An intriguing race that takes place over the Gold Cup trip for Hunter Chasers. Last year‘s race saw Porlock Bay at 16/1 beat long time favourite Billaway on the line in a thrilling finish. The two had pulled 13 lengths clear of the rest and it was one of the best finishes all week. Those two are naturally priced short enough in the market for this years renewal.
Billaway is 7/2 best price and has had only two starts this campaign, a below his best second on reappearance, before winning comfortably when eased down this weekend. He is one of the best hunter chasers around and is probably the right favourite; though I would personally look to take him on as he has been a beaten favourite all 4 times he's ran in the top hunters’ races- twice in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, once in the Aintree hunters chase and last year in the Punchestown Champion Hunters' race. He has a tendency to let him self down on the jumping front and doesn’t like to battle if a horse puts it up to him. Last years‘ winner Porlock bay is now 16/1 again which is way too big, I'll be backing him each way. He has run twice and been beaten into second twice since, firstly by Premier Magic (Also 16/1 here) and Salvatore this weekend. We know connections have been working back from this race and I wasn't too concerned when he lost in the Point to Point to Premier Magic, possibly a little disappointing that with that run he couldn't then beat Salvatore who was pulled up in thus race last year. But we know he'll be primed for this, with it being his seasonal target and 16/1 is too big.
Of those that ran last year but didn't complete, I liked Salvatore last year at a huge price but he made mistakes and was pulled up, as mentioned earlier he recently beat Porlock Bay comfortably. Bob and Co was a short price at only 9/2 last year, and he fell when still travelling well three out, he subsequently beat Billaway at Punchestown and again comes here with a live chance. He's due to run either this Friday or Saturday before going on for another shot at this race and likely the Punchestown equivalent again.
The next two in the market, like Bob and Co, are both owned and ridden by David Maxwell. Dolphin Square, 8/1, has been showing strong form while handicap hurdling and I wouldn’t have predicted he would turn up here. That being said he did win a hunters chase earlier today so perhaps he could turn up her. Confusing though as Maxwell likes to ride his own horse, you’d think Bob and Co would be his main hope and he’d keep Dolphin Square for a hurdle race and spread his darts out. Similarly, Cat Tiger at 10/1 would be interesting having competed in the Aintree Hunters chase last year, finishing ahead of Billaway, but has previous graded form in France and has been running in handicap chases this year. Maxwell might opt for the Ultima or Kim Muir with him.
Dubai Quest is 16/1 and has been unbeaten in point to points and hunters chases, since falling in January 2020. It's hard to judge his form based on what he's beaten in that sphere, but could feasibly outrun his odds. Staker Wallace is 14/1 and has finished fourth and third in the previous two renewals as well as a third in the Punchestown Champion Hunter last year, behind Bob and Co and Billaway. He was 13 and 8 lengths behind in those races respectively and I don't really see him winning this, especially as he hasn't run since May last year. Pont Aven was a decent enough chaser for Willie Mullins without ever being top class, he's interesting having switched to J P Owen. He's won 2 of 3 starts for him falling when in the lead on the other, the two wins coming by 30 and then 16 lengths. I think he could be a lively outsider here and wouldn't put anyone off backing him. Finally, I put him up already as an early Ante Post pick for the race, Vaucelet, now 18/1. Winner of last years Champion Novice Hunters race at Stratford last year, the previously mentioned Premier Magic could only manage that day. He then beat last years 6th in this race, Mighty Stowaway easily in November. His latest run he finished a lacklustre 3rd which is why his price has drifted from 14s out to 18/1, but I'd forgive him that as it was only 2 miles 5 furlongs, with him needing further.
At bigger odds there's three that would interest me. The 2020 winner, It Came To Pass, is 25/1 but was well beaten in the race last year and most recently fell in a point back in January. Cousin Pascal is also 25/1 and he won last years Aintree Hunters chase and was a good second over 2 miles 5 recently, if coming on for the run could be overpriced back up in trip. Finally I'd also give mention to Not That Fuisse who is a very eyecatching possible runner, having finished a good 5th in last years Grand Annual. He always travels well but I was questioning how well he would stay the extra distance. However, on his first hunters chase start over three miles he was held up and stormed into the race to take third. He then ran just two weeks later in a similar event, cruising into it from the rear again only to be brought down 5 out when 5 lengths off the leaders. I think he would have gone close that day. It’s worth noting you have to qualify for the race and he would need to run again in the top four of a hunters chase to get in (this may have changed back to pre-covid rules in which case he would need to finish in the top 2 twice to qualify, meaning he’d be an unlikely runner.
I so far have only put up one bet Ante Post for this race, it was quite an early selection but I still really like the horse.
Vaucelet - Foxhunters Chase - 14/1 0.5pts each way (06/12/2021)
Since this selection he was a beaten favourite, that was over a short shorter than his optimum and I like that he's been freshened for this. Back up in trip he should go much closer. You can get 18/1 for him now which I think is a great price.
I will add two more selections here to take on Billaway, a 1pt win bet on Bob and Co at 9/1, having already beaten Billaway last year the price is too big. The each way shot is last years winner Porlock Bay, 0.5pts each way at 16/1, I just don't see why his price is so big when we know this is his target and his previous runs were lacking fitness but still not without credit.