to do likewise after his superb performance last year.

Hazel Hill is a 12yo now and you have to go back to 2004 and Earthmover to find a winner over the age of eleven although double figures is not uncommon. He won his two prep races last season on the way to Festival glory but this season things haven’t been as straight forward.

He started off well enough by winning a weak race at Sheriff Hutton by 15 lengths, he took it up two out that day and steadily drew clear. Next time out he went to Wetherby and bumped into Minella Rocco on a going day. It was a steadily run race and couldn’t cope with the finishing burst of Minella Rocco and went down by a length and a half.

Connections were a little concerned as he continually jumped out to his right that day and he certainly wasn’t the same horse that won here 12 months ago. As far as fitness was concerned the trainer said he had something to work on and wasn’t duly worried about the defeat here and would be spot on for the Festival.

Minella Rocco’s victory probably saved him from early retirement, prior to this season he had been in shocking form, a million miles away from his superb runners up spot in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Sizing John in 2017. They have tried everything and even ran in the Grand National to give him something different to focus on.

He pulled up in four races on the bounce and as a last throw of the dice went down the Hunter Chase route. He started off in a four runner affair at Warwick where the favourite Bob And Co ran away with his jockey and left an open goal for Minella Rocco, which he duly took advantage of. That was his first success since winning the National Hunt Chase here in 2016!

He then went on to beat Hazel Hill and now is firmly got his sights back on the Festival trail. Obviously on his best form he has a terrific chance but there have been soft races he has contested this season and this will be a very different kettle of fish.

City trader David Maxwell has Shantou Flyer in his camp and he ran a terrific race twelve months ago to finish second behind Hazel Hill. He stayed on late that day and never really threatened the winner. This season he warmed up with a win at Larkhill and then went to Fakenham and bolted up by 23 lengths. He has always been the number one choice for the owner/rider and he should be thereabouts.

The Irish are led by the Willie Mullins trained Billaway who is only an 8yo. He was second at Down Royal on Boxing Day behind Dylrow in a very competitive race which included Edwulf, Ucello Conti, Burning Ambition, Black Hercules and a few others.

That was a decent performance and has since followed up with a victory at Naas and reversed form with Dylrow while he was at it. That victory has just about put him to the top of the Irish challengers.

Enda Bolger has a decent record with Hunters and Cross Country horses and he saddles Staker Wallace for owner JP McManus. He was second to Billaway at Naas in January and has since won a point at Nenagh by an easy three lengths. He needs to improve to beat Billaway but has to be given a chance.

Last years third Top Wood will be back for more, he went and won at Aintree over the National fences last April, beating Burning Ambition. This season he has been tackling regulation chases and was 2nd at Ascot in November and then only 6th in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock.

Trainer Rose Loxton has a decent string of pointers and will be hoping she gets a better run this year from her grey Caid Du Berlais. He was never at the races in this race twelve months ago but then went to Punchestown and bolted up by 28 lengths. The ground was the reason for the improvement so he will hoping the conditions suit this year. He won his prep race without much fuss and Will Biddick will ride.

An interesting runner this year is the ex-Gigginstown horse Don Poli, he was bought by owner Darren Yates to run in the Grand National last season and was trained by Phil Kirby. He was then switched to join Dan Skelton and a plan was hatched to get him qualified for this race rather than go down the usual chase route where he would be badly handicapped most of the time.

He has won his two points, both at Alnwick and has been under the banner of trainer Nick Pearce who works as an assistant to Dan Skelton and looks after the pointers on the side. He has looked pretty good and now it’s all down to the horse and see how much of his old ability he retains.

Punters Lounge Tip: Shantou Flyer 9/2 at bet365 - Click Here To Bet
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Foxhunter Chase Trends
Foxhunter Chase Previous Winners
Year WinnerAge JockeyTrainerSP
2019Hazel Hill11Alex EdwardsPhilip Rowley7/2
2018Pacha Du Polder11Harriet TuckerPaul Nicholls25/1
2017Pacha Du Polder10Bryony FrostPaul Nicholls16/1
2016On The Fringe11Nina CarberryEnda Bolger13/8
2015On The Fringe10Nina CarberryEnda Bolger6/1
2014Tammys Hill9James SmythLiam Lennon15/2
2013Salsify8Colman SweeneyRoger Sweeney2/1
2012Salsify7Colman SweeneyRoger Sweeney7/1
2011Zemsky8Derek O'ConnorIan Ferguson33/1
2010Baby Run10Sam Twiston-DaviesNigel Twiston-Davies9/2
2009Cappa Bleu7Richard BurtonSheila Crow11/2

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