What happened in 2013?
A real class act landed the spoils as At Fishers Cross done the business for favourite backers at 11/8, beating African Gold by four lengths.
He’s a horse that has a big future over three miles as he possesses the much sought after combination of class and stamina. All of that was on show in his first Cheltenham Festival victory and a second for his trainer Rebecca Curtis.
The rain that fell prior to the race was very much in his favour as he came into the race with solid claims, unbeaten in four, all of which was on softer than good, with his defeat of Neptune winner The New One over an extended 2m4f in January representing high-class novice form. Tracking the pace travelling well, he moved to the front on the approach to the last and stayed on very strongly up the hill under a jubilant AP McCoy, who was celebrating only his only win of the 2013 Festival.
He looks sure to make a fine chaser, although connections could be tempted by a tilt at the World Hurdle this season, where he is among the market leaders.
Two exited the race at the last with a circuit to run, I Shot The Sheriff falling and bringing down Our Vinnie, who went off a 7/1 shot and looked a picture in the paddock. They’ll be other days for him.
If previous years are anything to go by, then some of the beaten horses are going to make lovely chasers in the future.
The runner-up African Gold certainly is in that make-up and Nigel Twiston-Davies has big plans for him. Inish Island, for Willie Mullins, who finished third also looks a stayer in the making as does Le Bec, who despite finishing fifth really took the eye in the paddock and has the look of a real top class chaser in the making. He’s one to watch for the RSA Chase.
2014 Major Players
At the time of writing there are 15 horses shorter than 25/1 but no bigger than 12/1, which tells you the array of options that punters have at their disposal for a race of this nature. This is a great breeding ground for a potential high-class three mile chaser as shown by the roll of honour that includes Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Weapon Amnesty and Bobs Worth. Horses that may fit that bill and be aimed at this race include Faugheen, Outlander and Moyle Park, all trained by Mullins, and Champion Bumper third Golantilla, who is trained by Tony Martin.
Betting advice: strong race trends
Course form is especially crucial for a horse to prosper in this gut-busting three miler. Six of the last nine winners had already had two previous wins at Prestbury Park under their name.
Previous form over three miles is also a must when finding the winner. This is a tough old slog for novices and they need to come prepared, ideally with a win over three miles to their name. Stamina is crucial.
There’s three races all run at Cheltenham over the course of the season that need to be watched with this race in mind. The Grade Two Hyde Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open meeting in November, the Bristol Novices Hurdle ran in December and the Classic Novices Hurdle run in late-January. That race was won by At Fishers Cross last season.
Ante post tip
Not the strongest of races to have an early ante-post punt on, but a horse we think may turn into a top class hurdler is Golantilla, who can be backed at 25/1 with William Hill. Early days, mind.