Before looking at the Novice Chasers if you really want to read real in-depth Cheltenham analysis you need to go to sportinglife.com/racing and read Lydia Hislop’s articles “Road to Cheltenham”. They are long but they are the best with plenty of trainer quotes. If her articles are a feast let’s press on with my snack size thoughts!
Arkle 2m Tuesday
It is being billed as Min v Altior take two but it could be much more than that if Buveur D’Air and Yorkhill were to turn up and Identity Thief recovered in time! The obvious place to start is last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Festival. I’ve just watched the race again. Three points of interest. Firstly Altior put these away with consummate ease and secondly Min took off early at the third hurdle landing on top of it and IF he did pick up an injury there the Mullins fanboys have a hope and thirdly Buveur D’Air made up a lot of ground and ran on well. All three of the above have done nothing wrong over fences this season but for me Altior looks something special. A little concerned he has been entered into the Clarence House at Ascot this Saturday to take on the older horses such as Sire de Grugy, Un de Sceaux, Dodging Bullets and Ar Mad. Plenty of time for that after March and hate to think he could leave his Festival race in Berkshire. Possibly if the race really cut up, he’s 6/4 with a run.
JLT 2½m Thursday
If Min/Altior scare the opposition away from the Arkle then the JLT could be a cracker. Cards on table here I’ve already backed Buveur D’Air for the race because I think he’s looked a class act over the bigger obstacles and this looks the ideal trip.
However there are plenty of worthy contenders. Yorkhill won last year’s Neptune at the Festival, so he’ll get the trip, go on the probable ground and comes up the hill. He jumped left on chasing debut but hacked up. His next run will tell us more, could be at left handed Naas on Sunday. A couple he beat over hurdles have improved for fences, Le Prezien and OOSeven although the latter didn’t stay 3m at Doncaster last time. Politologue has been sensational winning both of his chases to date and Paul Nicholls says this is his trip for now but the trainer has also suggested he may be “looked after” this season as he thinks he’s got a potential 3m chasing superstar on his hands.
As well as Yorkhill Willie Mullins has American Tom who has proved hard to train despite looking the part, his second chasing run will also be informative.
Nicky Henderson has Whisper who is a horse I can never call right. He won a Coral Cup off 153 which was statistically impossible, he reminds me of Oscar Whiskey, surely he has to have soft ground and I just can’t have a 9yo winning a Championship novice chase at the Festival!! Just watch him hack up!
RSA 3m Wednesday
I worry for this race. Back in the day it used to be Alfred Bartlett, RSA, Gold Cup a la Bobs Worth but many a top trainer has said that such an attritional contest can bottom out a promising young chaser. Indeed many would seem to prefer to run their better horses in the 4M NH chase, slower pace, easier rhythm in which to jump the fences.
Bellshill heads the market and as the winner of the Grade 1 3m hurdle at Punchestown and a G2 winner of a Grade Novice chase, with reason. Only Willie Mullins will know why he ran in the Supreme last March and only Patrick Mullins will know how Ballyoptic beat him at Aintree? I am not totally convinced Bellshill is a Cheltenham horse seems more of a Punchestown type.
One thing for sure Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott will be represented. Batting for them could be Alpha des Obeaux (bled last time), A Genie in a Bottle, Lieutenant Colonel etc. Coney Island and Our Duke have the best current Irish form.
One who has to be of interest is Henderson’s Might Bite who fell at the last when 15L+ clear and was about to record a time quicker than Thistlecrack! Honestly. Just don’t like backing fallers in Championship Novice Chases at Cheltenham. I’ll keep my powder dry for now.
NH Chase 4m Tuesday
This race is rapidly gaining a reputation as the one to put your best staying chaser in. Indeed last year’s version has produced the winner of last season’s Scottish National, this seasons Hennessy and Welsh National, the Paddy Power chase, the Becher chase and a G3 Cheltenham handicap. That’s impressive.
Stamina and form are obviously important but so is the jockey as this is an amateur rider’s race. This race hasn’t taken shape yet but I have a few on my radar including Haymount (as has Patrick Mullins!), Harry Whittington’s Emerging Force, Arpege D’Alene (Will Biddick riding), JP McManus’s Mystical Knight and Nicky Henderson’s Beware the Bear.
SimpleSimonSays49…005 4th Jan.