2020 Foxhunter Chase Tips – Tips for traditional Festival chase

Hazel Hill Foxhunter Chase Cheltenham

Alex Edwards celebrates as he crosses the line on Hazel Hill in the Foxhunter Chase.

Jon Vine takes a look through the likely runners in this traditional contest on day four of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his 2020 Foxhunter Chase tips on Friday 13th March.

Since 1904, 20 years before the Gold Cup was created, the finest hunter chasers have battle for supremacy on day four of the Cheltenham Festival. The Foxhunter Chase has been won by some great horses down the years. The best of them is arguably Halloween, who won the Foxhunters as a six-year-old, and went on to score twice in the King George at Kempton.

I’ve taken a look at some of the most likely runners and come up with my Foxhunter 2020 Chase tips.

Foxhunter Chase Tips – The Defending Champion

Hazel Hill

Philip Rowley’s charge travelled to Cheltenham looking for his 15th victory in 16 starts 12 months ago. Under an excellent ride by Alex Edwards, the well-backed 7/2 favourite rewarded his followers with a fine victory over Shantou Flyer. Having won comfortably on his reappearance, Hazel Hill (11/2 Ladbrokes) went down narrowly to Minella Rocco at Wetherby. Rowley’s star was giving his rival four pounds that day, and they’ll renew their rivalry off level weights at the Festival.

Foxhunter Chase – Festival Form

Minella Rocco

The former National Hunt Chase winner looked to have fallen out of love with the game over recent seasons. Yet, a surprise switch to hunter chasing has seen Minella Rocco (6/1 Coral) rediscover the winning touch. Jonjo O’Neill’s star built on a victory at Warwick with that two-length triumph over Hazel Hill at Wetherby. 2017 Gold Cup runner-up has course form in abundance and, if his confidence is fully restored, Minella Rocco could be the class-act in this field. Good ground would be a help too.

Don Poli

The 2015 RSA winner was sold by Gigginstown at the Aintree sale last year. Don Poli (16/1 Unibet) then made an appearance in the Grand National a day later, finishing a distant 19th, and was moved from Phil Kirby’s stable to Nick Pearce’s yard at the start of the season. Two Hunter Chase victories have followed, but Don Poli faced little in the way of competition in either race. He won’t be one of my 2020 Foxhunter Chase tips.

Black Hercules

Held off Bristol De Mai to win the Marsh Novices’ Chase back in 2016. Sadly, injuries have restricted Black Hercules (25/1 William Hill) to just five outings since then, his two most recent coming in hunter chases. Willie Mullins’ 11-year-old finished second as the 5/4 favourite on his return to action, and could only finish sixth last time out. Black Hercules offers little appeal.

Minella Rocco Cheltenham

Minella Rocco beat Native River in the 2016 National Hunt Chase.

Foxhunter Chase Tips – The Home Challenge

Caid Du Berlais

Will Biddick’s mount was my primary selection in this race 12 months ago, but he was forced to pull Caid Du Berlais (10/1 Coral) up two from home when miles behind. Rose Loxton’s grey then proved his undoubted quality by securing a runaway success at the Punchestown Festival, beating Burning Ambition by almost 30-lengths. Caid Du Berlais cruised to victory in a weak race on his reappearance and should come on from that run. He’s a player.

Wishing And Hoping

Captain Cattistock was expected to get off the mark in hunter chases at the first time of asking at Taunton last month. Yet, the favourite was upstaged by Wishing And Hoping (12/1 William Hill), who always travelled well, despite a few wayward jumps and was going away from the field as he secured a five-length victory. Phil Rowley’s ten-year-old has now won his last four hunter chases and the left-handed track at Cheltenham should suit him perfectly.

Bob And Co

Ran to a very high level in France, before making the switch to trainer Paul Nicholls’ back in September. Bob And Co (14/1 Coral) made the headlines at Warwick on his British debut, as Nicholls’ debutant was pulled up because owner and part-time jockey, David Maxwell suffered a bout of cramp in his right leg. Maxwell made amends for that calamity at Bangor last month, as Bob And Co hacked up to win by 100-lengths, and the duo got the better of Alcala when they clashed at Fontwell last week.

Foxhunter Chase Tips – The Raiding Party

Billaway

Willie Mullins decided to chuck Billaway (8/1 Ladbrokes) straight into hunter chases at the end of his bumper campaign. Mullins’ eight-year-old needed three starts to get off the mark, but really caught the eye on his most recent run, staying on gamely to beat Staker Wallace by eight lengths at Naas. Patrick Mullins will likely take the ride for his father, and Billaway has to be in with an excellent chance.

Stand Up And Fight

Was backed into 13/2 before the off in this race last year, only to finish a fairly well-beaten sixth. Stand Up And Fight (16/1 Unibet) was then pulled up before three-out at Punchestown and hasn’t been seen since. Enda Bolger’s eight-year-old has gone well fresh in the past, but it seems like he won’t make it to the Cheltenham Festival this time around.

Kruzhlinin

Formerly trained by Philip Hobbs, Kruzhlinin (20/1 William Hill) has been prolific in point-to-points since joining Gordon Elliott. Elliott’s 13-year-old has won 10 of his 13 starts between the flags, placing on the other three occasions. Kruzhlinin was, however, heavily beaten in the Foxhunter Chase at Aintree’ Grand National Festival on his return to Britain last April. He won’t feature as one of my Foxhunter Chase tips in 2020.

Foxhunter Chase – Overlooked Outsiders

Shantou Flyer

Ran a cracker under David Maxwell to place second to Hazel Hill here 12-months ago. The former Ultima runner-up was moved to Rose Loxton’s point-to-point yard soon after that, and Shantou Flyer (12/1 William Hill) scored comfortably on his first start for Loxton at Larkhilll in January. This 10-year-old has clearly retained plenty of ability, as he proved during a runaway triumph at Fakenham last week. I don’t think he’ll be Maxwell’s first choice this time around, though.

Top Wood

Built on an encouraging third in last year’s Foxhunters with a sparkling triumph at Aintree, where Top Wood (16/1 William Hill) surged home to win by a couple of lengths. Tabitha Worsley has guided Kelly Morgan’s 13-year-old into two good-quality handicaps this season. Top Wood was well-beaten in the Tommy Whittle, but did managed to cross the line a four-length runner-up to Militarian at Ascot in November. He may be a teenager, but Top Wood remains capable of winning at the Cheltenham racecourse.

The Dellercheckout

Since moving from Paul Nicholls to Caroline Robinson, The Dellercheckout (16/1 Ladbrokes) is three-from-three. Robinson’s recruit followed a narrow victory on debut with an eight-length defeat of Haymount at Sherriff Hutton. The Dellercheckout goes into Cheltenham on the back of a three-and-a-half length triumph at Ludlow, and shouldn’t be overlooked too lightly amongst the Foxhunter Chase tips.

Road To Rome

Carried a winning streak of seven into last year’s Foxhunters, but could only finish fourth as Hazel Hill claimed victory. Another defeat followed at Aintree, where Road To Rome (20/1 Unibet) was beaten out of sight, and Joseph O’Shea’s ten-year-old hasn’t been seen since that loss. If O’Shea can get a run into his charge before Cheltenham, Road To Rome’s price will look very big, but his performances last spring remain a worry. He won’t be part of my Cheltenham Festival tips.

Top Wood Aintree

Top Wood wins the Foxhunter Chase at Aintree in 2019.

Foxhunter Chase Tips – Verdict

On paper, this looks an intriguing edition of the Foxhunters. The field is stacked with genuine quality. Hazel Hill should improve for that run against Minella Rocco. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge has the ability to improve beyond the horse who tops the Cheltenham betting. Billaway could easily bolt up in the hands of Patrick Mullins, and Wishing And Hoping will enter with genuine claims too.

Bob and Co was my initial Cheltenham Festival tip, but David Maxwell stated after his recent win at Fontwell that he’ll likely be saved for Aintree. Maxwell would then ride Shantou Flyer into battle and last year’s runner-up looks to have an excellent chance. That being said, I’m inclined to take a chance on one at a longer price and I’m going to side with veteran TOP WOOD.

Tabitha Worsley’s mount finished third in this race last year, having spent the previous year off the track. Top Wood then powered home to win the equivalent race at Aintree. Kelly Morgan has thrust her teenager into open company twice during the first half of the season, and Top Wood more than held his own on both occasions.

Top Wood has finished second and third in this race in recent seasons and he’s clearly still in very good nick. He’ll be my sole selection in a wide-open Foxhunter Chase tips amidst the Cheltenham betting offers at an appealing each-way price of 16/1.