All you need to know about the St James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders) at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 15.
There was plenty of drama in last year's running
When and where can I watch the Foxhunter Chase? 4.10pm, Cheltenham Racecourse, Friday, March 15, live in stunning HD on Racing TV, Sky Channel 426, or at Racinguk.com/videos.
Which Grade? Class 2 Open Hunters’ Chase.
Which course is it staged on? New Course.
What distance? 3m 2½f (22 fences). How much prize-money? £45,000.
Ages: For 5yo +. Weights & Allowances: 12st. Allowances – Mares 7lb.
Sponsor: St. James’s Place Fund Management.
Key Statistics and Trends:
Only four of the last 29 winners were aged older than ten - (Cavalero 2000, Earthmover 2004, On The Fringe 2016 and Pacha Du Polder last year).
Irish trainers have won eight of the past 11 renewals.
Eight of the past 10 winners had won at least two races under Rules. Course form may not be so important as only three of the last 13 winners had previously won at Prestbury Park. It is important to not have too many miles on the clock as all of the last 16 winners had run no more than four times that season.
Cheltenham's hill is a punishing one so stamina is key. For instance, ten of the last 11 winners had previously won over at least three miles. The classier individual tends to win, with ten of the last 13 winners having an official rating of 125 or higher.
The Foxhunter Chase is one of the oldest races at the Festival. It is now the richest and most prestigious hunter chase of the season, worth £45,000. Christie’s, the international auctioneers and valuation experts, backed the race for 34 years until 2012.
Since 1946, ninet horses have won the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase twice, although no horse has won the race three times. Pacha Du Polder seek history this year.
The St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase is the only race at The Festival open to trainers who are not full-time professionals or hold a permit to train their family’s horses.
Richard Barber, brother of Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning owner Paul, has been the leading trainer with four wins – Rushing Wild (1992), Fantus (1995 and 1997) and Earthmover (1998). Paul Nicholls trained Earthmover to his second victory in 2004.
The race is one of three races exclusively for amateur riders at The Festival – the others being the National Hunt Chase and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase.
Caroline Beasley became the first female rider to win a race at The Festival when successful on Eliogarty in the 1983 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase. Since then the race has been won seven more times by women.
Last six winners and closing stages:
2018 – Pacha Du Polder:
Harriet Tucker performed an amazing feat in the saddle as she overcame a dislocated shoulder to guide Pacha Du Polder to a repeat success.
The 11-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, jumped into the lead at the final fence, but Tucker - who was having just her second ride under Rules - appeared in some trouble up the run-in and she confirmed on dismounting she had been forced to pop her shoulder back into place at the same time as striving for victory.
Long-time leader Top Wood rallied close home, but Pacha Du Polder would not be denied as he stuck on stoutly to score by a neck.
Barrel Of Laughs and Cousin Pete dead-heated for third place, three and a quarter lengths away.
Tucker said: "My shoulder half-dislocates sometimes when I reach it too high and coming up to the second-last, it half-dislocated and I couldn't push it back in, so I couldn't slap him down the shoulder to get him to go forward.
"I was pushing and praying that no one was going to beat me because I couldn't hit him any more with my right hand, so I just had to keep pushing and screaming at him and he just got there."
2017 – Pacha Du Polder:
Pacha Du Polder was given a bit too much to do by cyclist Victoria Pendleton a year earlier but, with stamina for the trip assured, the ten-year-old was ridden closer to the pace by Bryony Frost in 2017.
In front at the last, the pair toughed it out up the hill to edge out stablemate Wonderful Charm in a thrilling result for trainer Paul Nicholls, who said afterwards:
“It was a huge relief to have a brilliant one-two and it must have given young Bryony (Frost) an amazing buzz to give him a ride like that.
“I kept saying to myself that after his great effort last year he could win this, and Bryony has given the horse a wonderful ride.”
2016 – On The Fringe:
Nina Carberry and Enda Bolger teamed up for the second year running to land the Foxhunter Chase with On The Fringe, who was sent off the well-backed 13-8 favourite.
It looked far from certain that he was going to justify his market position two out, where he was under a drive with around four/five lengths to find on the leader but he made the ground up quickly and jumped to the front over the last before staying on strongly to complete back-to-back successes.
Much of the pre-race hype had centred around Victoria Pendleton and Pacha Du Polder, who stayed on well from off the pace to finish fifth. The delighted winning trainer Enda Bolger said afterwards:
“It’s exciting, and it’s got a bit of everything – we’re not only clapping Nina on the back, but Victoria also. It was a brilliant performance by both women and it gives the [St James’s Place] Foxhunter Chase a great lift.”
2015 – On The Fringe:[(full)Watch Replay](
The 2015 renewal was turned into a complete procession by On The Fringe, who cantered all over his rivals before he stormed up the Cheltenham hill to post a sensational 17-length success.
Fourth in 2011 and third in 2014, he was a horse with a renewed confidence and his jumping was a joy to behold when on song. Winning rider Nina Carberry said:
“He was properly right today. Last year there was something wrong with him and he finished very tired. I always knew he’d be able to stay and I was disappointed last year, but Enda (Bolger, who trained him) had him spot-on today.
“The start was a bit messy. It’s hard – everyone wants to get a good break.”
This success was the first leg of a brilliant Spring treble as he went on to score readily at Aintree the following month and Punchestown in May. He was head and shoulders the best Hunter Chaser in training at that time.
2014 – Tammys Hill:[(full)Watch Replay](
Tammys Hill had been re-routed to Cheltenham when the ground began to dry out, having been earmarked originally for the Ulster National at Downpatrick.
He bounced off the ground and had still to be asked for maximum effort approaching the last where he edged to his left. Once James Smyth got into the drive position, however, the nine-year-old responded gamely and surged ahead to win by an emphatic three-and-a-quarter lengths at the line.
“He jumped to the front at the top of the hill and I took a hold of him coming down to the last three – he won the race anyway," Smyth said.
"He got in close but got himself out of trouble and did everything good. He went long when I needed him like a good horse does.
“It couldn’t get much better than this. I am happy enough riding around Cheltenham, never mind winning.”
Tammys Hill had won the Raymond Smith Memorial at Leopardstown the previous month which was traditionally a good guide to this contest, but further success was thin on the ground, with just a short-head handicap hurdle victory to show from four subsequent runs after his big day in the sun at Cheltenham.
2013 – Salsify:
Salsify became the first back-to-back winner of this race since Double Silk in 1994 when running out a 20-length winner in 2013, but that is only half the story.
It turned into such an attritional contest that, remarkably, only four of the 23 runners completed the course and the race looked set to go Oscar Delta's way until he hit the rail and unseated Jane Mangan after the last, leaving Salsify, who was around two lengths down at the time, clear to run out a fortunate winner.
It was the most dramatic of contests and winning jockey Colman Sweeney thought his chance was gone going over the last. He said:
"I wouldn't have got there. He can be very, very keen. I dropped him right out and when I jumped into it he started taking me there. What this fella does is he rallies, and he stays.”
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