St Patrick’s Day at Cheltenham begins with a bang as the classiest novice chasers around do battle over the intermediate trip…
What happened in 2013?
Irish novice Benefficent put on a brave battling performance to sting favourite backers on Dynaste.
This 2m5f trip suited the winner perfectly as he doesn’t quite stay three miles but is too slow for two miles. Bombed out from the front by jockey Bryan Cooper, Tony Martin’s charge jumped fluently around Prestbury Park but was headed with two to jump as both Dynaste, all-the-rage at 11/8 for David Pipe, and Captain Conan loomed up menacingly.
Benefficent looked beat at the last but not as beat as the two leaders who feel into a hole coming up the torturous Cheltenham hill. The Irish raider kept on galloping and had enough in the tank to win by three lengths in front of a tiring Dynaste.
The Ryanair Chase will undoubtedly be a target for both this season.
One would be foolish to rule out Dynaste from developing into a top-class animal though as he went onto demolish a field at Aintree in the Mildmay Novices over three miles. He may not show his best at Cheltenham though, which is something to keep an eye on.
2014 Major Players
The novice chase division looks a real intriguing one to weigh up this season with an array of talent looking to stamp their authority on the chasing scene.
It’s quite tricky for punters to analyse what horses will end up where in terms of the novice division at this stage, as usually the most athletic ones go for the Arkle, the gutsiest go for the RSA Chase and the rest end up in the Jewson.
Perhaps the most interesting novice chaser to look forward to is Oscar Whisky, who looks the right sort in the care of Nicky Henderson to flourish over the bigger obstacles.
The two-time winning Aintree Hurdle victor never really flourished at the Cheltenham Festival (third in the 2011 Champion Hurdle was his best effort), but he achieved a huge amount over hurdles, culminating in a mark of 164.
However, his old sparkle deserted him in his final two runs, when favourite in the World Hurdle and when well beaten in the Aintree Hurdle, and the time looks right now for a switch to fences. Dai Walters’ classy customer looks built for chasing.
He’s athletic, speedy and has that touch of class that may make him a real player over a distance like the Jewson which he thrived on over hurdles.
Champagne Fever, the Supreme Novice Hurdle winner, is also amongst the market leaders but looks more of a three miler, as does African Gold from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard.
Champion Hurdle winner from 2012 Rock On Ruby looks more of a middle distance chaser in the making and trainer Harry Fry may just eye a crack at this race depending on how last year’s Champion Hurdle third takes to fences. We have our doubts that he fits the mould of one to transfer hurdle form to fences, especially under such an inexperienced trainer.
Betting advice: strong race trends
This race is only three years old, so any in depth digging on trends would be a pointless process, however, all three winners have been trained in Ireland.
Two really spring to mind when talking about the Jewson; firstly the Novices Chase run at Sandown in February, otherwise known as the Scilly Isles Chase, which was won by Captain Conan last season. Secondly, the Dipper Novices Chase run on Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day card, also will be well worth watching.
Ante post tip
Tough one this, from an ante post view as connections have three races to choose from in terms of their classy novices. Gun to the head, though? We’d plump for Oscar Whisky at 10/1 with Bet365 due to his fantastic record over this distance as a hurdler.