Cheltenham ante-post tips: Naas form holds the key to National Hunt Chase

Stattler could be one to watch at next months Cheltenham Festival.Stattler could be one to watch at next months Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham Festival ante-post tips: Naas form holds the key to National Hunt Chase

The most gruelling contest at the Cheltenham Festival is the three and three-quarter mile National Hunt Chase, the final race on the opening day. Seven of the last eleven winners were trained in Ireland and the betting strongly suggests that trend will continue this year. With most leading bookmakers now offering NRNB, we have taken an early look at the form for this marathon contest for amateur riders.

Stattler favourite after Naas thriller

Willie Mullins has won the race twice with Back In Focus (2013) and Rathvinden (2018). His main hope is Stattler, recently promoted to favourite after a hard-fought success over Farouk D’Alene at Naas. That was only his second start over fences and, although he got close to one or two, he jumped well for such an inexperienced chaser. He was only fourth to Vanillier when favourite for last season’s Albert Bartlett and there is still a slight question mark over his ability to stay this distance.

Naas runner-up Farouk D’alene did not jump fluently but refused to go down without a fight. He was beaten a length and a quarter with a yawning 17 lengths back to Vanillier in third place. Interestingly, Farouk D’alene beat Vanillier over hurdles in heavy ground in December 2020 but was off the track for almost a year afterwards. He still holds entries in the Turner Novices’ Chase and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase but this looks his best opportunity.

Farouk D’Alene is trained by Gordon Elliott, a four-time winner of this race. His most obvious candidate for this marathon contest is Run Wild Fred, runner-up in last season’s Irish Grand National. He won at Navan in November but was then beaten 8 lengths by stable companion Fury Road at Leopardstown. He made a bad blunder at the tenth so is probably better than he showed that day. The winner was fancied for last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle but pulled up. First-time cheek-pieces seemed to work the oracle at Leopardstown and he could also come into the reckoning.

Capodanno given multiple Cheltenham entries

Capodanno is another interesting entry from the Mullins stable, a six-year-old son of Manduro. He was an impressive winner of a valuable handicap hurdle at Punchestown in April and has taken well to fences. He won at Naas before chasing home the highly-rated Bob Olinger at Punchestown over two and a half miles. Capodanno finished 27 lengths clear of the useful Gaillard Du Mesnil and, like Farouk D’Alene, he holds multiple Cheltenham entries.

The best of the home team could be the progressive Pats Fancy, trained by Rebecca Curtis. The gelding got off the mark at the second attempt over fences when beating Gericault Roque by half a length at Chepstow. He then repeated the performance, this time drawing clear of Imperial Alcazar to win by 11 lengths. The form of both races has worked out well and the son of Oscar has been raised to a handicap mark of 142. Threeunderthrufive has won his last four races for Paul Nicholls, although all have been in small fields. He has form on the track having beaten Does He Know here in November.

The Naas form still looks the most solid trial with Stattler and Farouk D’alene making most appeal. They can be backed at 3-1 and 10-1 respectively with BetVictor (non-runner – no bet). Pats Fancy is 16-1 with the same firm and looks best value of the British-trained runners.