2021 Cheltenham Festival – It’s A Secret Who Will Win National Hunt Chase

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2021 National Hunt Chase Tips

The closing race on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival is the latest race that Lewis Tomlinson has analysed as he continues on his quest to preview every race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival in February.

National Hunt Chase Overview

It’s not quite the four-miler anymore, but the National Hunt Chase remains as stern a test as a novice chaser could be asked to face amongst their own company. Last year’s winning trainer Gordon Elliott is the most successful handler in recent years, having taken four of the last ten runnings, and he could well have the favourite once again.

Key Contenders – Galvin

Galvin’s Festival form is hard to knock, he ran respectably when sixth in the Ballymore two years ago as a novice hurdler and bumped into a high-class rival when runner-up to Imperial Aura in the novice handicap last season. Galvin retained his novice status into this campaign and made hay back in Ireland during the summer, landing long odds-on against inferior opposition on all three starts before seeing the step up to three miles out well when winning back here at the first Cheltenham meeting of the season.

As a second-season novice, he possesses ample experience to ensure he shouldn’t be too fazed by such an extreme test if getting the trip, but the bare form of his most recent run is hard to put an accurate figure on , given he was beating summer jumpers and horses who have shown little since, so I’d be inclined to suggest he’s probably short enough in the market.

Royale Pagaille

He’s joined at the top of the betting by the hugely exciting Royale Pagaille, who would surely be the one to beat if lining up in this race. He also holds entries in the Marsh, the Gold Cup and the RSA, so his participation in this event is by no means assured.

Venetia Williams’ seven-year-old has been increasingly impressive in three wins this season, and  cruised through three miles of heavy Haydock ground to carry top-weight to victory in the Peter Marsh last time out, suggesting the increased distance here wouldn’t pose an issue for him. His odds of 12-1 for the Gold Cup illustrate just how much of an impression he has made in such a short space of time.

Dickie Diver

I’m glad Dickie Diver appears to be heading towards this race rather than a handicap and I think the stern test of stamina should suit him down to the ground. Nicky Henderson’s lightly-raced gelding was a smart novice hurdler two years ago- he finished fourth in the Albert Bartlett won by Minella Indo- but looked a long-term chasing prospect and made a pleasing start in this sphere after a season on the headlines when runner up over a trip likely too short to see him at his optimum.

Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve (16-1) fits the mould of a typical National Hunt Chase type, with proven, high-level form over extreme distances. Secret Reprieve has officially improved to the tune of 14lbs this season, but I’d wager he hasn’t quite yet reached the pinnacle of his upward curve given his ease of victory at Chepstow last time.

Last week also saw some smart performances in Ireland from those who could be potential runners here. Coko Beach (12-1) looked in need of a step up in trip despite showing useful form over shorter and his first start over three miles paid dividends, as he absolutely ran away with the Thyestes. This is another six furlongs further again, but his strength at the finish in such bad ground at Gowran would give confidence to anyone hoping he could see out this distance.

A repeat of that effort would see him in the mix, whilst the lightly-raced Eklat De Rire (10-1) saw off Escaria Ten (16-1) and Pencilfulloflead (14-1) in a Naas Grade 3. The winner in particular has a lot to like about him, despite only having had four rules starts, he looks a very straightforward operator and always had enough in the tank at the death to keep Escaria Ten held.

Next Destination (10-1) and Latest Exhibition (12-1) would add a sprinkle of class to proceedings, though their campaigns so far this season suggest the pair are RSA bound, and I’d be slightly concerned as to whether such an robust test would suit Next Destination even if he were to line up here.

National Hunt Chase Big-Race Verdict

The race changes complexion with Royale Pagaille’s participation, and he would surely be the one to beat if Venetia Williams opted for this option. However, if looking for a be without the non-runner no-bet concession, the 16-1 for Secret Reprieve, a proven stayer who has progressed into a smart type this season, makes definite appeal.