Cheltenham hosts the Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day (registered as The Dipper Novices’ Chase) for the 9th time since its switch from Newcastle in 2005. Normally seen as a good trial for the Novice Graded Chases at Cheltenham, this year’s renewal has attracted a small but quality field.
10 out of the last 10 winners finished in top three last time out.
10 out of the last 10 winners were Irish or French Bred.
10 out of the last 10 winners had raced within previous 42 days.
7 out of the last 10 winners were aged either 7 or 8.
8 out of the last 10 winner were sent off at odds of lowers than 4/1.
5 out of the last 10 winners had won last time out.
5 out of the last 10 winners had won at the course previously.
This looks like an intriguing race with a clear focus on the top two in the betting. Despite this, both Timesawastin and Close House will be no side acts and will be looking to take advantage of any mistakes made by the prinicples. Timesawastin (22/1 Stan James), trained by Evan Williams and ridden by Welsh National winning jockey Paul Moloney, is yet to build on his good hurdles form over the larger obstacles. Although his latest run saw him finish a good second to a decent yardstick in Renard, it is doubtful whether that form is anywhere near good enough for this. His recent form, added to the fact that he fails to meet the majority of trends, makes him an unnatractive betting propostion.
Close House (14/1 bet365), who represents the David Pipe yard, is another whose form falls just short of this level. The horse does meet a fair few of the trends but has only encountered fences once in his career so far where he fell in the closing stages (a race in which Oscar Whisky went on to win). Going on hurdles form this horse is just below the level needed here to win, and should find a more suitable place in the big handicap chases at Cheltenham.
That leaves Taquin Du Seuil and Oscar Whisky. These two horses met over course and distance when Taquin Du Seuil (11/8 Betfred) won by a neck a month and a half ago. The Jonjo O’Neil runner profited from a nice tow into the race by Oscar Whisky who was forced into making the running. However; on this occasion, Timesawastin should set an even gallop and allow Barry Geraghty to settle his horse and concentrate on a clear round of jumping.
Both horses meet all trends bar; Oscar Whisky falling down on the age trend and Taquin Du Seuil not winning last time out. Of the two, I favour OSCAR WHISKY (10/11 Stan James) purely on the basis that Taquin Du Seuil had chasing experience last time these two met and now Oscar Whisky should be on a par. In addition, last time out Taquin Du Seuil was beaten quite comfortably by horses I don’t see featuring at Cheltenham, whereas Oscar Whisky beat potentially one of the hottest novice chase prospects in Wonderful Charm.
Hopefully the race will be run at a true evan gallop and the frustrations Nicky Henderson felt when these two first met wont reappear. The added experience of winning over fences should be sufficient for OSCAR WHISKY to fend of the challenge posed by the field in what promises to be a titanic battle. Hopefully his victory tomorrow will act as a stepping stone onto victory in either the Arkle or the Jewson at the Festival in March.
OSCAR WHISKY (WIN) (10/11 Stan James)
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