2016 Cheltenham Festival: Novices’ events take shape
David Metcalf | February 24, 2016
With the Cheltenham Festival now less than three weeks away, the fields are taking shape for the four novices’ chases and four of the novices’ hurdles following the latest scratchings deadline, details of which were revealed today.
Min heads 46 left in Supreme
The Festival gets underway on Tuesday, March 15th, with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm). A total of 46 horses go forward for the 2m contest, for which Min is 5/4 favourite with Coral. Min is owned by Susannah Ricci and trained by Willie Mullins, the combination responsible for the last three winners of the Supreme – Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).
Hopes of the prize going to a British-trained horse would appear to rest primarily with Nicky Henderson, who is responsible for 4/1 second favourite Altior, a Grade 2 winner over the course and distance at The Open in November and Buveur D’Air (7/1), a very impressive scorer on his two starts this season.
Douvan and Henderson duo on course to clash in Arkle
Two novices’ chases are staged on the opening day, beginning with the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase (2.10pm, 22 acceptors). Douvan is the hottest favourite in Coral’s ante-post market at 2/5 following a flawless three wins from three starts over fences, two of which have come at Grade 1 level.
Its main opposition once again looks to come from Henderson, who is responsible for 5/1 second favourite Vaniteux, a winner in Grade 2 company last time out, and 14/1 third favoruite L’ami Serge who win his first two starts over fences in terrific style before suffering a shock defeat at Warwick.
The second novices’ chase on Champion Day is the 4m Listed National Hunt Chase (4.50pm, 67 acceptors), for amateur riders, which is the longest race of The Festival.
Mullins is responsible for the top two in the betting for this contest – Warwick Listed scorer Black Hercules (3/1 favourite with Coral) and Roi Des Francs (7/1), who got the better of stable companion Pont Alexandre in a Grade 2 event at Naas last month. The Jonjo O’Neill trained Minella Rocco is a big springer in the market and currently an 8/1 chance.
Yanworth, More Of That and No More Heroes among Ladies’ Day stars
Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 16th, opens with the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm) and there are 56 acceptors for the 2m 5f contest.
Yanworth is a red-hot 4/5 favourite with Coral following an impressive campaign that has seen him win all four starts, most recently the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.
The Grade 1 RSA Chase (2.10pm, 35 acceptors) takes place over an extended 3m on Ladies Day and looks set to be one of the most open races of The Festival with dual Grade 1 winner No More Heroes (5/1 favourite with Coral), the 2014 World Hurdle victor More Of That (100/30), unbeaten in two starts over fences, plus Grade 2 scorer Blaklion (10/1) and Seeyouatmidnight (12/1) all still in the mix.
Bristol and Barters in warm order
The Grade 1 contest for novices on St Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17th, is the JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30pm, 37 acceptors) over 2m 4f. Bristol De Mai is 3/1 favourite with Coral following a very impressive six-length success over As De Mee in a Grade 1 contest at Sandown Park when last seen in action.
Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 18th, gets underway with the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm, 38 acceptors) for four-year-olds. Ivanovich Gorbatov (7/2) remains favourite for this contest with Coral despite suffering defeat at the hands of Footpad (101) last time out.
The leading British hope looks to be the Alan King trained Sceau Royal (8/1 second favoruite), successful over the course and distance in December.
Another warm favourite is Barter’s Hill (5/2 with Coral), who tops the 57 remaining entries in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.50pm) over 3m.