The comprehensive guide to the Irish Hunter Chase schedule in recent years, including the full programme of races for the coming season.
A total of three Hunter Chases are programmed for the pre-Christmas season, with Fairyhouse once again hosting a Hunter Chase in addition to the two point-to-point bumpers that were introduced last year and have been retained for 2021.
Down Royal and Limerick will be hosting their annual hunter chases over the festive period. Down Royal will be held on 26th December and Limerick on 27th December.
Click here for schedule.
The 2020/21 Hunter Chase season saw Willie Mullins' Billaway develop into the top performer on the domestic scene courtesy of victories at Down Royal and Naas - whilst he was also narrowly denied in the big Festival races at both Cheltenham and Punchestown in the Spring.
With the Spring 2020 programme having been largely wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, an all Hunter Chase / Point-to-Point Bumper card was created at Fairyhouse in mid-November to compensate connections and proved to be a popular addition, whilst in 2021, unlike the interuptions experienced by action between the flags, the spring Hunter Chase programme was fully completed.
Click here for Schedule.
It Came To Pass ensured that Irish eyes were smiling on the Hunter Chase scene when he came home in front in the Cheltenham Foxhunters for the father and daughter team of Eugene and Maxine O'Sullivan.
It also proved to be one of the final acts in the season, because the Covid-19 pandemic brought all racing to a stop in March, with the sport suspended all the way through to early June ensuring that year's Punchestown Festival was cancelled.
The 2018/19 hunter chase season had a very traditional look to it with the programme by-and-large replicating the provisional summary of previous years, with the three autumn hunter chases being headlined by the breakthrough success of Stand Up And Fight at Down Royal.
The major change within the spring, saw the race that was formerly known as the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunter Chase, moving to it’s third different course within three years, following a request from trainers for the race to be run left handed. That resulted in Navan staging the race which was won by the ultimate champion hunter chaser of the season, Ucello Conti.
The Irish were out of luck at both Cheltenham and Aintree, with Burning Ambition getting closest at Liverpool, having to settle for second despite looking the likely winner approaching the famous elbow.
And the English successes within the big spring hunter chases once again continued through to Punchestown, as Rose Loxton’s Caid Du Berlais ran out a wide-margin winner of the Champion Hunter Chase for the second year in succession.
The 2017/18 season will be remembered for the loss of the Raymond Smith Hunter Chase, which was demoted from Leopardstown’s Irish Gold Cup card, following the creation of the Dublin Racing Festival at the Dublin course.
The move to the right-handed Punchestown a week later, ensured that the big Cheltenham Foxhunters Trial lost some of its appeal for trainers, and emphasised the lack of left-handed opportunities within the hunter chase division.
The race would see the clash of the rising star within the division, Burning Ambition, and the proven track recruit, Gilgamboa, who had won the two hunter chases over Christmas. Victory would go to Enda Bolger’s charge earning him the Champion Hunter Chaser crown, however it would be his last run of the season.
Burning Ambition failed to fire at Cheltenham, where it was a second successive victory for Pacha Du Polder, whilst at Aintree there were emotional scenes, as the late Peggy Hagan’s Balnaslow came home in front for Derek O’Connor and Graham McKeever.
The three-year winning streak of On The Fringe was brought to a halt in 2017, with the arrival on the Hunter Chase scene of Foxrock.
Ted Walsh’s stable star was a former high-class chaser as a Grade 2 winner who had got within a length of Grade 1 success in the 2015 Hennessy at Leopardstown. Following a low-key pointing introduction in a novice riders open at Borris House when defeated by Balnaslow, he did not look back winning four races on the bounce.
Beginning at Down Royal over Christmas, Katie Walsh guided the Alan Fleming-owned gelding to win at Thurles in January, before adding the Raymond Smith at Leopardstown and Tetretema at Gowran Park his season haul.
Ruled out of the big English Festivals because of their eligibility rules, their spring prizes remained at home, as Pacha Du Polder won the first of his two Cheltenham Foxhunters crowns, whilst Dineur ensured Mickey Bowen was the latest of his siblings to enjoy big race success.
For the third consecutive year, it was On The Fringe who claimed the champion hunter chaser prize, following what was another record-breaking campaign.
Enda Bolger’s star Hunter Chaser narrowly denied Colin McBratney’s Marito in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, whilst in the Aintree equivalent with Jamie Codd deputising for his suspended regular partner Nina Carberry, the Exit To Knowhere gelding proved to be eight lengths too good for Dineur.
Back on home turf, the JP McManus-owned gelding picked up a fifth Punchestown Champion Hunter Chase, a race he had first won as a five-year-old.
Of the other domestic hunter chases, the 2016 Raymond Smith was overshadowed by the fatal injury suffered by David Christie’s You Must Know Me, moments after he had crossed the line to claim victory under Barry O’Neill.
In a season which saw him claim the triple crown of hunter chases, it was no surprise to see On The Fringe crowned champion hunter chaser.
The dominant force in the division throughout the 2014-2015 campaign, he had a slow start to the season when suffering defeats at the hands of Gordon Elliott’s Oscar Barton at Down Royal over Christmas and Willie Mullins’ Prince De Beauchene in the Raymond Smith Memorial at Leopardstown.
Neither of his two conquerors made it to Cheltenham with Oscar Barton suffering a career-ending injury, whilst Prince De Beauchene was ineligible, and at Prestpury Park, On The Fringe put in one of his best displays to prevail by 17 lengths.
Pacha Du Polder and Noble Prince managed to get closer to him at Aintree and Punchestown respectively, however neither could deny him a historic first triple crown of the top spring hunter chases at the big festivals.