National Hunt Challenge Cup

The National Hunt Challenge Cup, known as the National Hunt Chase, is a novice chase run over 4m and the longest race run at the Cheltenham Festival. It takes place at 5.30pm on the first day of the festival and is broadcasted by Racing TV [RTV].

Renowned for being a gruelling test of stamina, Tiger Roll won it before winning the Aintree Grand National the following year.

Length of race – The race is run over 4m.
Where to watch – RTV
When to watch – Tuesday, March 12 at 5.30pm
Prize money – Last year’s race was worth £125,000.
Course – The race is run on the Old course at Cheltenham.
Race type – The National Hunt Chase is a Grade 2 for novice chasers only, meaning horses who have won over fences in previous seasons are unable to compete. The race is also exclusive to amateur riders, meaning professional jockeys do not take part.
Weights – Most horses will run off level weights carrying 11st 6lb, mares get an allowance of 7lb. Five-year-olds also get an allowance of 2lb.
Ages – Horses aged five or older can compete in the National Hunt Chase. Most runners are typically aged six or older.
Sponsor – None


Past 10 winners:

Year Horse Previous form Age Price Trainer Jockey
2018 Rathvinden 112BU 10 9/2 Willie Mullins Patrick Mullins
2017 Tiger Roll 22133 7 16/1 Gordon Elliott Lisa O’Neill
2016 Minella Rocco 1-3P62 6 8/1 Jonjo O’Neill Derek O’Connor
2015 Cause Of Causes 220-75 7 8/1 Gordon Elliott Jamie Codd
2014 Midnight Prayer 61U21 9 8/1 Alan King Joshua Newman
2013 Back In Focus 8-2111 8 9/4F Willie Mullins Patrick Mullins
2012 Teaforthree 321P1 8 5/1F Rebecca Curtis JT McNamara
2011 Chicago Grey 11F25 8 5/1F Gordon Elliott Derek O’Connor
2010 Poker De Sivola 0-2951 7 14/1 Ferdy Murphy Katie Walsh
2009 Tricky Trickster 42212 6 11/1 Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Waley-Cohen


Race stats

  • Ran at least three times over fences, 10/10
  • Hurdles RPR of at least 118, 10/10
  • Finished first or second in a chase over at least 3m, 10/10
  • Top-five finish last time out, 9/10 (exception unseated)
  • Top-three finish on either or both of last two starts, 8/10
  • Had won over at least 3m (hurdles or chases), 8/10
  • Aged six to eight, 8/10

Other factors

  • The last eight winners had adjusted RPRs of 154-167
  • The 2011, 2012 and 2013 winners were outright favourites – the last to oblige before them was Keep Talking in 1992
  • No amateur rider has won the National Hunt Chase more than twice since 1946. Patrick Mullins and Derek O’Connor are the two highest profile amateurs currently riding to have achieved the feat. Mullins steered Back In Focus (2013) and Rathvinden (2018) to victory and O’Connor achieved his successes on Chicago Grey (2011) and Minella Rocco (2016).
  • Jonjo O’Neill is the most successful trainer in the history of the race with six wins. His wins came courtesy of Front Line (1995), Rith Dubh (2002), Sudden Shock (2003),
  • Native Emperor (2004), Butler’s Cabin (2007) and most recently with Minella Rocco (2016).

Key Trials

Many of the key trials for the National Hunt Chase tend to be run over 3m where horses shape as if needing a longer trip. The 3m Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is the first staying Grade 1 novice chase of the season and can be used as a catalyst to going up in distance. The Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby and the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot often produce National Hunt Chase contenders.
The Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown in late December is the first 3m Grade 1 of the season in Ireland. Last year’s National Hunt Chase winner Rathvinden, however, ran in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown over 2m5f in February and clearly relished the longer trip at Cheltenham.

What happened last year?

Rathvinden and Ms Parfois served up a pulsating battle in attritional conditions with Rathvinden gamely finding extra towards the finish to prevail by half a length. View the 2018 National Hunt Challenge Cup result and replay here.

Where can I get Cheltenham Festival tickets?

Cheltenham Festival tickets can be purchased from the official festival website here.

National Hunt Chase Tips

Champagne Classic’s hurdle form from a couple of seasons ago is exceptional, with scalps including Penhill, Presenting Percy and Monalee. He suffered a setback last season but has been eased back to a novice chase campaign and I’d imagine Gordon Elliott has left plenty to work with in the build-up to this. Jamie Codd would be the ideal booking and he looks to have an excellent chance of reversing the form of two starts ago with Ballyward.
(Tom Park)

1. Champagne Classic, 2. Ballyward, 3. Ok Coral

View the racecard and place your bets here.