Foxhunter Chase Betting

Inaugurated in 1904, the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase takes place each March on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Open to amateur riders, it is run immediately following the most anticipated race of the week, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and because it is contested over exactly the same course and distance, the Chase has earned its nickname as the “Amateur Gold Cup.”

The event is officially listed as a Class B National Hunt chase, covering three miles and two and a half furlongs on the left-handed turf of the Old Course and offering 22 fences to be cleared. All starters carry 11 stone 13 pounds, with an allowance of 7 pounds for mares.

Horses aged five years old and upwards who have met certain qualifying criteria are eligible to compete. Entrants must have finished first or runner-up twice in hunter chases or have won two open point-to-point races. Alternatively, winning one open point-to-point race and finishing first or second in a hunter chase will suffice.

The race tends to attract a mix of successful young challengers from the point-to-point circuit along with older, experienced chasers nearing retirement. One horse that stood out as the epitome of both groups was Earthmover, winning as a seven-year-old in 1998 and then reprising his victory in 2004 at the ripe age of thirteen.

In 1972 and 1973, the first sponsor of the Foxhunter Chase was the insurance company known as Sun Alliance and London. From 1974 to 1978, the race had no backer, and then Christie’s, the famed art auctioneers, assumed the title in 1979, a role they have played ever since. In 2011, the total prize purse was set at £40,000, unchanged from 2010, and making it the richest and most prestigious hunter chase of the jumps season.

The Christie’s Foxhunter Chase also happens to be the Cheltenham Festival’s only race open to non-professional trainers, those who simply hold a permit to train their family’s horses. The event draws a good number of female jockeys, too, especially after Caroline Beasley’s success aboard Eliogarty in 1983. Four other women have since joined her in victory: Katie Rimell on Three Counties (1989), Polly Curling riding Fantus (1995), Fiona Needham on Last Option (2002), and Earthmover’s 2004 jockey Rilly Goschen.

To date, no horse or jockey has managed to pull off a hat-trick of wins here, although six mounts and eight riders have managed two victories apiece. They include John Scott-Aiton riding The Callant in 1956 and 1957 along with Ron Treloggen on Double Silk in 1993 and 1994, among others. The trainer with the most wins in the Foxhunter Chase was Richard Barber, entering four first-place finishers: Rushing Wild in 1992, Fantus in 1995 and 1997, and Earthmover in 1998.

The very first running of this race was won by the favourite, Palmy Boy at 6/4. Many other price leaders have triumphed over the years, including six of the most recent 20 winners and the joint favourite Baby Run in 2010, who won £24,008 and paid 9/2 odds.

Regarding form, it is worth noting that fully 20 of the past 25 winners won their last time out. Of the five winners aged ten or older in that period, three had been previous winners of the race, namely Double Silk, Fantus, and Earthmover. Four other thirteen-year-olds in addition to Earthmover have won here since 1946, but 15 of the latest 20 winners were aged nine or younger, despite comprising only a little over half of the runners during that time.

Those who fancy Irish-trained horses will be heartened to know that three besides Eliogarty have succeeded in Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. There were Attitude Adjuster in 1986, Lovely Citizen in 1991, and Whyso Mayo in 2006.

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