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JT McNamara National Hunt Chase (Listed Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)
National Hunt Chase Betting Tips
Amateur riders are the focus in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, run over four miles (and 24 fences) for novice chasers only.
Our tip for the 2017 National Hunt Chase is Edwulf for trainer Joseph O’Brien and owner JP McManus, who has been mightily impressive this season and looks the likeliest winner of the contest.
His last start was a career best by some margin, bouncing back from a fall in the Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase just seven days earlier to take a Grade B handicap at Naas by 8 lengths. Despite giving signficant amounts of weight away to nearly all the field, he travelled well and pulled away comfortably having hit the front two out. He has already proven his stamina when finishing second to Childrens List back in December over three miles and a furlong; given he was just caught out by a lack of pace that day, this step up in trip should suit him well.
His main Achilles heel is his jumping, with a fall and an unseat on his form card in his six starts so far. The slower pace of this race compared to those events (which were both over two and a half miles) should help and it could be his fall at Navan means he will now pay a little more respect to his fences as he jumped well on his last start. Likely to be much happier upped to a marathon trip such as this, this lightly raced eight year old still has plenty of improvement in the tank and is already seven pounds well in on official ratings off level weights for powerful connections who would love to win this race.
The National Hunt Chase betting trends from the last ten winners are as follows:
- All of the last 10 winners had a prep run between December and February
- 9 of the last 10 winners had never attempted to run further than 3 miles 2 furlongs before
- 7 of the previous 10 winners had won over 3 miles (and another over 23.5 furlongs)
- 6 of the previous 10 winners placed on their last start before the National Hunt Chase and 4 of those were last time out winners
- 5 of the last 10 winners had either 3 or 4 starts chasing, with the other 5 having at least 7
- Only 3 of the last 10 winners were favourites (2011 to 2013)
- The Irish have won 3 of the last 10 renewals, all within the last 6 years
- Between 2007 and 2010, all the winners had Official Ratings between 123 and 130. Since 2010, the lowest rating has been 139 and five were between 146 and 151
Gordon Elliott took this race in 2015 to make it two wins in the last six years with Cause Of Causes and Chicago Grey. Jonjo O’Neill has also won this race twice in the last ten years (last year with Minella Rocco) and has racked up an impressive six wins since 1995, making him the leading trainer since 1946. The leading jockey statistics since 1946 makes for an interesting read; nine jockeys tied on two wins including current trainers Willie Mullins and Tony Martin, along with last year’s winner Derek O’Connor.
Trends Analysis: The standout trend for the National Hunt Chase – given its four mile distance – is the fact that nine of the last ten winners had never competed in a race of further than three miles two furlongs before, probably due to a lack of opportunities. Seven of the previous ten winners had however won over three miles (or thereabouts), so there tends to be some proof of stamina. This race is known for throwing up big price winners; a 33/1, 14/1 and 11/1 winner in the last ten years, plus numerous from 8/1 to 11/1. Be aware though that this race is a different beast to what it was just six or seven years ago, with far more high class horses being both aimed here and winning.
This sort of trip looks likely to help Joseph O’Brien and JP McManus’ Edwulf to no end, judging on previous form. Finishing a staying on second at Punchestown in December over the 3m 1f trip, he has improved markedly since then and produced a career best over fences on his latest start when powering clear of Space Cadet in a Grade B handicap at Naas in February. That trip may well have been inadequate in hindsight so they way he comfortably dispatched some useful rivals was very taking, especially as he was giving away nearly a stone to most of his rivals. He should be much happier upped to a trip like this and as a lightly raced eight year old, much more can be expected from him. He looks the likely winner of this with a huge amount of untapped potential left in the tank and has to be respected for powerful connections.
Attempting to make all at Fairyhouse in December before just being denied by Anibale Fly at Naas in January, A Genie In Abottle has been improving race by race this season for Noel Meade and has to be considered a threat. He jumps very well and has proved he can compete at the highest level, with Anibale Fly finishing second in a Grade 1 prior to that run. Stepping up further in trip should see out improvement as he does not seem to stop galloping, with Noel Meade setting this race out as his plan for his six-year-old: “He can´t go far enough and the ground can´t be soft enough, although he will go on good ground. I would love to aim him at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.”
Currently 12/1 in the market is stout stayer Arpege D’Alene who has been somewhat of a mixed bag this season. His penultimate run over three miles two furlongs suggested a step up to this trip would certainly help his cause, staying on well towards the finish, despite being urged along for a good while before the turn in. In the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase on his latest start, his jumping started to fall apart somewhat down the back straight and he was put on the back foot as a consequence. However, he did rally and was only beaten around six lengths. That run did continue to suggest he needs a much longer trip to see the best of him and if his jumping holds up, he looks likely to be a big player for Paul Nicholls and has to be respected.
The 2015 Albert Bartlett winner Martello Tower certainly looks an interesting proposition at the four mile trip. A horse who gives incredibly generously for pressure and only ‘just does enough‘ according to his trainer, there can be no disputing his heart and he has proven that he handles Cheltenham well. The Albert Bartlett is a true test and the underfoot conditions will likely be drier this year, which proves just how much stamina this nine-year-old has. He beaten A Genie In Abottle off level weights in December but has put in two poor runs since then, including when well behind that rival at Naas last time out, and needs to bounce back to be competitive here.
With only four chasing starts under his belt, Haymount has already proven he’s more than capable of running well in good quality company. Beating subsequent Grade 1 winner Coney Island on chasing debut, he was far from disgraced when finishing second to Bellshill on his next run, keeping that rival honest throughout. His last two runs have been messy, brushed aside at Naas on his first attempt at the three mile trip, while his run at the Navan against Acapella Bourgeois is best ignored as no horse managed to get into that race after the leader was given a huge lead throughout. He is still yet to fully convince that he will stay this much longer trip though, with Willie Mullins stating after his November win that “he went three miles over hurdles but ran too free“.
Looking tailor made for this race, the stamina laden Champers On Ice should improve for the step up in trip. An admirable third in the 2016 Albert Bartlett, beaten under three lengths by Unowhatimeanharry (now favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle), he was a winning point to pointer over three miles and stays all the way to the line. While his jumping has improved, he was cautious at Cheltenham on his latest start before dropping out the back over an inadequate trip. His best performances have all come on Soft ground or worse though – with the exception of his performance at last year’s Cheltenham Festival – and he’s unlikely to get those conditions today.
Along with our National Hunt Chase preview, a marathon contest and the penultimate race of day one, we have all our other Cheltenham Festival tips and previews online to view now!
The National Hunt Chase has been a prestigious race in British racing since the mid 1800s. It was held at courses around the country before making Cheltenham its permanent home in 1911. It is the longest race at the Festival, the four mile trip is open to novice chasers of five years of age or older, accompanied by amateur riders. Our National Hunt Chase preview can be viewed below, with a tip to follow soon!
In 2009, Tricky Trickster became the first six-year-old since 1989 to win the race. Nigel Twiston-Davies’s 11/1 shot was held up early on, but got his jumping together half way round. He started pressing the leaders and soon went into the lead, pulling away to eventually win by ten lengths.
Katie Walsh became the first female jockey to win the race the following year when she saddled Ferdy Murphy’s Poker de Sivola. The seven-year-old made a few mistakes early on, but started to make good progress in the final third of the race. He began to challenge the four-horse leading pack over the final two fences, but jumped them better than the rest and stayed on well down the final furlong to take the victory.
Gordon Elliott’s first winner in the last five years was Chicago Grey back in 2011. Jockey Derek O’Connor ran a very patient and tactical race on board the 5/1 favourite, lingering at the back of the field for most of the contest, before moving through the field over the 19th and 20th fences. He made good progress down the inside of the field, eventually cruising into the lead with two to jump and was never really troubled, taking an impressive win by just under five lengths.
2012 saw Teaforthree became the second consecutive 5/1 favourite to win the National Hunt. J T McNamara decided a front running tactic was best suited for his eight-year-old ride and was near the head of the field for the whole of the race. He had four challengers to compete with over the final 100 yards, but held them off strongly to secure a two length win.
Twice the National Hunt winning jockey in the 1980s, Willie Mullins had his first win in this race as a trainer in 2013. 9/4 strong favourite Back In Focus did not run at his best during the chase, but Patrick Mullins got him back on track towards the end of the race. He was still six lengths behind the leader going over the last, but jumped it well and chased down Tofino Bay, eventually passing him and staying on to claim a narrow victory.
Alan King’s nine-year-old Midnight Prayer edged to victory in what was an incredibly exciting race in 2014. Going over the last fence, plenty of horses were still in with a chance, but it was Joshua Newman on board the 8/1 shot who jumped over the last fence in front and stayed on very strongly, winning by a neck and with less than six lengths separating the final seven horses.
Gordon Elliott returned to the National Hunt winner’s enclosure in the 2015 renewal, as his seven-year-old Cause of Causes came from the back of the field to win. Jamie Codd was held up in the saddle for the majority of the race and did not make his move until there were only two fences remaining. But he showed great stamina and pace, bypassing all of the other runners to secure a one-and-a-half length victory.
It was a great year again in 2016 for J P McManus in this race, as Minella Rocco forged to victory in the hands of Derek O’Connor for leading trainer in the race Jonjo O’Neill. This out and out stayer really enjoys the Cheltenham hill and could be a leading player for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017 if connections choose to go down that route.
There are 18 runners confirmed for the JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase:
- A Genie In Abottle
- Arbre De Vie
- Arpege D’Alene
- Bells ‘N’ Banjos
- Beware The Bear
- Champers On Ice
- Dancing Shadow
- Martello Tower
- Missed Approach
- Tiger Roll
- What A Moment
- Calett Mad