2019 Neville Hotels Novice Chase tips – 9/4 chance to open chasing account with Grade One win at Leopardstown

Jon Vine takes a look through the field for this Grade One on the final day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival and provides readers with his tips for Sunday 29th December.

The curtain comes down on another sensational Christmas Festival at Leopardstown on Sunday, with the Matheson’s Hurdle headlining the day four card. Before we reach that two mile hurdle, there’s another excellent renewal of the Neville Hotels Novice Chase to take in, and the form of this three-mile Grade One tends to work out really well.

Delta Work lived up to his short price-tag 12 months ago, before going on to place in the RSA and win another Grade One at Punchestown. 2017 winner, Shattered Love went on to score in the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival, and the champion of 2016, Our Duke beat his elders in the Irish Grand National at the end of his novice campaign.

Four of the last five renewals of this race have been won by horses bearing the Gigginstown Stud silks, so it’s no surprise to see those colours topping the current ante-post betting. Battleoverdoyen (7/4 Unibet) always looked like a chaser in the making during his successful novice campaign over hurdles, and Gordon Elliott’s charge is unbeaten in two starts over the larger obstacles so far this term.

Battleoverdoyen winning the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle last winter.

Battleoverdoyen travelled to Galway in October and defeated Cap York by eight lengths. Davy Russell then guided the favourite to a comfortable win in the Grade Two Florida Pearl, powering home to beat Any Second Now by a convincing margin. Three miles is certainly Battleoverdoyen’s ideal trip and he could take all the beating if he has progressed between runs once again.

Elliott often throws two or three of his best novices into this Grade One, so it seems highly likely that Champagne Classic (5/1 William Hill) will square off against Battleoverdoyen. The National Hunt Chase is the long-term aim for this talented eight-year-old, who’s won both of his starts during his second season as a novice, but a Grade One victory this weekend could force Elliott to change tack and target the RSA.

Dallas Des Pictons (33/1 Coral) hasn’t taken to chasing as well as most people expected, and he comes into Leopardstown on the back of a resounding defeat over two-and-a-half miles at Cork. Tintangle (40/1 William Hill) has also been given the opportunity to represent Elliott in this Grade One but, judging by her latest chasing effort over two miles at Cork, she wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

Sitting second in the market we find Minella Indo (9/4 Coral), who lost out to Laurina as the pair made their chasing debuts at Gowran Park. Rachel Blackmore didn’t try and stretch the favourite out that day, setting fairly slow fractions on heavy ground. As a result, the race turned into a half-mile sprint, which suited Laurina perfectly.

Surprisingly, Willie Mullins has only managed to win this great race twice, and his chances of claiming a third Neville Hotels lie at the feet of Carefully Selected (5/1 Unibet). A terrible error at the second-last fences almost brought the odds-on favourite to a complete stand-still at Fairyhouse. Yet, Danny Mullins’ mount was still strong enough to battle back and snatch a narrow victory on his chasing bow.

Despite a couple of sticky jumps, Salsaretta (20/1 William Hill) got the job done in good fashion on her first start over fences, defeating the capable Galvin by eight-lengths. Willie Mullins threw his mare into three Grade Ones over hurdles last season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she joined Carefully Selected in Sunday’s contest and she certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

Minella Indo and Rachael Blackmore enter the parade ring at Punchestown.

Small-time trainer James Joseph Mangan has only had one winner from 32 runners so far this season, that coming courtesy of Castlebrook (16/1 Coral), who beat several subsequent winners on his first start over fences at Wexford. Mangan then threw his novice in with several high-quality second-season chasers at Gowran Park and Castlebrook ran a cracker, crossing the line just three lengths behind Getabird in third, finishing a long way ahead of both Mengli Khan and Mortal, who passed the post second in this race 12 months ago.

At 16/1 and 20/1 respectively, both Castlebrook and Salsaretta appeal from and each-way standpoint, but I’m not really convinced either will be good enough to win this three-miler. Champagne Classic and Carefully Selected will have no trouble seeing out the trip, but both may lack a little Grade One class and their prices are way too short for an each-way punt.

Although Battleoverdoyen is two-from-two over fences, I haven’t been that impressed with his jumping and he could come unstuck in a truly run contest on better ground. So, with negatives against most of his rivals at the head of the market, this looks a great opportunity for MINELLA INDO to establish himself as the leading staying novice chaser in Ireland.

The trip was too short, and the ground far too heavy for Henry De Bromhead’s stable star when he squared off with Laurina at Gowran Park. He may have eventually lost by nine lengths, but Minella Indo still jumped neatly that day and managed to put plenty of distance between himself and the chasing pack.

I was so impressed with Minella Indo last season. To win a race as gruelling as the Albert Bartlett is hard enough, but following up at Punchestown just three weeks later marked Minella Indo down as a very, very classy horse. I’m convinced he will prove himself to be the best three-miler in this year’s crop of novices over the coming weeks and months. Rachael Blackmore’s mount has every chance of securing a third career Grade One at Leopardstown on Sunday.