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Seven Irish horses declared for the Cheltenham Foxhunters

The Foxhunters is always one of the highlights of Cheltenham Festival week and seven Irish-trained runners have been declared for the St. James's Place Foxhunters with a full field of 24 going to post.

Having won every renewal from 2011 to 2016, the Irish appear to once again hold a strong hand in the race, with two of the first four in the market being trained on this side of the Irish Sea.

Coastal Tiep was one of three horses scratched from the Cheltenham Foxhunters at the six-day stage on Saturday.

Seven Irish horses remain in the final line up for the 3m2f contest which will take place after the Gold Cup on Friday at 16:10.

Billaway is one of many horses who is part of Champion trainer Willie Mullins' large string set to head over to the festival, and enters the race following his Naas Hunter Chase victory last month.

Owned by John Turner, the son of Well Chosen has been aimed specifically at the Foxhunters and the gelding is currently a 6/1 shot, making him the shortest priced horse out of the seven Irish horses set to line up, with plenty of punters fancying the Willie Mullins charge to be a strong contender.

Mullins was the Cheltenham Festival leading trainer in 2019 and that could be enough for people to side with Billaway in this contest, combined with his impressive victory in the Naas Hunter Chase where he found plenty for pressure to fend off a wall of challengers in the closing stages.

The eight-year-old has also won a Downpatrick Hunter Chase in March 2019 and has achieved a number of placed efforts since he began his career under rules including finishing third in the Gowran Tetratema Hunters Chase and finishing runner-up in the Cork and Tipperary point-to-point bumpers and is sure to have a big chance with Willie’s son Patrick on board.

Enda Bolger last won the Foxhunters back in 2016 with On The Fringe, who was securing victory in the race for a second year in succession. This was also the last time an Irish trainer found success in the race and Bolger puts his faith in Staker Wallace.

The son of King’s Theatre made a most encouraging return to action when finishing second in the Naas Hunters Chase in January after a three-year layoff.

Bruree-based Bolger has since sent out the nine-year-old to capture a comfortable success in the open lightweight at Nenagh in the middle of February. Patiently ridden by Liz Lalor, the gelding took up the running on the approach to the final fence. Thereafter the result was never in doubt with the gelding ultimately denying Lite Duties by eight lengths.

Before his comeback he had racked up some notable form having come third in a Hunters Chase in Leopardstown and also scoring in his six-year-old geldings' maiden at Kilfeacle in 2017.

The JP McManus-owned gelding is currently third in the market at 7/1, he needs soft ground and will be one to watch out for if in the mix approaching the Prestbury Park hill.

Another Irish entry that brings some solid form to the table is the Eugene O’Sullivan-trained It Came To Pass. He kicked his season off to a great start when winning the Cork Hunters Chase at Cork back in November.

The ten-year-old has underperformed since that victory, having come seventh on his next outing in the competitive Down Royal Hunters Chase at Christmas and pulling up most recently at Kilfeacle in January.

If the son of Brian Boru can bounce back to form he would have to be strongly considered with a wealth of experience behind him, and having put in a good performance at the Festival back in 2016 where he cruelly fell just three fences from the finish. Maxine O’Sullivan looks set to have another great spin here off her father Eugene’s horse.

Rewritetherules, who is already a four-time winning gelding, is looking to follow up his success at Punchestown in February, where he beat Handy Headon by half-a-length.

The six-year-old has landed victories in Hunter Chase company twice before, he stormed home 11 lengths clear of his rivals in the Tipperary Hunter Chase in May 2019 and brings some competitive form to this contest with Tom Hamilton booked.

Vincent Halley has been enjoying a successful campaign this season with Arctic Skipper, he has won three out of last five starts between the flags with his most recent success coming in the open at Tallow in February.

The former Grade 2-winning chaser has some top-class form and his point-to-point form cannot be ignored either. He is one of the more reliable runners amongst the entries and on paper he is one of the classier horses in the field and could go close and is set to be ridden be ridden by his familiar partner John Barry.

Dylrow is one of the outsiders at 50/1, he had a fantastic win at Limerick during Christmas when coming home in front of Billaway by one-length in a thrilling finish in the Hunters Chase.

David Christie has been having an excellent season in points with his open horses and with his horses in flying form, Dylrow could run a competitive race here and the booking of reigning champion points rider Barry O’Neill is also a major positive.

The Graham McKeever-trained Chosen Dream completes the Irish eight, and the former Stratford Champion Hunter Chase winner will look to fare better than when pulling up in last year's renewal. Noel Mcparlan is set to ride him on the day.

See a full list of declarations here.


 

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