• St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeplechase

    The last six winners were aged 10 or 11.

    Since 2004, two of the three winners aged 11 went off as SP favourite.

    Since 2005 only Pacha Du Polder won from the ex handicappers rated 140+ at peak

    Five of the six winners aged over 10 yrs old were already course winners

    Nine of the last eleven BHA rated 134.

    11 of the last 13 finished in the first three last time.

    Six of the last seven different winners had run in at least 12 chases under rules

    This century only four jockeys have won this who would normally claim the full 7lbs

    No first-time winner since 2005 had already won over the trip

    Six of the last 11 finished in the first five in the previous years race

    Both Jamie Codd and Patrick Mullins have yet to win this

    Summary

    Race Distance - 3 miles and abt two and a half furlongs. The Gold Cup for Amateurs. All carry 12 stone. Mares get 7lb allowance. Love this race, going back to the great Spartan Missile in 1979.

     

    10 yrs or older. If 11 plus, strong in the market. Won't be 8 or less unless strongly fancied. Has not won over 3 miles 2 and 1/2 furlongs unless this race. Has won on a UK or IRE NH Course. May not have won last time but likely to have finished in the first three. If given the opportunity, has previously won a hunter chase. Has run at least in 12 chases under rules or unbeaten in hunter chases. If given the opportunity, has a previous course win or Festival/Graded placed form. Last run between 12 and 53 days ago. Likely to be professionally trained. Any price. Don't worry if selection attempts to make all. Down Royal/Naas/Raymond Smith Chase form has been overlooked in the past however the Irish trained favourite can be very much overbet. No horse has won this three times. Not blinkered. Be careful of previous 'class acts' from the handicap ranks. Check the first five home in last years race. Winning jockey does not normally claim 7lb. Usually female.

     

     

    For all you need to know about Irish Point to Points make sure to go to the excellent www.p2p.ie

     

    BHA - Due to COVID Amateur Jockeys not allowed to ride in UK from 22nd January. Mot 'elite' sport.

     

    Announced 18th January - Race conditions have up to now required horses to have either finished in the first two in a hunters’ steeple chase on two occasions or won two open point-to-point races, or one of each, within the previous two-and-a-half years.
    A condition has been added for this year only to allow horses who finish in the first four on two occasions in a hunters’ steeple chase between 20 January – 1 March 2021 to qualify.


    Horses who are already fully qualified do not need to re-qualify with the additional conditions. If a horse has had one run which qualifies, only one further run which qualifies is required.

     

    ATR's Rhys Williams' antepost views. He knows his hunter chasers and his p2ps.

  • Honours Board

    Year |||Form||| Winner||| Age||| OR||| SP||| Trainer||| Jockey||| Last race (No of days)

    2020 |||U1U171P||| It Came To Pass |||10 |||126||| 66/1||| E O'Sullivan(IRE) ||| Miss M O'Sullivan |||PU Kilfealce p2p (47)

    2019||| 11211||| Hazel Hill||| 11 |||139||| 7/2F||| P Rowley |||Mr A Edwards||| 1st Warwick Hunter Ch (53)

    2018 |||3||| Pachu du Polder||| 11||| 138 |||25/1||| P Nicholls |||Miss Harriet Tucker||| 3rd Donc Hunter Ch (24)

    2017 |||3341 |||Pacha du Polder||| 10||| 138||| 16/1||| P Nicholls||| Miss B Frost||| 1st Bangor Hunter Ch (35)

    2016 |||17||| On The Fringe |||11||| 147||| 13/8F||| E Bolger(IRE) |||Ms N Carberry |||7th Leop Inn Hunter Ch (41)

    2015 |||1122||| On The Fringe||| 10||| 141 |||6/1 |||E Bolger(IRE) |||Ms N Carberry||| 2nd Leop Inn Hunter Ch (33)

    2014 |||6213||| Tammys Hill||| 9||| 134||| 15/2||| L Lennon(IRE)||| Mr JJ Smyth||| 3rd F'house Hunter Ch 2m 5f (20)

    2013||| 1221 ||| Salsify |||8||| 140||| 2/1F||| R Sweeney(IRE) ||| Mr C Sweeney |||1st Leop Inn Hunter Ch (34)

    2012 |||1P1 |||Salsify||| 7 |||134||| 7/1 |||R Sweeney(IRE)||| Mr C Sweeney |||1st Leop Inn Hunter Ch (33)

    2011||| 21 |||Zemsky||| 8||| 125||| 33/1 ||| I Ferguson(IRE)||| Mr D O'Connor |||1st M'burgh Hunter Ch (30)

    Evidence

    AGE - Maxine O'Sullivan brought the 10 yr old It Came To Pass with a sweeping run last year. Hazel Hill 2019 and Pacha Du Polder 2018 (what a race, what a ride, Miss Harriet Tucker) joined On The Fringe 2016 and Cavalero 2000 (as four 11yrs olds) and Earthmover (13yrs) in 2004, They won this for horses over 10 yrs of age. First since Three Counties in '89. On The Fringe had become the first 10yr old winner n six, since Baby Run 2010.

     

    OLDER GENERATION - Nine of the 21 strong field last year were over 10 yrs of age. None of that elder generation finished in the top ten. In 2019 amazingly it was 15 of the 24, resulting in a 1-2-3 (Top Wood 2nd as a 12 yr old after his gallant 2nd to Pacha Du Polder in 2018). In each of the previous two renewals, 12 of the 24 runners were older than 10yrs, including the first three home in Harriet's 2018 great finish. As a 12 yr old Barel of Laughs 14/1 3rd in 2018 followed his fine performance in 2017 when he was the 100/1 2nd. 8 from 24 older than 10 yrs 2016, as well as On The Fringe, Paint The Clouds in 3rd. In 2015, it was 9 from 24, Carsonstown Boy 4th. 13 from 24 qualifiers in 2014 best Pearlysteps 4th. All bar Hazel Hill of our six older winners above were course winners. Pacha, the Fringe and Earthmover had won this before. Those aged 12 or over have produced Top Wood and two thirds from 76 qualifiers over the last 16. Top Wood led to after three out last year as a gallant 13 yr old, before fading. Earthmover won this as a 7yr old and a 13 yr old, trained first time by R Barber and the second time by P Nicholls. Third in 2020 and second in 2019 was David Maxwell's Shantou Flyer, now a mere stripling at 11 yrs.

     

    Since 1990 apart Hazel Hill, the 7/2 fav and On The Fringe as 13/8 fav winning in 2016, the other 29 horses that were aged 11+ and went off at less than 10/1 have been beaten. Caid De Berlais 8/1 PU last year, Ucello Conti 4/1 under Jamie Codd finished 5th in 2019.

     

    The last six have been won by 10 or 11 yr olds. 8 qualifiers last year, 1st and 3rd.

     

    YOUNGER GENERATION - This century Kingscliff 2003 the only six year old winner, Cappa Bleu 2009 and Salsify 2012 the only seven yr olds. Salsify 2013 and Zemsky (under a great Doc ride) in 2011 the only eight yr olds. The other 15 aged nine yrs plus

     

    This century 12 horses aged 8 or less have been placed from 116 qualifiers. The above five won, Salsify twice. (Colman Sweeney only jockey in the past 30 odd yrs to win this on two different horses. Sleeping Knight 2005). Zemsky at 33s the only winning one priced above 7/1. Apart from Following Dreams 2nd 2015 at 50/1 Oscar Delta third at 25/1 2011 and Turthen 25/1 2nd 25/1, four others priced in single figures. About right. Billaway 11/4 fav in 2nd last year at aged 8yrs. Stand Up And Fight, a 7 yr old at 13/2 6th 2019. Also as a seven yr old, Burning Ambition 4/1 fav 2018 didn't take to it, in 2017 Ask The Weatherman unpl at 13/2.

     

    Salsify's win in 2012 makes him the only seven yr old since 2009 to gain a place.

     

    PRICE - 4 winning favourites in the last nine. 5 favourites and a jt fav have won in the last 19 plus one second fav at 6s. Last year the friendless yet impressive It Came To Pass at 66s (BSP 225) In 2019 Hazel Hill 5s to 7/2 quickly. 2016 On The Fringe backed from 5/2 to 13/8 in ten minutes before the off. The rest include a 25/1 16/1, 15/2, 14/1, 3x20/1 and 2x33/1. Nine favs and one joint favourite of the last 14 beaten favourites were trained in Ireland. Last year it was Billaway at 11/4 (wouldn't have been any bigger after Willie had just won the first four races). Burning Ambition was unpl and On The Fringe 4th at 11/8 fav in 2017. Even Salsify the 2/1 jolly was pretty fortunate in 2013. Poor Jane Mangan on Oscar Delta, but the lady seems pretty resilient. JT McNamara had just suffered that awful injury the day before so everything was being seen in perspective. At Moira p2p on the Saturday, Richard Pugh, ACE commentator and always the gentleman, gave me a quiet rebuke as I bemoaned Jane's 'luck' to him). Because of the heavy ground in 2018 and possibly Harriet's inexperience, Pacha Du Polder drifted from 10/1 antepost to 25/1 on the day. Luckily for me, no one told him.

     

    Point To Point or Handicap? - Pacha Du Polder 2018, 2017, Baby Run '10, Amicelli '08, Sleeping Night ’05 and Drombeag ’07 are recent winners not to come through point to point and hunter chase ranks. Zemsky '11 and Earthmover ’04 had been initially point to pointing before going through handicap company and then back again. A lot of debate about this recent trend but ex handicappers had been turning up in this for ages. Other examples include Shantou Flyer who actually had finished second to Coo Star Sivola in the 2018 Ultima (how did he qualify for this?). Last year Shantou Flyer backed to 3/1 just before the off. 2018 Foxrock 9/2 and Wonderful Charm 11/2 both unplaced, 2017 Wonderful Charm making it a P Nicholls 1-2 In 2016 Marito 2nd 14s for the McBratney team, Point The Toes 3rd, 2015 Point The Toes 11/4 fav, 2013 Cottage Oak (3rd) 2013 and '12 Chapoturgeon 3/1 fav and 5/1 respectively, Mighty Moss, West Tip, Flashing Steel, Cab On Target, Stearsby, Ryde Again, Lord Relic and Dorans Pride. All short enough based on past glories and beaten.

     

    Pacha Du Polder (151) became the first ex handicapper to win this since 2005 who had been rated 140+ at their peak. 67 have tried during that time including Wonderful Charm who at one stage in his career was rated 159. Six rogues last year, Shantou Flyer best in third. Two in 2019, Shantou Flyer and Ucello Conti. Eight of them in each of the previous two yrs, including in 2017, those finishing in 2nd down to 6th. So be careful of previous 'class' acts.

     

    28 of past 32 started their careers in p2ps or Hunter Chases

     

    Nine of the last eleven rated at least 134. Hazel Hill 134. The exceptions are It Came To Pass 126 and Zemsky under Derek off 125.

     

    Only four winners this century not in the first three last time. Only It Came To Pass and On The Fringe from the last 13.

     

    All bar Hazel Hill of the last 7 different winners had run in at least 12 chases under rules. Hazel Hill had only run in three hunter chases, all of which he won.

     

    Six of the last eleven ran in the previous year's race, all finishing in the first five home. It Came To Pass fell three out in 2016 when going very nicely. Dr Lambe's purple colours, in those days.

     

    It Came To Pass and Hazel Hill have stopped the trend of professional trainers seeing this as an opportunity to get on the Festival Roll of Honour. Paul Nicholls has four wins, Enda Bolger trained On The Fringe JJ O’Neill ‘07, Twiston Davies '10 Ian Ferguson '11. The Alners in '03 with Kingscliff were the first professional trainer stables to win this since Fred Winter in the eighties. Liam Lennon was the trainer in the papers for Tammys Hill, but in post-race interviews, he kindly gave all the credit to JJ Smyth and his family. Hazel Hill is trained by Philip Rowley, a real English p2p specialist.

     

    Cappa Bleu and Amicelli first since Rushing Wild ‘92 not to have won a Hunters Chase at some stage. All three had never run in one. Cappa only one since Rushing Wild not to have won under rules.

     

    WINNING LAST TIME OUT - Nine winners this century did not win last time out including five of the last seven (exceptions Hazel Hill and Pacha Du Polder first time. He beat Grand Vision easy over 2m 4f at Bangor for his first win. On The Fringe seemed each year just to warm up in the Leopardstown Inn Raymond Smith Chase before winning everything else, Tammys Hill ran 3rd to Warne over 2m 5f at Fairyhouse before his win.

    Going back to ’91, 9 of last 28 had previously won at Cheltenham. Also Baby Run and Amicelli had previously been placed in a course Grade 2 hurdle, ’07 Drombeag had been 3rd in the 4 miler, ’96 Elegant Lord had been third to Fantus ’95. On The Fringe (first time) 3rd to Tammys Hill in 2014. 11 others, including Hazel Hill and Tammys Hill had never raced at Cheltenham before. Exceptions to them all, It Came To Pass, Pacha Du Polder, beaten at two previous Festivals and Zemsky - 4th and last home in a 3 mile December course novice chase when trained by N Henderson. I must get out more.

     

    COMING BACK AGAIN - Shantou Flyer has been placed in each of the last three Festivals. Pacha Du Polder had been 5th in 2016 when tenderly 'supported' in the saddle by Victoria Pendleton. Well, she did her best. If you think the difference that Byrony Frost must have brought, how much must he have had in hand in 2017? Then 2018, Miss Harriet Tucker with an injured collar bone clung on to Pacha. He knew where the winning post was. On The Fringe has won as favourite twice 13/8 and 3/1 jt fav and 4th in 2011 as a five yr old, 11/2 second fav and third in 2014 as an 8yr old. 2013 Salsify (and Oscar Delta), Amicelli 1st '08 then 4th in '09, Whyso Mayo '07 followed up his win with a second. Last Option '03 his win with a third the next year. Behind Cappa Bleu '09 was Baby Run in third. Baby Run trifle unlucky 2011 when UR at second last. (The Doc had him covered with Zemsky). In 2018 and 2019 we had the performances of Barrel Of laughs and Top Wood both placed twice. Hazel Hill, It Came To Pass, Billaway, Shantou Flyer.
     

    Record of previous winner is 204U1141P. Hazel Hill a late NR last year.

     

    Before Pacha, the Fringe and Salsify, last back to back victory Double Silk '94. Although Fantus and Earthmover have also been double winners but not in successive years. It Came To Pass

     

    THIRD WIN? - Hasn't been done - Double Silk (11/4) finished 5th to Fantus in his quest for a third win. Fantus (5/1) in turn ironically finished PU behind Earthmover in trying to win 3 times. Earthmover (7/1) finished 6th behind Sleeping Night when he had a go. Not happening this year.

     

    22 from last 25 last run between 12 and 41 days previous, whenever the date of the old Leopardstown race. Not It Came To Pass 47 days in a p2p. Not Hazel Hill, 53 days since stuffing Shantou Flyer at Warwick. A race that Minella Rocco won last year before finishing 5th in this, Mr David Maxwell got cramp aboard Bob And Co. Not Drombeag, professionally trained first run of the season in 2007.
     

    Pacha Du Polder (first time, obviously) only one from the last 22 not to have won over 3m before this. Had been placed twice over 3m 3f at Stratford. Pacha's last run was to win a 2m4f hunter at Bangor in mid February.

     

    Don't see any recent winner in the last 11 coming from the Walrus Hunter Chase (Haydock Mid February) 2018 Virak scraped home in a swamp from Shotavodka. Both well down the field here. 2019 Road To Rome 4th at Cheltenham won from a fast finishing Sybarite. Only joking. 2020 Alcala only 9th here.

     

    HEADGEAR - Zemsky first winner in cheekpieces since Drombeag. No blinkered winners since. Cheekpieces and blinkers are now allowed in point to points. Neither cheekpieces nor tongue ties are recorded anywhere due to the difficulties of ensuring correct information. My thanks to Richard Pugh at the excellent www.p2p.ie. Best from 8 qualifiers last year was Shantou Flyer in blinkers, 2nd. In 2019 Shantou Flyer was 2nd in first time blinkers from Top Wood in his visor which he wore for the first time when 2nd in 2018. 2017 best Wonderful Charm 2nd in his regular cheekpieces. 2016, best finisher Marito 2nd.

     

    IRISH TRAINED - It Came To Pass, the first of eight not to come from the much missed Leopardstown Inn Raymond Smith Hunter Ch on old Irish Gold Cup day. Previous seven were On The Fringe (x2), Tammys Hill, Salsify (x2), Drombeag '07 and Whyso Mayo '06. Won well in '10 by Kilty Storm (2nd here). '11 On The Fringe finished 4th here. 2016 at Leopardstown You Must Know Me led all the way from It Came To Pass and Salsify, On The Fringe well beaten in 7th at Evens. Salsify weakened in fourth in 2017 after a long lay off. PU at Cheltenham. Those involved in finish of this race used to go off at too big a price at Cheltenham. This race was one of the casualties from the successful Dublin Festival. Went in 2018 to Punchestown Trials Day in mid February. Derek O'Connor is his weekly p2p column in the Racing Post 2018 was not totally happy with this switch, stating that the inside Punchestown track is not ideal for these hunters. The 2018 version was a fantastic race, though, with Gilgamboa (not qualified that year) just getting the better of Burning Ambition, the new Irish p2p star. Unplaced 4/1 fav at Cheltenham. In 2019 the race was run at Navan where Ucello Conti got the better of Coastal Tiep. No sign of Raymond Smith in 2020, the best Irish trails probably Billaway winning from Staker Wallace at Naas 29th January, or the good hunter at Down Royal on Boxing Day, won by Dylrow from Billaway with It Came To Pass coming to pass a few in the straight to finish 7th.

     

    P NICHOLLS - Won with Earthmover, Sleeping Night, 1-2 in 2017 with Pacha Du Polder and Wonderful Charm. (Some said Katie on Charm was too busy watching Jamie on The Fringe and didn't pay much attention to the PN second string. Then Pacha came back to win again. No runner 2019 Alcala 9th last year.
     

    Carsonstown Boy 4th 2015 year had been a fast finishing second in the 2m 5f Fairyhouse Hunter Chase 21st Feb where Tammys Hill 3rd in 2013. Abandoned 2020.

     

    6 from last 22 made virtually all the running (and Carsonstowns Boy 2nd 2014). Definitely not It Came To Pass (but in first half dozen the whole way) Hazel Hill, Pacha, Salsify or Zemsky, all given fine rides by Alex Edwards, Harriet Tucker, Bryony Fost, Colman Sweeney and Derek O'Connor. Jane Mangan took the lead on Oscar Delta from 4 out. Pacha Du Polder 'chased leaders' and 'held up.' The Fringe tended to 'lead last'. Hazel Hill, 'midfield, led before last'

     

    58 last time beaten favourites have run this century. 5 winners Pacha Du Polder 2018 at 25s, On the Fringe both times, Tammys Hill and Earthmover. The latter came from Fontwell, a course that would probably not have suited him. Level £1 stakes backing all 58 puts you £3.25 behind.

     

    JOCKEYS - This century Maxine O'Sullivan and Harriet Tucker in 2018 became only the third and fourth winning jockeys who could normally claim 7lb. Derek O'Connor has only won it once. Both Jamie Codd and Patrick Mullins have yet to win this. Quoted in the Racing Post 19th January 2020 Jamie said' It's my ambition. I'd love to win the Foxhunter at Cheltenham. I've won the one at Aintree but the Cheltenham Foxhunter is the race every amateur wants to win.'

     

    Jockey Caroline Beasley’s success aboard Eliogarty in 1983 was the first victory at The Festival for a female jockey and the contest has been won by female jockeys a further nine times – most recently Maxine O'Sullivan. 5 of the past 6 and Jane Mangan was so unlucky on Oscar Delta.

     

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Wealth Warning.  Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader.  There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice.  I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors.  (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races.  It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race.  Stands now at 8.  Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle.  Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite.  Always happens.  Usually on Gold Cup Day. 

Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol.  A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.