By the time you read this, we will be less than 24 hours away from finding out who will be crowned the 2019 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival. If you have been a little slow off the mark in getting your copy of this week’s edition of Horse & Hound, you may already know the winner!
Ask anyone involved in jump racing what their ultimate dream is and most will tell you it is to have a winner at the Festival. Plenty dream it and few achieve it.
The pathway to Foxhunter success has undoubtedly changed with time. The chances of the race being won by an unexposed horse, that has graduated through the point-to-point ranks, are now much slimmer than they were. Instead, the race tends to be dominated, certainly in betting terms, by classy former National Hunt horses — many of which still reside in the care of their professional handlers.
I could fill several pages debating whether it is right or wrong for professional trainers to be allowed to run their horses in the amateur blue riband event but it is a widely emotive subject, so I will not even start. However, without a ride in the race, it is fair to say I will be rooting for one of the amateur-trained runners and, furthermore, one that merited its place in the race through its exploits in the pointing field.
Two such horses that fit this criteria are Hazel Hill and Road To Rome. The latter has been something of a revelation this season and has transcended the point-to-point ranks. If you told me it would start as a single- figure price in the Foxhunters after I finished second to it in a maiden point in November, I would have laughed.
All I can say is fair play to the connections and I wish them the very best luck.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 March 2019