Foxhunters Chase Tips: Side with the Irish raider

The Foxhunters Chase is known as the 'Gold Cup' for amateur riders.
The Foxhunters Chase is known as the 'Gold Cup' for amateur riders.

Toby Corkin previews the Foxhunters Chase at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, which follows the Gold Cup on the final day of the four-day meeting…

Taking place around 40 minutes after the Festival’s blue riband race, the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase is the ‘Gold Cup’ for amateur riders, and they are faced with the exact course and distance as the professionals in the feature.

This race feels particularly wide open, with 34 runners left in at the time of writing, and although the majority of the riders won’t be familiar to the average punter, some equine favourites are set to line up - including the likes of Don Poli and Minella Rocco, who have both placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in years gone by.

The current market leader is Hazel Hill, who landed a gamble when winning this in commanding style 12 months ago for the Phil Rowley team. He’s only had one outing so far this season, and it saw him suffer his first defeat under Rules, being beaten by Minella Rocco at Wetherby in February. He’ll need more to overturn that form here, though it’s worth noting that he had to concede 4 lb to his conqueror that day, and should strip fitter for his reappearance run. History is on his side in his follow-up bid, too, considering that  both On The Fringe and Pacha Du Polder have completed doubles in this race of late, and he’ll have a favourite’s chance.

Minella Rocco has rather lost his way since his excellent effort to finish second to Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup, though he’s been reignited by the switch to this sphere, winning both of his starts so far. He deserves plenty of respect arriving here on the back of taking the scalp of Hazel Hill, though this big-field scenario will ask something more of him, and his lack of consistency over the past couple of years is a big worry.  

One trainer with a strong hand is Rose Loxton, who sends both Caid Du Berlais and last year’s runner up, Shantou Flyer. The former ran no sort of race in this last year, but bounced back to win the Punchestown equivalent last May, and although he’d have strong claims on his best form, it’s worth noting that he’s disappointed in four of his last five starts at the Festival. Shantou Flyer has an excellent record at Cheltenham, and he warmed up for this with a bloodless success at Fakenham last month. He has strong claims for this, as does another owned by David Maxwell, Bob And Co. The nine-year-old has won two of his three starts since switching from France, and it will be interesting to see who Maxwell opts to ride should both take their chance - bearing in mind that he proved a troublesome ride for his jockey when pulled-up on his British debut at Warwick in January. 

Like Bob And Co, another who will represent the Paul Nicholls team is Alcala. The 10-year-old was a faller on his first start in this sphere at Ludlow in January, but he quickly bounced back from that by winning in attritional conditions at Haydock the following month. He was forced to run twice in eight days in order to qualify for this, however, having a hard race when quickly turned back out at Fontwell - finishing second - and this could come a touch too soon. Meanwhile, Don Poli hasn’t been seen under Rules since being pulled-up last May, and although he’s won a couple of point-to-points since, this is far tougher. 

The most interesting option could well prove to be the Irish raider Billaway, who represents the Willie Mullins team. He will likely be ridden by the excellent amateur Patrick Mullins, and the pair teamed up to good effect at Naas last time out, winning a strong-looking contest in good style. He defeated several notable types that day, including the 2018 Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf, and bearing in mind that he’s particularly youthful for this kind of sphere, there could be plenty more to come from him yet - with the extra two furlongs likely to play into his hands. 

Selection

St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 13th March 2020 - back Billaway at 6/1 NRNB

Foxhunters Chase
Billaway silk

Billaway

placed

Represents the Willie Mullins team, and he will likely be ridden by the excellent amateur Patrick Mullins. The pair teamed up to good effect at Naas last time out, winning a strong-looking contest in good style. He defeated several notable types that day, including the 2018 Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf, and bearing in mind that he’s particularly youthful for this kind of sphere, there could be plenty more to come from him yet - with the extra two furlongs likely to play into his hands. 

The Cheltenham Festival
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