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

    The last nine aged 10 or 11 years.

    Only one of the last 34 older than 11 yrs

    Since 2004, two of the three 11 yr old winners went off SP favourite.

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

    Seven of the last eight winners aged over 10 yrs were already course winners

    11 of the last 14 BHA rated at least 134.

    14 of the last 16 finished in the first three last time.

    Seven of the last 10 different winners had run in at least 12 chases under rules

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

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

    Seven of the last 14 finished in the first five in the previous year's race

    Five of the last eight amateur renewals won by lady jockeys.



    Race Distance - 3 miles and abt two and a half furlongs. The Gold Cup for Amateurs. All carry 12 stone. Mares get 7lb allowance. I 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 a rules race over 3 miles 2 and 1/2 furlongs except this one. Has won on a GB or IRE NH Course. May not have won last time but very likely to have finished in the first three. If given the opportunity, has previously won a hunter chase. Has probably run at least in 12 chases under rules or unbeaten in hunter chases. If given the opportunity, may have a previous course win or Festival/Graded placed form. Last run between 12 and 53 days ago. 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. Be careful of previous 'class acts' from the handicap ranks. Check the first five home in last year's race. Jockeys who just happen to be female do very well. Jamie, Patrick, Derek and Bon have experienced difficulty in the past but are still very keen to win it.



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


    January 2021 - Race conditions have up to now required horses to have either finished in the first two in a hunters’ steeplechase on two occasions or won two open point-to-point races, or one of each, within the previous two-and-a-half years.

  • Honours Board

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

    2023 ||| 11 ||| Premier Magic ||| 10 ||| 122 ||| 66/1 ||| B Gibbs ||| Mr B Gibbs ||| 1st P2P Garthorpe (40)

    2022 ||| 221 ||| Billaway ||| 10 ||| 140 ||| 13/8F ||| W Mullins (IRE) ||| Mr PW Mullins ||| 1st Naas Hunter Ch (34)

    2021 ||| 12 ||| Porlock Bay ||| 10 ||| 135 ||| 16/1 ||| W Biddick ||| L Williams ||| 2nd Winc Hunter Ch (43)

    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)

  • Evidence

    In 2021 due to COVID, amateurs weren't allowed to ride at Cheltenham. Not seen as 'elite' enough for the sport. I'm sure Jamie Codd was delighted. So Lorcan Williams beat Paul Townend in a driving finish. No one knows if the change to professional jockeys made any difference to the result. For trends purposes, we will take it at face value.



    AGE - We've now had four 10 yr olds in a row with Premier Magic and Billaway following Porlock Bay and the wonderful Maxine O'Sullivan in 2020 on It Came To Pass. Before that Hazel Hill 2019 and Pacha Du Polder 2018 (be a long time before I forget that ride by Miss Harriet Tucker). They joined On The Fringe 2016 and Cavalero 2000 (as four 11yrs olds) and Earthmover (13yrs) in 2004, to win this for horses over 10 yrs of age. First since Three Counties in '89. On The Fringe had become the first 10yr old winner in six, since Baby Run 2010.


    That's the last nine winners who were 10 or 11 yrs of age. Seven qualifiers last year, Eight in each of the previous three renewals. A 1-5 last year, 1st and 3rd in each of those previous three. Spooky.


    OLDER THAN 10 YRS - 10 of the 23 strong field were 11+ last year, the fantastic Shantou Flyer, a 13 yr old, third at 50/1 under a delighted Miss Olive Nicholls. Proud father Paul was filmed giving her it every support from the parade ring. That was Shantou's 5th Festival placing in the last six Festivals. I hope he's back this year. Five of the 19 in 2022 were older than 11, best Mighty Stowaway 3rd (at 33s under Jamie Codd!), six of the 18 field in 2021 were older than 10 yrs, Hazel Hill the best in 5th at the glorious age of 13. In 2020 it was nine from 21. None of that elder generation finished in the top ten. Amazingly In 2019 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 to that, 12 of the 24 runners were older than 10yrs, including the first three home in Harriet's fine 2018 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.


    Going back to 1975 all bar Hazel Hill of our eight 'older than 10 yrs' above were course winners. Prior to his win, Hazel Hill had never been here before. Pacha, the Fringe and Earthmover had all won this before. Cavalero and Three Counties had won at the April hunter chase meeting the season before, Observe had been a standing dish on the course and Venture To Cognac (1984) had previously outstayed them all in the 1979 SunAlliance Hurdle. Those aged 12 or over have produced Top Wood and three 3rds from 86 qualifiers over the last 19. In 2020 Top Wood led to after three out 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. We know all about Shantou Flyer. Third in 2020 and second in 2019 under David Maxwell. As an 11 yr old in 2021 the Flyer finished third to Mount Ida in the Kim Muir off a handicap mark of 140. Rory Delargy 04/02/23 Irish Field would say that David a lot better over hurdles than fences. My pocket agrees. Bob And Co fell here 2022 when 11/2.


    Since 1990, apart Hazel Hill, the 7/2 fav and On The Fringe as 13/8 fav winning in 2016, the other 32 horses that were aged 11+ and went off at less than 10/1 have been beaten. Last year Chris's Dream 7/1 5th, The Storyteller 17/2 PU. 2022 Bob and Co 11/2, 2021 Bob and Co 9/2 UR, It Came To Pass 10/1 7th 2021, 2020 Caid De Berlais 8/1 PU, Ucello Conti 4/1 under Jamie Codd finished 5th in 2019.


    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 in 2011 the only eight yr olds. The other 18 winners were aged nine yrs plus. Last year It's On The Line, the only 6 yr old, chased up the hill by Derek O'Connor to get second. Only Fumet D'Oudairies turned up in 2022, a seven yr old, PU.


    This century 15 horses aged eight or younger have been placed from 129 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. A Derek O'Connor special. We've had Following Dreams 2nd 2015 at 50/1 Oscar Delta 3rd at 25/1 2011, Turthen 25/1 2nd '09, four others priced in single figures. It's On The Line last year 28s. Winged Leader 9/2 caught on the line by Billaway in 2022. Latenightpass an eight yr old, 4th 2021 at 12s after a great front running performance. 2020 Billaway 11/4 fav in 2nd aged 8yrs. Stand Up And Fight, a 7 yr old at 13/2 6th 2019.


    It's On The Line at 6 yrs and Salsify's win in 2012 makes them the only six or seven yr olds since 2009 to gain a place.


    PRICE - Four winning favourites in the last 12. Six favourites and a jt fav have won in the last 22 plus one second fav at 6/1. Premier Magic at 66s the second screamer for the on course bookies after Faivoir in the County. In 2022 Billaway was Willie's fourth winner on the day. 2021 Porlock Bay 16s got up on the line from Billaway, the 2/1 jolly. 2020 the friendless yet impressive It Came To Pass at 66s (BSP 225). 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 last few years also include a 25/1 16/1, 15/2, 14/1, 3x20/1 and 2 x 33/1.


    IRISH SHORTIES - Eleven favs and one joint favourite of the last 16 beaten favourites were trained in Ireland. Vaucelet 9/4 last year. 2022 Billaway won at 13/8, beat at  2/1 2021 and at 11/4 in 2020 (wouldn't have been any bigger after Willie had just won the first four Fri races that year). 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 the day after that Foxhunters, Richard Pugh, ACE commentator and always the gentleman, gave me a quiet rebuke as I bemoaned Jane's 'luck' to him. Quite right he was, too). 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 Pacha.


    Point To Point or Handicap? - Premier Magic a solid point to pointer. Most of last year's field, p2ps or hunter chases. Billaway stays in hunter chases. Porlock Bay had been chasing to a good standard in France. It Came To Pass and Hazel Hill (and Billaway) came mostly from p2ps and Hunter Chases. 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?). 2020 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 behind Pacha. 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. 69 others have tried since during that time including Wonderful Charm who at one stage in his career was rated 159. Bob and Co rated 150 at a time. Chris's Dream and Brain Power unsuccessful last year. Six ex rogues in 2021, 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.


    30 of past 35 started their careers in p2ps or Hunter Chases.


    11 the last 14 rated at least 134. Billaway 140, Porlock Bay 135, Hazel Hill 134. The exceptions are Premier Magic 122, 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 16.


    Only Premier Magic, Porlock Bay and Hazel Hill of the last ten different winners had run in less than 12 chases under rules. Premier Magic three hunter chases, Porlock Bay seven chases, Hazel Hill had only run in three hunter chases, all of which he won.


    Eight of the last 14 ran in the previous year's race, all bar Premier Magic finishing in the first five home. He was PU. Billaway was 2nd. It Came To Pass fell three out in 2016 when going very nicely. In Dr Lambe's purple colours those days under Jim Culloty's care.


    Top Professional Trainers - Premier Magic, Porlock Bay, It Came To Pass and Hazel Hill have stemmed the trend of top professional trainers seeing this as an opportunity to get on the Festival Roll of Honour. WPM with Billaway, 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. Porlock Bay well produced by Will Biddick, Hazel Hill trained by Philip Rowley, neither of whom are mugs but real English p2p specialists. It Came To Pass is I believe, an O'Sullivan family pet. (What a post race interview by Maxine! 'This doesn't happen to people like us.')


    Porlock Bay, Cappa Bleu and Amicelli first since Rushing Wild ‘92 not to have won a Hunters Chase at some stage. Porlock Bay ran in one 2nd. The other three had never run in one. Cappa only one since Rushing Wild not to have won under rules. Premier Magic had won one at Leicester.


    WINNING LAST TIME OUT - Nine winners this century did not win last time out including five of the last nine (exceptions Premier Magic, a p2p, Billaway, Hazel Hill and Pacha Du Polder first time. 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, nine of the last 30 had previously won at Cheltenham. Billaway had been twice runner up in this. 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, Premier Magic, 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 - Billaway fell 10th last year, but had been placed at least in the previous three Festivals. Shantou Flyer had been placed in five of the last six Festivals, three times in this. Pacha Du Polder had been 5th in 2016 when tenderly 'supported' in the saddle by Victoria Pendleton. Well, she did do 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 that 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. (Mind you, 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. Winged Leader, Mighty Stoway, Billaway, Premier Magic.

    Record of previous winner is 204U1141P7F. Premier Magic


    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. Billaway, Premier Magic


    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.


    24 from last 27 last run between 12 and 41 days previous, whenever was the date of the old Leopardstown race. Not Porlock Bay 43 days from Winc. 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 before finishing 5th in this, the race Mr David Maxwell famously got cramp aboard Bob And Co. Not Drombeag, professionally trained first run of the season in 2007.

    Porlock Bay (never tried) Pacha Du Polder (first time, obviously) only two from the last 23 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 12 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. I'm only joking, G. 2020 Alcala only 9th here. 2022 Cousin Pascal PU here. Last year Famous Clermont a very respectable 6th here.


    British breds are 0-89 during the past 20 years.


    HEADGEAR - Premier Magic follows Billaway to win in cheekpieces. The first since Zemsky 2011. Before that Drombeag 2007. 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. Last year It's On The LIne 2nd in first time cheekpieces, Shantou Flyer 3rd in usual pieces. 2022 no other headgear wearers in the first five. Best from eight qualifiers 2021 was Shantou Flyer in blinkers, 2nd. In 2019 he 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 - Billaway and It Came To Pass, the first two of nine not to come from the much missed and badly maligned 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 the Raymond Smith used to go off at too big a price at Cheltenham.


    This race was one of the casualties from the successful Dublin Festival. Initially 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.  No sign of Raymond Smith since. (Where the hell is that lovely race now? I have no idea) The best Irish trials last season probably The Thurles Hunter Chase in late January. Ferns Lock strolled home from Romeo Magico who himself had taken that Limerick Maiden Hunters Chase in late December. Last season Winged Leader also stuffed Billaway (10/11) at Thurles. The Naas Hunter at 29th January doesn't seem to exist any more. That good hunter chase at Down Royal on Boxing Day was won this season by It's On The Line from Ferns Lock (fav) caught on the run in. It was won last season by Vaucelet (fav here, 7th) from Dorking Cork and Coastal Tiep. The Quinnbet Navan Hunter chase on 10th February this year, was a classic between Its On The Line and Billaway. The Doc used all his skills to get the former home by a head. Might have his own ideas about the game, that horse.


    Carsonstown Boy 4th 2015 year had been a fast finishing second in the 2m 5f Fairyhouse Hunter Chase 21st Feb where Tammys Hill was 3rd in 2013 before he won here. Nothing since


    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 2020. 2021 and 2022 Bob and Co 9/2 and 11/2, David unable to get him round. I'm sure Paul was pleased. Last year Secret Investor fell at the 1st, Cat Tiger PU, but his daughter Olive got Shantou home in 3rd.


    6 from last 25 made virtually all the running (and Carsonstowns Boy 2nd 2014). Premier Magic 'midfield, led two out.' Winged Leader took over at the 17th, then Patrick caught him on the line. Latenightpass had a fair go at it in 2021. 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'


    61 last time out beaten favourites have run this century. Five 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. One in each of the last two years, unplaced. Level £1 stakes backing all 61 at SP puts you £5.25 behind.


    THE JOCKEYS - (Sorry, Lorcan Williams but this is not about you) This century Harriet Tucker 2018 and Maxine O'Sullivan only the third and fourth winning jockeys who could normally claim 7lb. Derek O'Connor has only won it once. Fast finishing second last year. 2022 was Patrick Mullins's first win in the race. Jamie Codd has 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.' Bradley Gibbs claims (3) at the moment.


    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. Five of the past eight amateur events and Jane Mangan was so unlucky on Oscar Delta. Olive Nicholls third last year. Well done, ladies.