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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Cheltenham Festival Novice Chases

My Cheltenham portfolio so far:
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1
Ryanair Chase
After Top Notch won at Kempton, I added another £20 to my stake on Politologue
POLITOLOGUE, £30 win @ 13/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £20 at SP on the day)
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 10/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day)

This blog focuses on the four novice chases: the Arkle (2-miles), the JLT Novice Chase (2m4f); the RSA Chase (3-miles); and the National hunt Chase (4-miles).

In my opinion, it is important to look at four races together from an antepost point of view, as we have to establish were the horses are most likely to be aimed as many of the top-class novice chasers will hold multiple entries.
The market leaders in the Arkle – Lalor @ 6/1 and Kalashnikov @ 7/1 – are also both strong in the JLT Chase market at 12/1 and 14/1 respectively. For me, the best novice chase form over 2-miles that we’ve seen this season is from Dynamite Dollars when winning the “Wayward Lad” Chase at Kempton on 27Dec when he gave 5lb and a beating to Kalashnikov.  It was considered Kalashnikov ran below form that day, but prior to this he had won a couple of facile races and so, when push came to shove, he was exposed.  If he’s going to justify his position in the market, Kalashnikov will need to show better form soon.  The worry about Dynamite Dollars is that he wasn’t a top hurdler, he’s only rated OR132 in that sphere. Prior to winning on 27Dec, Dynamite Dollars was comprehensively beaten be Lalor on 18Nov at Cheltenham and it is the potential for further improvement on that run which propels Lalor to the head of the Arkle betting.
A horse than wasn’t lacking speed as a hurdler was Defi Du Seuil, who was rated OR157. If you forget his debut chase, he has run a couple of cracking races, LTO just failing to concede 3lb to Lostintranslation over 2m4f & 110 yards at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day which I rate the best novice chase performance seen so far this season. Defi Du Seuil should be the current fav for the Arkle in my opinion.
Personally, I’d like to see Lostintranslation run over 3-mile as I think he looks a potential winner of the RSA Chase, being a top novice hurdler rated OR149 when running his best race over 2m4f. He certainly lost nothing in defeat when trying to concede 7lb to the talented mare La Bague Au Roi on his chasing debut over 2m6f.
Based on her win in the “Kauto Star” Novices Chase over 3-mile at Kempton on Boxing Day, the mare La Bague Au Roi is going to take some beating with the advantage of the 7lb mares’ allowance.  However, I think her best chance is going to be in the 2m4f JLT Novice Chase, as her development appears to have stalled and a rating of OR146 wasn’t good enough for the mare Ma Parfois to win at either Cheltenham or Aintree last season, and the JLT is the weakest of the novice chase championship races. However, connections are stating their intention to miss Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree instead.
In 2nd place at Kempton on Boxing Day was Topofthegame, and you could see the notable difference in stature between the horses. Kempton played to the strengths of the mare, and the 3-mile of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham looks right up his street. The disappointment of the race (although there can only be one winner) was Santini in 3rd as he never looked happy going right-handed round Kempton. He is another who will be seen to his best at Cheltenham, although he could well have another run left-handed at somewhere like Newbury before then, and the potential remains that he’s capable of a 160+ performance.
Over in Ireland, we’ve seen a handful of top-class novice chase performances, and the best there (according to the betting markets) is Delta Work, trained by Gordon Elliott.  So far unbeaten in 3 chases, this winner of the 3-mile Pertemps “Final” handicap hurdle at last years Festival has gone from strength to strength this season.  
After winning his chase debut, Delta Work beat the highly rated Le Richebourg over 2m4f at Fairyhouse on 02Dec; and this looked a top-class display. Delta Work then went to Leopardstown and stepped-up to a 3-mile trip for a Grade 1 novice chase on 29Dec. Personally, I wasn’t as impressed with this performance as I was with the Leopardstown run as although he won, he looked like being beaten on the run to the last by the year-older Mortal. 
Unfortunately, Mortal was asked for a big jump at the final fence, when he may not have needed it, and met it wrong, nearly losing his rider as well as all chance in the race. 
Both Mortal and Le Richebourg are trained by JP O’Brien and this young trainer has made rapid progress in his short career out of the saddle.  While I cannot know for sure, I feel positive that were Mortal and Delta Work to meet again over 3-mile, that Mortal would finish in front.

From what I have seen so far; if I was going to have a wager it would be on:-
Arkle Chase (2-mile)
Defi Du Seuil @ 12/1 (available generally) a top-class hurdler and now a very capable chaser, he didn’t stay 2m4f against one of the best novices we’ve seen this season, but that was no disgrace. Lalor still needs to prove himself worthy of being the market leader, and Dynamite Dollars was not good enough as a hurdler.

JLT Chase (2m4f)
Le Richebourg @ 14/1 (Paddy Power) does not look quick enough to win an Arkle, but he does have a combination of speed and stamina that could see him be a real contender in this race, and with the mare La Bague Au Roi likely to miss Cheltenham and go to Aintree, the main rival at this stage is out of the way.

RSA Chase (3-miles)
This race looks wide open with about 5lb covering all the main contenders so far, and with the Irish having a good record in this race then we may see something emerge from there.  If push came to shove, I’d likely split my stake between Topofthegame @ 8/1 and Santini @ 3/1; but I do think the best chance of a home victory in this race lies with Lostintranslation who may be untried at the 3-mile trip but is worth taking a chance on with the 20/1 offered by Corals.

National Hunt Chase (4-miles)
This race has developed in recent years into the top staying novice chase and so far the one horse that looks the most exciting to me is Mortal @ 20/1 with Bet365. Had he not made his final fence error LTO I think he would be trading at under 10/1.

Don't forget to take a look at my review of my post-Festival review of last season's Cheltenham Festival (see pages on the right) as this includes valuable insights into the trends of the likely winners.

Finally, last Saturdays selections didn't run anywhere near as well as expected; not a winner amongst them.  Charbel ran just about to form and that puts Top Notch at 163 on my ratings; about 5lb behind Politologue. It would seem that Charbel does not stay a yard further than 2m4f at this level.
It looked like one visit to the well too many for Cogry as his run petered-out with over a mile to go.  The winner certainly stays well and he should win other marathon races in the next 12 months, but for the big one at Aintree in April, Calett Mad looks worth keeping an eye on.

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