The fifth race on Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival, the Foxhunter Chase takes place on the New Course at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The Foxhunter Chase is a Class B National Hunt steeplechase for amateur riders and horses aged five and over.
Qualifying horses must meet the following conditions: they must have had two first or second place positions in previous hunter chases, or two firsts in open point-to-point races. Alternatively, they can combine one open point-to-point first place with one hunter chase first- or second-placed finish.
The weight restrictions are 11st 12lb for five-year-olds and 12st for horses aged six or over, with an allowance of 7lb for mares. The number of participants ranges from the low to mid-20s.
The prize purse for the Foxhunter Chase is £40,000, with the winner taking home £23,984.
In 1972, the Foxhunter Chase attracted the sponsorship of Sun Alliance and London, but this only lasted for two years and the race continued without commercial backing for a further five-year stretch.
Christie’s stepped up as the new sponsor in 1979 and continued to back the event until 2012. The Country Gentleman’s Association has sponsored the race since 2013.
Since the race’s inception, there have been seven horses to achieve a double victory in the Foxhunter Chase: The Callant (1956, 1957), Whinstone Hill (1958, 1960), College Master (1961, 1962), Double Silk (1993, 1994), Fantus (1995, 1997), Earthmover (1998, 2004) and Salsify (2012, 2013).
The leading jockey in the race is Colman Sweeney, with three wins in total. He achieved victory with Sleeping Night in 2005, and then rode Salsify to both wins in 2012 and 2013.
Securing four wins throughout the 1990s, Richard Barber is the leading trainer. He won with Rushing Wild (1992), Fantus (1995, 1997), and then lastly with Earthmover in 1998.
Race trends and statistics
An interesting feature of the Foxhunter Chase is that its make-up is typically a combination of young point-to-point horses and older chasers. It’s a nail-biting battle of youth versus experience!
Look out for the young rising stars of the point-to-point scene, but don’t neglect the experienced hunter chasers who begin to reemerge at the start of the year to attempt to qualify for the Foxhunter Chase.
It’s important to follow the form of these horses, who might have one last chance of glory. Old does not mean spent: a number of 13-year-olds have triumphed, including Earthmover, who won in 2004 (having already triumphed aged seven in 1998). However, since 1990, only two horses have won who were aged 11 or over.
Other trends to note are that the vast majority of winners since the early 1990s won their last race, and that outsiders have been victorious in recent years.