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Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
Novices’ Handicap Chase Betting Tips
The Novices’ Handicap Chase has been a Cheltenham Festival race since 2005, run as the last race on Day One (Tuesday). A two mile four furlong steeplechase for novices, each declared entrant must tackle a total of 16 obstacles.
Our Novices’ Handicap Chase tip for 2017 is Double W’s, who has been a chaser on the upgrade this season for trainer Malcolm Jefferson who is in fine form with a 21% strike rate this season. Rated 134 over hurdles, he has really come into his own over fences, winning two of his four starts to date.
He ran out a comfortable winner on his chasing debut at Carlisle in October, staying on strongly to draw right away from his opposition after the final fence. He backed that victory up with a win at Wetherby two weeks later, jumping boldly throughout before staying on to the line. His last two starts have seen him compete in tougher races, finishing just seventh at Newbury but improved to finish runner up to a far more experienced rival on his latest start.
Raised just one pound for that run, he appeared to lack the pace to get to the eventual winner and the step up in trip will suit, especially as he was a better hurdler over two and a half miles. His form suggests he doesn’t enjoy too much cut in the ground so the going on Cheltenham Festival’s opening day will suit, and he looks overpriced for this race.
The betting trends for the 2017 Novices’ Handicap Chase are as follows:
- 9 of the last 10 winners had won over at least 2 miles 2 furlongs
- 9 of the last 10 winners were placed in the first two in their last race before Cheltenham Festival
- 7 of the last 10 winners had only won once over fences; protecting their handicap mark!
- 6 of the last 10 winners have been aged 7, with the others aged 5, 6, 6 and 8 years old
- 5 of the last 10 horses carried over 11 stone – with the other 5 obviously carrying under. There is no real weight trend in this race; Hunt Ball carried 12 stone to the win in 2012!
- Only 2 of the last 10 winners had an SP higher than 12/1; stick towards the fore of the market
- From 28 Irish runners, there has been just 1 winner and 6 others finishing 2nd or 3rd
Since moving time slots in 2011, the two mile four furlong Handicap Chase has provided an exciting end to the first day’s racing at the Cheltenham Festival. Only Ferdy Murphy has managed to win this Listed Novices race twice since its inception in 2005, with the likes of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Phillip Hobbs also claiming a win in the last decade.
Foxtail Hill looks set to be sent off the favourite, following his impressive win over two miles and five furlongs at this course in January. He faced more experienced rivals that day and, having made all, snatched six lengths from the field after three out which proved just enough to cling on for victory. That was his second victory in a row and a further seven pound rise means he is now 16lb higher in the weights than at the start of the year ,but he has proved both his stamina and class already. He is unlikely to get the same soft lead in this twenty runner field having shown his land last time out and looks a short price given the competitive nature of hte field.
It’safreebee has been widely touted up on Cheltenham preview panels across the country for this race, which is perhaps not surprising given his chase mark remains five pounds lower than his hurdle mark. Third in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle last year, he has put in some mixed chase performances – two wins and three heavy defeats, including one as 4/6 favourite. Clearly he has issues, but the handicapper has been kind and his mark looks lenient on the basis of his Wetherby win, where he saw off the now 152 rated Cole Harden by seven lengths despite giving him seven pounds at the weights.
Dan Skelton also has Two Taffs who sports first time cheekpieces following a heavy defeat at Warwick in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase last time out. He is another who has proved to be quirky, having been beaten at odds of just 1/6 in January, but he remains well handicapped off a mark of 137 on the basis of his Kempton second place. Stepping back up in trip and on better ground than his last appearance he could go well, but he is another who needs to bounce back from a poor performance last time out.
Our tip for this race is Double W’s for Malcolm Jefferson, who appears well treated by the handicapper following a narrow defeat to Upsilon Bleu last time out. Stepping up to two and a half miles over fences for the first time, he comes here in good form and has previously finished third in a handicap hurdle at the course. Another last time out winner is the lightly raced All Hell Let Loose, who was last seen taking a small field chase at Killbeggan back in June 2016. He has been given a British handicap mark of 137 off the back of that, but with conditions likely to suit and a decent second to Ttebbob back in November 2015 on softer than ideal ground, he could go well if fully fit after his layoff.
20 runners go to post for the Novices’ Handicap Chase:
- Zamdy Man
- Last Goodbye
- Double W’s
- Foxtail Hill
- Hammersly Lake
- Captain Redbeard
- Bun Doran
- Killiney Court
- Tully East
- Relentless Dreamer
- Deans Road
- Gold Present
- Two Taffs
- Sizing Tennessee
- All Hell Let Loose
- Burtons Well