Brian Healy looks ahead to the Cheltenham Festival and assesses the three big Grade One novice chases using some Cheltenham novice chase trends for each of the races.
Throughout the four days of the Cheltenham Festival there are many Grade One contests for novices and older horses over both hurdles and fences. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the Festival on Tuesday, and following on immediately afterwards in the day is the Arkle Trophy Chase.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday of the Festival it is the turn of the RSA Chase – which can be a real pointer to future Gold Cups – and completing the trio of Grade One novice contests over fences is Thursday’s Marsh Novices’ Chase – formerly the JLT Novices’ Chase which boasts a cracking roll of honour including Vautour and Defi Du Seuil.
Brian Healy looks over all three of the Grade One novices’ contests over fences and assesses each of the races using some key novice chase trends to try and pick out the winner of each contest.
CHELTENHAM NOVICE CHASE TREND HORSES – GRADE ONE NOVICE CHASES
ARKLE TROPHY CHASE CHELTENHAM TRENDS
It is worth keeping an eye on this Cheltenham Festival Grade One contest as it has a bit of a habit of throwing up future Champion Chase winners. The likes of Altior, Douvan, Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe and Moscow Flyer amongst other notable names all claimed victory in the Arkle Chase enroute to being crowned with a future Champion Chase victory.
Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson could again come to the fore in this race. Willie Mullins has won four of the last five renewals, only thwarted in that time by Altior’s win in 2017 for Nicky Henderson who himself has won three in the last ten.
TOP 10 ARKLE CHASE TRENDS
- 20/20 winners either won or were beaten by less than 4.5 lengths last time out.
- 20/20 winners returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting in their last run.
- 20/20 winners had the same jockey in at least three previous starts.
- 20/20 winners had between one and five starts over fences.
- 20/20 winners had ran at least once in the 90 days prior to the Arkle.
- 19/20 winners were shorter than 11/1 in the betting.
- 18/20 winners traded in the top five in the betting.
- 19/20 winners had ran in a maximum 8-runner fieldlast time out.
- 18/20 winners had placed at Grade 2 level or higher.
- 10/20 winners have been French-bred
This is a generally a good race for favourite backers with six of the last eight winners going off as market leader; while all six favourites to have gone off at odds-on have returned victorious. Eleven of the last twelve winners boast previous Cheltenham form; while the last twelve winners had all run at least four times over hurdles.
Of those with four hurdles starts or more, ten of those winners had scored at least twice over the smaller obstacles.
NOTEBOOK (11/4, William Hill) has leapt to the forefront of the Arkle betting with some top displays in Ireland and Henry de Bromhead’s charge ticks plenty of Cheltenham Festival Arkle trends.
The Samum gelding had been progressive last term over hurdles where he had six starts over timber which includes a win at Tramore prior to placing in a Grade Three contest enroute to a crack at the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
However, since switching to chasing he has been imperious in racking up a quartet of impressive successes, latterly beating Cash Back by three-parts of a length at Leopardstown. He had also beaten Fakir D’oudairies the time before and both are likely to reoppose.
Despite not being French-bred like four of the last five winners of the Arkle Chase, he looks the most solid option on the Cheltenham novice chase trends for this race and could give the Irish another success.
RSA CHASE CHELTENHAM TRENDS
The second race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival and following on from the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, this race is often worth watching for future Gold Cup clues.
Denman, Bob’s Worth, Lord Windermere and Don Poli have all won the RSA Chase enroute to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in recent seasons, while Might Bite went close in the 2018 renewel having won this race the previous year.
Only Nicky Henderson has won the race more than once since 2010. Paul Nicholls won the race last year, his first since Denman in 2007.
TOP 10 RSA CHASE TRENDS
- 20/20 winners were 20/1 or shorter.
- 20/20 winners had won previously under the same rider.
- 19/20 winners were in the top five in the betting.
- 19/20 winners either won or finished runner-up in their previous start.
- 19/20 winners had won in the three months leading up to the Cheltenham Festival.
- 19/20 winners raced in a field of no more than 12 runners last time out.
- 19/20 winners had won at least one of their previous three starts.
- 18/20 winners had previously placed in a Graded race.
- 18/20 winners had previously raced over two miles four furlongs or further.
- 16/20 winners were partnered by the same rider as their previous run.
Age is a big factor in the more recent trends with ten of the last twelve winners being aged 7; while favourites and those towards the top of the betting tend to do well.
Past Cheltenham form is a notable positive with 11 of the past 12 winners having had at least one prior start at the track; while the same number were rated 145 or above.
Many of the main protagonists fail on one or more of the key Cheltenham novice chase trends and there could be well be a bigger priced winner in the pack in the latest renewal where EASY GAME (20/1, William Hill) from the Willie Mullins camp makes some appeal stepping up in trip.
The Barastraight gelding is only a six-year old and would bid to emulate Don Poli as the last six-year old to win the RSA Chase.
Eighth in last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, he has taken well to chasing since his reappearance second behind Honeysuckle over hurdles at Fairyhouse. He won next time at Leopardstown over Christmas, beating the reopposing Allaho before getting to within a half-length of admirable veteran Faugheen in the Flogas Novice Chase when last seen.
He also holds an entry in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and it remains unclear which route Mullins will go with the son of Barastraight. But he ticks plenty of trend boxes in this contest and if taking his chance he could go well at a price in a race which might well throw up an upset.
MARSH NOVICES’ CHASE CHELTENHAM TRENDS
A relatively new race to the Cheltenham Festival roster which has seen just nine previous renewals. Formerly the JLT Novices’ Chase, it invariably throws up a top-class performer and Defi Du Seuil took top honours twelve months ago to join the likes of Shattered Love, Yorkhill, Vautour and Taquin Du Seuil.
Willie Mullins has won four of the nine renewals of this race to date, with Irish-based handlers winning all but two renewals.
TOP 10 MARSH NOVICES’ CHASE TRENDS
- 9/9 winners had previous course form.
- 9/9 winners ran in a Graded race last time out.
- 9/9 winners had been placed in a race no more than 80 days prior to Cheltenham.
- 9/9 winners were either six OR seven years old.
- 9/9 winners had raced between three and five times in the season.
- 9/9 winners had faced a field of 2-7 rivals last time out.
- 8/9 winners were rated 146 or higher.
- 8/9 winners were no bigger than 7/1 in the betting.
There would be no more popular winner than Faugheen who could take his chance as a twelve-year old; while the form of Itchy Feet’s Scilly Isles’ Chase win can be picked apart. But the Cheltenham novice chase trends point to a big run from MISTER FISHER (7/1, Paddy Power) who could give trainer Nicky Henderson a first win in the race.
A dual-winner over hurdles which includes the Rossington Main Hurdle at Haydock, he ran a fair eighth in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Chasing was always likely to bring out the best in the Jeremy gelding however.
That has proven to be the case this season; he has won two of his three start over fences which latterly includes the Grade Two Lightening Novices’ Chase. He had also won the time before when beating Good Boy Bobby over course and distance.
He won readily at Doncaster despite dropping back to two miles and he could improve again although the suspicion is he’ll have to. That isn’t beyond the realms of possibility however and he can post a big run.