The final day of the Cheltenham Festival throws up some intriguing races and that is certainly the case with the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase. The scheduled start is 16:10 and it will consist of a wide-open field of runners. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders with our chosen tips of which horses you should back.
Has a fantastic record in this race finishing 2nd twice and then finally winning it last year after Winged Leader and Mighty Stowaway helped to set things up for him. Tends to run lazily in his races and will make a mistake, but will come on for his first two runs of the season and first-time blinkers should help sharpen him up. Likely to be popular e/w.
Was a decent runner under rules before going pointing on his last 3 starts. He has won all 3 of them in good style as well and although this will be tougher he will likely give it a good go.
Bob And Co
Not had much luck in this race falling at 3 out in 2021 and then unseating his owner last year. His owner is injured at the moment so Alice Stevens comes in for the ride which is good. He has the class to win this, but he hasn’t been seen since this race last year and now he is 12 you couldn’t be certain that he is still as good as he was a couple of years ago.
Won 4 times in Irish points this season, but his old rules form was always over shorter and so stamina has to be a big doubt.
Was 2nd in the Aintree Foxhunters last season which was a cracking effort and he will have a much better chance in that contest than he will in this one as I think he needs shorter.
A top-class horse under rules previously and he’s got his confidence back with a couple of Irish pointing wins this season. Has the back class, but horses with his profile don’t tend to win this race anymore.
His young jockey who rode him to a very good success over course and distance last April can’t ride in this so the superb James King has come in for the ride. He was only 10L behind Vaucelet at Stratford last May and that race didn’t suit him. He needed his first run of the season in a point and as much as he might want better ground he has the form to run a big race in this.
Was just pipped by Vaucelet at Down Royal on Boxing Day when he got very tired late on. I’ve never thought of him as a stayer and that performance backs up that thinking.
Was very hard to train and certainly had his own ideas about things at times, but he was very impressive at Exeter on his first run in a hunter chase last season. Things didn’t go so well over course and distance in April and he looked to hate the whole experience, jumping badly. That is a concern, but he looks like a different horse this season and whilst he was good, he finally looks to have shown the talent required to win this race.
He bolted up in a point on his return and then hacked up at Wincanton beating Shantou Flyer. He didn’t always jump well that day, but he was much better at Haydock when winning by 17L. I think he is the best horse in the race and he is the most likely winner as long as it wasn’t Cheltenham that was the issue.
Go Go Geronimo
Ran a cracker to finish 2nd over course and distance last April and then has had two easy successes in points this season. Likely to give it a good go from the front, but this is by far the best race he has run in and I’m not sure he will be good enough.
I K Brunel
Won well on his pointing debut back in November and then went to Taunton last month where he was given a very good ride by Izzie Marshall to beat Not That Fuisse. He did get the run of the race that day and I’m not sure he wants this sort of stamina test.
Its On The Line
Won a couple of hunter chases last season, but was very disappointing when coming over for a race at Stratford in May. Has been behind The Storyteller twice this season before winning his last couple of runs. His trainer seems confident, but he doesn’t look good enough for me.
Only had 10 races having started life in France. Unless the Racing Post database is wrong, he didn’t run from June 2019 until last October where he finished a 1L 3rd behind Vaucelet at Portrush. I suspect he was flattered a bit by his proximity that day though. He has also been 2nd to Winged Leader in a point in January and then was 2nd to Billaway at Naas before winning back in a point by 11L.
Given Billaway should improve plenty for that Naas run and he always looked like he would get back up to win I can’t have him reversing that form or the form with Vaucelet. However, given he has finished close to them you have to think he might be capable of running a decent enough race.
Ran a hell of a race to finish 3rd last year, but has run poorly twice since and I can’t see him repeating that effort.
A decent enough horse, but he’s yet to win a hunter chase and should be outclassed here.
Won a point last time and will stay very well, but he is unlikely to be good enough.
Not That Fuisse
Never used to be a stayer, but he stays better than he did and has done well for the move to hunter-chasing. Not sure he wants the step up to this trip though and was well beaten by Vaucelet at Stratford last year.
A really good pointer who has won well on both starts this season. No doubt he has the talent to run well in this, but he hated every bit of this race last year and that is a big concern for me.
On his old rules form he has no chance, but he has looked like a transformed horse since going pointing in Ireland this season. His form is red hot as he has been hammering some good horses. If he can transfer that form back under the rules then I think he is a massive player.
A top-class horse, but has had his issues in the past. Won a couple of hunter chases this season at Bangor and Kelso, but this is much tougher and I’m not sure he will be up to this.
Loves Cheltenham and has been placed in this race twice before. Still capable of running at a decent level and will give his young jockey a good spin round, but Famous Clermont beat him easily at Wincanton and I can’t see him repeating his place form in this race.
Another former top-class horse and a Grade 1 winner. Won 3 points at the start of the season, but was massively disappointing at Down Royal behind Vaucelet. Was only 2nd in a point last time and unless he finds his old form again I can’t have him at all.
Been the ante-post favourite for this for a long time now and is a top-class hunter chaser as he proved when nearly beating Billaway at Punchestown last April and then winning the Stratford Champion Hunter Chase last May. Only had two runs this season winning a point and then beating Dorking Cock at Down Royal on Boxing Day. Clearly good enough to win this, but I worry about him not having run for a while and the rain wouldn’t be ideal for him either.
Would need to start now to have any chance.
The St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase Tips
Vaucelet certainly holds strong claims and no doubt Billaway will run well again, but for me, Famous Clermont can win this for Britain. I think on pure ability he is the best horse in the race and as long as he can get into a rhythm and he doesn’t have an issue with Cheltenham again then I think he will win. Rocky’s Howya has a fantastic each-way chance on his pointing form and will go close if he can transfer that form back under the rules. The rain probably hinders Dandy Dan’s chances, but he is good enough to play a part and would be my 3rd pick.
Famous Clermont @ 7/1 with Bet365
If you want to find out the best bookmaker promotions, look at our Cheltenham Festival betting offers page.
All odds are correct at the time of writing.