Foxhunter Challenge Cup Date is March, 13, 2020
Type: National Hunt Chase (3 miles 2 furlongs)
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One of the grand old races of the Cheltenham Festival, the St James’ Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup is run on the day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival 2020, Friday March 13th at 4.10PM and holds a special place in the hearts and minds of punters and horsemen alike.
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Foxhunter Challenge Cup 2020 Preview & Tips
Preview By Frank Monkhouse
Former professional boxer who is now a content writer specialising in sports and betting. Has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Coral and Betfair covering all manner of sports, from boxing and football to horse racing. A student of the formbook, he loved stats, trends, numbers and how they can guide punters towards a winner.
The race was, and is, known under many names such as the Foxhunters Chase or, because of the fact that it is run over the same course and distance as the Gold Cup but is for amateur jockeys only, the Amateur Gold Cup.
That course and distance is an extended three miles and two furlongs around the New Course with 22 fences to clear, this year’s event being worth £45,000.
Qualification for this race is a little more convoluted than for other Festival events. Being that this is a hunters’ chase, runners must have won at least two open point-to-point races, finished first or second in another hunters’ chase or have won one point-to-point and finished in the first two of one hunters’ chase with all contenders required to be five years of age or older.
Antepost Key Runners & Favourites
As is the case with many Festival races, it is a little early to get a firm commitment from bookmakers regarding Cheltenham 2020 ante post betting, or for that matter from trainers regarding who may be aimed at the race but there are a few well established markets out there already.
Given what information we have on those who could qualify, we’ve been able to whittle our possible runners down to four quality horses to form a shortlist with one in particular looking worthy of a small ante post bet.
Many of the potential runners appear to be capable of running at a very similar level these days, given that some seem not to like this track which makes it hard to separate the likes of Top Wood, Bob And Co, Stand Up and Fight, Caid Du Berlais, Caryto Des Brosses and Kruzhlinin.
The first to stand out a little for us however was the most obvious one; last year’s winner Hazel Hill. In races of this nature last year’s form is a very reliable indicator of what to expect this time around and in Hazel Hill we have a horse who simply loves it here.
Philip Rowley’s gelding had a fantastic hunter chase and point-to-point season last time around and arrived for the 2019 Foxhunters as the favourite. Having had a dream trip, he went clear at the death to win this race before following up over the same course and distance in early May and we’d be hard pressed to find a reason why he wouldn’t love the conditions of this event once again.
At a bigger price Patrick Kelly’s Mall Dini is worth considering. Second in the 2018 Kim Muir at the Festival, he skipped the meeting last year but having been off the track since last May he could come here very fresh and certainly in with a shout.
He is at an age and stage in his career now where this looks ideal for him, and he has the sort of trainer who will know how to prepare him for the event somewhat under the radar, so if Mall Dini does take part and there is strong money for him in the build-up to the race you should certainly take note.
Road To Rome
Having reached a career high at the age of 9 when winning a hunters’ chase last February, Road To Rome came into the Foxhunters with a live chance and went off no bigger than 7/1 on the day. Joseph O’Shea’s runner duly finished fourth, but was beaten some 15 lengths having set a very strong pace before tiring out of the race.
Given his overall profile it seems we have not seen the best of him yet in this sphere, so should he be allowed to bowl along in front but set lighter fractions, he’ll have a lot more left in the tank for the business end of the race and could at least get much closer to Hazel Hill this time who does not necessarily have time on his side.
The most interesting contender is Richard Hobson’s Shantou Flyer, runner-up last year to Hazel Hill. Having had a wind operation last January, he was actually a strong favourite to beat last year’s winner in a race at Warwick but was clearly in need of the run that day.
He won easily on his next two outings, progressing hugely each time, before apparently running out of puff a little having tracked the strong pace set by Road To Rome at Cheltenham and succumbing to Hazel Hill by four lengths.
If sitting a little further back from the pace this time we could see further progression from the ten-year-old and all things considered you’d be a brave man to claim positively that he couldn’t now get to Hazel Hill, making him a great early shout for this race.
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Stats & Trends
None of the current crop of amateur jockeys can claim to have come close to dominating this race, as while the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies and Bryony Frost are still around they have long since moved on and up to the professional ranks.
The most successful trainer in the Foxhunters is also still kicking about though and that is Paul Nicholls, the Ditcheat handler having taken this four times between 2004 and 2018 and it’s possible he’ll be back with one or two contenders in 2020.
Aside from the trainer and jockeys we can of course use the profiles of previous winners themselves to help us pick out any trends, these areas perhaps being the ones to concentrate on:
This Season’s Form
This is a tricky one, as the form numbers given above will include point-to-point races but you won’t always have that information available, making it look on paper as though a lot of the Foxhunters contenders have not been racing when in fact they will be race-fit.
9 of the last ten winners of this race were placed last time out which is important, while all ten were placed last time out or the time before showing that horses in this sphere simply don’t show up in bad form and take this event.
While a few slightly younger animals took the race in the early 2010’s, six out of the last 10 winners have been aged 10 or 11 and that seems to be ideal for this race, lending even more credence to the fact we think Shantou Flyer may usurp the now 12-year-old Hazel Hill.
While form needs to be strong as we’ve discovered, this doesn’t always shine through in the SP’s with winners coming at all sorts of prices from 13/8 favourite right up to 33/1. If we’re right that those aged 10-11 will have an advantage though, then the average SP of winners of that age is a little more settled at just over 9/1.
Older horses may well be juicy prices as bookmakers will be convinced that something younger can overtake them, but a good 10 or 11-year-old who is in strong form and is around 5/1+ in the market should be kept on side.
Foxhunters Chase Tips
With the exception of potential joker in the pack Mall Dini, we’re confident that last year’s Foxhunters form is the angle to concentrate on here when picking out Foxhunters Chase 2020 tips.
Hazel Hill was the rightful winner and a most impressive one who went on to back up that performance with another hunters’ chase win over the course and distance so he appears to be the correct favourite on paper at this early stage, though he definitely seems vulnerable to old rivals now.
Pace-setter Road To Rome was too free last year and may well be successfully reigned in now giving him a better chance, but around this track he’d still be a sitting duck and so we cannot forget that in tracking him the improving SHANTOU FLYER lost a lot of gas that day too.
With another year under his belt, some more sensible fractions being set and considering he was very much considered better than Hazel Hill a year ago, the 16/1 available about Shantou Flyer versus the 7/1 on Hazel Hill looks tempting and at this early stage he’d be the one to be on for us.
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Ante Post Bet: SHANTOU FLYER
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Offers
We’ll never get tired of pointing out that the 2019 bookmaker offers, especially for new customers, were huge and offered massive bonuses or money-back deals for punters that even managed to make an impact on the gambling industry as a whole.
Upon producing their reports, the Gambling Commission even declared these deals during Cheltenham week as a reason the overall gambling yield was down year-on-year in 2019 but with more and more competition being added in the bookie ranks, firms will still be fighting each other for our business and that’s what we like to see!
We hope that the major firms will at least regurgitate some of the great offers from last time year when the 2020 Festival rolls around, including Coral’s non-runner money back special on all Cheltenham races and Paddy Power’s Cheltenham special of a £20 risk free bet with money back in cash if your horse loses for new accounts only.
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Foxhunters Chase Betting Guide
At this point, the ante post market is open to a lot of change but given the type of horses involved it remains one of the steadier ones to bet on, Hazel Hill unsurprisingly being the one for money right now with over 37% online bets going his way.
As we get closer to the off however these markets will fluctuate so be sure to get on to your horse before the prices begin to crash, especially with a ‘non-runner, no bet’ deal if you can find one to give yourself some extra insurance.
When the official declarations are made for the Foxhunters on Wednesday March 11th, we will then know the final field, the likely ground conditions and crucially our each-way terms meaning we can pick out a much more solid final bet in a race that is bound to give us a very fair shout at grabbing a nice Cheltenham winner.
Past Foxhunters Chase Winners
Last year, Hazel Hill was a rather typical Foxhunters Chase winner in many respects, here’s where he sits among the last ten to take the event:
|2019||Hazel Hill||111||11||7/2f||Alex Edwards||Philip Rowley|
|2018||Pacha Du Polder||3||11||25/1||Harriet Tucker||Paul Nicholls|
|2017||Pacha Du Polder||341||10||16/1||Bryony Frost||Paul Nicholls|
|2016||On The Fringe||17||11||13/8f||Nina Carberry||Enda Bolger|
|2015||On The Fringe||22||10||6/1||Nina Carberry||Enda Bolger|
|2014||Tammys Hill||1213||9||15/2||James Smyth||Liam Lennon|
|2013||Salsify||1221||8||2/1f||Colman Sweeney||Roger Sweeney|
|2012||Salsify||2P1||7||7/1||Colman Sweeney||Roger Sweeney|
|2011||Zemsky||11521||8||33/1||Derek O’Connor||Ian Ferguson|
|2010||Baby Run||1||10||9/2jf||Sam Twiston-Davies||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
What Happened in 2019?
Despite challenges emerging left, right and centre, it was the strong form coming into the race of Hazel Hill that held sway in the market for the 2019 edition of this race, Philip Rowley’s contender being backed from 9/2 down to 7/2 favourite just before the off.
He subsequently went on to justify those odds, giving his many backers very few moments of worry as he jumped well for the full three-and-a-quarter mile trip and pulling clear by four lengths at the death to give his trainer a massive Cheltenham Festival success.