The JLT Novices’ Chase is the highlight of the year for middle distance novice chasers and is open to horses aged five years or older. The race has only been around since 2011 but has already begun to throw up some noticeable trends which we will analyse here to help you narrow down the field and dig out the winner, this was won last year by Yorkhill who provided Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh their first winner of the Festival to that point. You can also find our JLT Novices’ Chase tips here.
JLT Novices’ Chase Trends
- Some ages dominate – Every winner of this race has been six or seven years old
- Mullins also dominates – Willie Mullins has won four of the seven renewals
- Punters do well – There has only been one winner priced bigger than 7/1
- Class is required – The last three winners have been rated 152 or higher coming into the race
- Recent form is key – 6 of the last 7 winners had won twice that season
Trends – Key Runners
Invitation Only ✅✅✅✅✅
Finian’s Oscar ✅❌✅❌✅
The market is slightly murky at this stage as some Arkle and RSA hopes are yet to decide their final target but Willie Mullins likely number one contender is Invitation Only, who fits all of the trends as a seven year old who is rated 152 and has won twice this season.
Footpad would be hard to beat if rocking up here but looks Arkle bound and it could be left to Invitation Only to fly the Willie Mullins flag. He is in the same ownership as last year’s winner Yorkhill and 2016 winner Black Hercules, looking an exciting chaser in the making for most of his career. He fell on his first start but followed that with two easy wins before finishing a good third in the Flogas Novice Chase behind stablemate Al Boum Photo and Monalee who look likely at this stage to go for the RSA. He is clearly a talented performer and has a good amount of experience which should stand him in good stead for a race of this nature, his trainer has done brilliantly with pretty much every runner he has sent to this race so if Ruby Walsh takes the ride he is one to take very seriously.
As always with the JLT it is difficult to guess what the final field will be until late in the day but Finian’s Oscar has been targeted at this for a little while now – since his failure having reverted to hurdles – and would have to be a contender if managing to show even ninety percent of his talent. He won a decent renewal of the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Grand National Festival last year having been ruled out of Cheltenham with an injury and was at the head of the market for this race for a long time before a couple of disappointing runs over fences. He has never jumped with great fluency but looked a horse of endless talent when winning despite his poor jumping at Cheltenham earlier in the season and if his jumping has improved he would be a dangerous one to dismiss despite poor recent form.
If Finian’s Oscar comes into the picture then it would be foolish to rule out the Gary Moore trained Benatar, who beat him to make it three from three over fences at Ascot last time out. That race will not have suited either as it was a match from a long way out but Benatar has jumped like an old hand in each of his starts over fences so far and has beaten some decent types along the way including four miler hope Keeper Hill and, of course, Finian’s Oscar. He has never encountered a track quite like Cheltenham but his trainer seems confident he’ll handle it and he should come into the picture, especially as he is a confirmed runner.
Eight year olds have had no luck in this race in its few renewals but Modus could be the one to break that trend. He has won three of his four starts over fences and looked in no trouble throughout his novice chasing season other than when falling in a novicey manner at Exeter. He has good Festival form as he was sixth in the Coral Cup off a lofty mark of 156 and was second behind Moon Racer in the Champion Bumper back in 2015, he is clearly a very talented horse who has thrived for the switch to the larger obstacles and despite lacking the profile of a normal JLT winner he is probably one to consider nonetheless.
The likes of Monalee, Al Boum Photo and Footpad have to rate as dangers somewhat despite their uncertain participation especially considering Willie Mullins record in the race and tendency to switch up his Festival targets last minute but there are few at bigger prices that appeal especially in a race where shorter price horses often prevail.
For more Cheltenham related content such as previews, tips and more have a look at our Cheltenham Festival tips section!