Cheltenham Festival 2016: Vintage Novices’ Chases in prospect
David Metcalf | January 28, 2016
Some fascinating contests are in prospect after entries were unveiled today for the four novices’ chases run at the Cheltenham Festival – the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, the Listed National Hunt Chase, the Grade 1 RSA Chase and the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase.
Douvan among 37 in Arkle
Douvan (8/15 with Coral) is one of the hottest favourites in the ante-post market for The Festival and he heads the 37 entries for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase on Tuesday, March 15th.
Successful at The Festival last year in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Willie Mullins trained six-year-old has made a flawless start to his chasing career with three wins from three starts, the latest two coming at Grade 1 level.
He is one of seven entries for Ireland’s champion trainer, who also include Shaneshill (12/1), runner-up to Douvan at The Festival last year and undefeated in two chasing starts.
Nicky Henderson is the joint most successful trainer in the race with five victories. His two entries this year are the Grade 1-winning hurdler L’Ami Serge (7/1 second-favourite), who has scored on both of his chasing appearances, and Vaniteux (9/1), who was last seen out when second to Ar Mad (10/1) in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas.
Hercules heads entries for Festival four-miler
A record 89-strong entry has been received for the longest race at The Festival, the 4m National Hunt Chase for amateur riders on Tuesday, March 15th.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Black Hercules heads Coral’s ante post betting at 3/1. The seven-year-old is unbeaten in two starts over fences, most recently powering to an impressive victory in a Listed 3m contest at Warwick on January 16. A formidable entry of 13 entry from Mullins also includes Roi Des Frances (7/1 second favourite with Coral) and Pont Alexandre (10/1) who filled the first two places in a Grade 2 race at Naas on January 16th.
No More Heroes and More Of That on course to clash in RSA
No More Heroes, 5/2 favourite, heads the 50 entries for the RSA Chase on Wednesday, March 16th. The Gordon Elliott trained gelding has won impressively on his last two starts, both of which have been in Grade 1 company.
More Of That is already a Festival winner, and 4/1 second-favourite for the 3m contest. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge landed the 2014 World Hurdle, and has made the perfect start to his chasing career with two victories from two starts at Cheltenham.
Another horse already on the scoresheet at Prestbury Park this season is Scottish contender Seeyouatmidnight (14/1), who put up a near flawless performance on New Year’s Day when successful in Grade 2 company.
Zabana, who sports the colours of Chris Jones which have been carried by previous Festival winners such as Klairon Davis, Tiger Cry and What A Charm is another interesting entry. The seven-year-old also holds an entry in the JLT Novices’ Chase 24 hours later.
Zabana was a very useful hurdler and performed well to finish second in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at The Festival in 2015. He also finished third to Jezki in a Grade 1e contest over 3m at the Punchestown Festival. Zabana’s seasonal debut was at Leopardstown on December 28 and he made the best start to his chasing career by taking a beginners’ chase impressively.
Lynch, who is based at Dunsany in County Meath, said: “Zabana has been entered in both the RSA Chase and the JLT Novices’ Chase. No decision has been made as to which race he goes for yet. I will need to have a good look at the entries.
“He will hopefully next run in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on February 6th over 2m 5f. That race should also give us some pointers as to Cheltenham. It is sure to be a strong race at Leopardstown, but he needs to be going for something like that to see where we are with him.
“I was absolutely thrilled with his first run over fences. I thought he might need it a bit as it was his first run back but he did it really well.
“He should definitely get up the hill at Cheltenham. When he was second at The Festival last year in the Coral Cup he just did it a bit of a u-turn after the last – I think if had run straight, he might have got to the winner.
“The ground doesn’t matter a bit to him – he goes equally well on anything. He is a very exciting horse and hopefully we can keep him right and head to Cheltenham.”
Massive Mullins entry in JLT Novices’ Chase
There are 64 entries in total for the JLT Novices’ Chase on Thursday, March 17th, just one off the record number. Once again, Willie Mullins trained horses feature very prominently in the ante-post market with last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle winner Kilultagh Vic (3/1 favourite) and Shaneshill (4/1) topping the list with Coral. Mullins accounts for 14 of the 24 Irish-trained entries.