Jon Vine takes a look through the ante-post betting for this excellent Grade Two on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham and provides readers with his tips for Wednesday 1st January.
The ITV Racing team will pitch their tent up at Cheltenham for their first show of 2020 on New Year’ Day, and what better way to kick off the televised coverage than with a thrilling renewal of the Dipper Novices’ Chase. Many future stars of the sport have enhanced their reputation by claiming victory in this Grade Two, with Lostintranslation getting up to defeat Defi Du Seuil in front of a capacity crowd in a thrilling renewal 12 months ago.
The betting for Wednesday’s Dipper is currently dominated by Champ (4/7 Paddy Power), who survived a scare or two to preserve his unbeaten record over fences at Newbury. Three from home, Champ looked beaten in the Berkshire Novices’ Chase, with either Black Op and Deyrann De Carjac (7/1 Paddy Power) seeming the most likely winners. Under a fierce drive by Barry Geraghty, Champ just kept finding and finding down the home straight, and even a sharp swerve to make it inside the elbow wasn’t enough to deny Nicky Henderson’s charge victory.
On the back of that, and considering what he achieved over hurdles last season, you can see why Champ is sitting at such a short price. Despite his superiority, I’m very keen to take on the favourite.
Champ clearly has a fantastic engine, making it inevitable that he will be stepped up to three miles this season. At Newbury, where there are four fences during the long run to the line, Champ has enough time and space to shift through his immense gears, enabling him to make up any deficit he’s faced to date.
Cheltenham, however, is a completely different story, as Henderson and his team found out to their cost in last season’s Ballymore. On the New course, the field picks up plenty of speed as they descend Cleeve Hill. The final two fences are taken within a blink of an eye and the finishing line is upon you before you know it. Champ is clearly the classiest horse in this year’s Dipper, I just don’t think the trip or, most importantly, the swift nature of the New course will play to his strengths.
Now, the big question remains, who do you take Champ on with?
Midnight Shadow (10/3 Paddy Power) remains winless in three starts over fences and, although he has improved with each of his runs, it was very disappointing to see Sue Smith’s star find so little when he came off the bridle at Haydock, having looked the only possible winner two from home.
Champagne Court (7/1 Paddy Power) is unbeaten over fences, having secured a pair of impressive handicap victories at Sandown and Plumpton. This, however, is a big step up from handicap company and Jeremy Scott’s budding star has plenty to prove on his first start in Graded company.
Paul Nicholls has handed Master Tommytucker (10/1 Paddy Power) the chance to make up for his fall in the Kauto Star, but whether he will appear at Cheltenham just six days after coming down at Kempton is unlikely. Even if he does, I’m not sure his jumping will stand up to the scrutiny of Cheltenham demands.
Poker Play (14/1 Paddy Power) ran much better at the November Meeting than the bare result suggests, having jumped nicely at the front for two-thirds of the race before running out of gas in the latter stages of that three-mile trip. This Grade Two may be a step too far for David Pipe’s improving sort, but I think there’s a big handicap to be won with Poker Play this term – maybe even the Close Brothers at the Festival!
French raider Matfog (20/1 Paddy Power) is worth a mention, but the form of his races on home soil doesn’t look up to this sort of standard. Pingshou (20/1 Paddy Power) would be nothing more than an also-ran and I would be surprised if Paint The Dream (25/1 Paddy Power) could hang with the big-guns on Wednesday.
The one who really appeals to me is DEYRANN DE CARJAC, who may have lost out to Champ at the favourite’s beloved Newbury, but it could be a totally different story at Cheltenham and he looks an excellent bet at 7/1.
Prior to that defeat in the Berkshire, Alan King’s charge had secured two highly-impressive victories in novice chases. Deyrann De Carjac lived up to his odds-on price on debut at Carlisle, cruising to an effortless 13-length success. King’s charge then handed Pym a four-length beating at Huntingdon, having given his rival five pounds at the weights, and the runner-up has gone on to boost that form significantly with a pair of smart victories of his own.
Tom Cannon tracked Champ for much of the race at Newbury, outjumping his rival throughout, and was travelling best of all as he hit the front jumping the third-last. In the end, Deyrann De Carjac was simply outstayed by two three-milers in Champ and Black Op, but it was a performance that marked King’s charge down as a very classy young chaser and I fancy he will turn the tables on the favourite when they clash at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.