On The Fringe chasing historic treble for Bolger and Codd
St James's Palace Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunter Chase (Class 2) | New course | 5yo+ | 3m2f70y | RUK/ITV
Irish-trained runners have won every edition of the amateur riders' Gold Cup since Baby Run landed the prize in 2010 for a baby-faced Sam Twiston-Davies.
A year ago On The Fringe and became the seventh horse to double up in this race since the war and he is a warm order to do what none of his six predecessors managed by making it three.
Now 12, On The Fringe – who will have the assistance of man-of-the-moment Jamie Codd in the absence of Nina Carberry – has gone on from each of his festival triumphs to score at Aintree and Punchestown and proved he retains plenty of spark when running Foxrock to three and a half lengths on his traditional comeback at Leopardstown last month.
With her father's Foxrock skipping the festival Katie Walsh could again provide the chief danger to On The Fringe as she teams up with Wonderful Charm.
A high-class chaser on his day, the Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old is two from two in the hunter chase sphere, though regular rider Will Biddick remains loyal to Jack Barber, whose Ask The Weatherman has sailed through the pointing field and won his first start under rules at Wincanton with the minimum of fuss.
Paint The Clouds has been third in this race in each of the last two runnings and should appreciate the lively ground, while trainer Warren Greatrex has a decent second string in ex-Nicholls horse Black Thunder.
Derek O'Connor won this race on Northern Ireland-trained Zemsky in 2011 and partners another horse from north of the border in Balnaslow, who is back with original handler Graham McKeever, having enjoying plenty of success in the care of Willie Mullins.
Young and successful
While hunter chasing may enjoy the reputation of extending the competitive career of chasers this is a race in which horses under the age of ten have a very good record. Since Earthmover scored aged 13 in 2004, nine of the 12 winners have been nine or younger.
What They Say
Jack Barber, trainer of Ask The Weatherman
He won his hunter chase at Wincanton very well and has come out of the race fine. He had his last schooling session this week and all's good. He's done everything asked and in his first run under rules jumped foot-perfect and was impressive.
Derek O'Connor, rider of Balnaslow
He's jumped around Cheltenham before, finishing fourth in the Kim Muir in 2014, and was third to Road To Riches in the Galway Plate later that year. He still has a lot of ability and took a big scalp when beating Foxrock at Borris House in December. Ted Walsh's horse beat him quite easily in a hunters' chase at Down Royal later that month, but there was no disgrace in that.
Warren Greatrex, trainer of Black Thunder and Paint The Clouds
Paint The Clouds is a big favourite. If they don’t water again and the rain stays away that will help his chance. Two years ago he did really well to finish third on soft, and last year the race didn’t pan out. The jockey is one from one on him and I'd like to think he's as good as ever. Black Thunder won’t mind the better ground and the cheekpieces will help. He and Paint The Clouds work together quite a lot and there shouldn’t be the difference in price between the two. He could surprise a lot of people.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer of Grand Vision
He was third in an Albert Bartlett and fourth in a National Hunt Chase. He's been very fragile, but we got him qualified and he'll love the trip. He'll have a nice each-way chance.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Mendip Express
He ran well in the race last year and enjoyed a good end to the season, so we're hoping he can do the same again.
Enda Bolger, trainer of On The Fringe
He's very good and I couldn't be happier with him. We don't see any difference between him now and the horse who came alive last spring. He'll love the ground and the man on board's in great form.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Pacha Du Polder and Wonderful Charm
Pacha Du Polder ran very well in the race last year when he didn't have a great prep because he'd been running round the country getting Victoria [Pendleton] qualified. He's had one run this year, which suits him better because he's fresh. Wonderful Charm has done well in the two races he needed to qualify. He's ground-dependent and wouldn't want rain.
Even given its prime position just after the Gold Cup, it is something of a surprise the Foxhunter – a race in which many of the form lines would elude all but the most dedicated point-to-point enthusiast – is such a big betting race. According to Coral, the 2016 edition, which featured Olympian Victoria Pendleton's riding Pacha Du Polder, was the tenth-biggest turnover race of the entire year, up from 14th in 2015.
TOP 10 BETTING RACES IN BRITAIN 2016
(Figures supplied by Coral based on betting shop turnover; 2015 position in brackets)
2016 RACE RACECOURSE DATE
1 (1) Grand National Aintree April 9
2 (2) Gold Cup Cheltenham March 18
3 (3) Derby Epsom June 4
4 (4) Scottish Grand National Ayr April 16
5 (6) Champion Chase Cheltenham March 16
6 (12) World Hurdle Cheltenham March 17
7 (7) Champion Hurdle Cheltenham March 15
8 (5) King George VI Chase Kempton December 26
9 (9) Oaks Epsom June 3
10 (14) Foxhunter Chase Cheltenham March 18