The 2-mile 4 furlong JLT Novices Chase is one of the newest races at the Cheltenham Festival, but in just 5 renewals it has already been won by the likes of the brilliant Sir Des Champs and the potentially awesome Vautour.
Most noticeable is that 4 of the 5 renewals have been won by Irish horses.
So let’s take a look at this season’s leading protagonists.
It’s hard to dispute the claims of the ante-post favourite as he’s been second at the last 2 festivals, has proven form over this trip and on all ground, and heralds from a stable that have won the race twice already. He doesn’t stay 3-miles, and the only negative is whether his connections want to take their chance in the Arkle.
Kitten Rock 16/1
The fact connections ran him in last season’s Champion Hurdle says plenty, even though he was only 6th. Won 7 of his 10 starts, including his only novice chase, and is interesting. However has mainly been kept to 2-miles.
Decent record over this trip over hurdles, and there was no disgrace in finishing second to No More Heroes last-time, when his jockey let the highly-rated winner get first run. Never looked a strong stayer over 3-miles, and connections ran Apache Stronghold in this race last year.
Three Musketeers 20/1
Won his second chase start in good style at Newbury after being no slouch over hurdles. Will keep improving, but may need genuine soft ground to be seen at his best.
Volnay De Thaix 20/1
Interesting that he was well-backed to beat Jezki and Rock On Ruby on his last start and, though he was well behind in third, he could make more progress for a yard that does well at the festival.
Does boast a grade 2 hurdle victory over No More Heroes and Windsor Park, but seemed below that form on most other starts.
Steadily improving but not up to winning this on the formbook so far, and beaten by Three Musketeers on novice chase debut.
Un Temps Pour Tout 25/1
Looked the likely winner at this trip when twice failing to quite get home in novice chases so far, and would be very interesting if dropped in trip for this. Might prefer soft ground though, and has failed to win in three Cheltenham starts.
Free Expression 33/1
Talking horse who hasn’t quite delivered yet at the highest level, and may find himself in a handicap for gambling connections.
Some interesting contenders are headed by the admirable Shaneshill but, at the prices, I’d sooner take a chance on Monksland and Volnay De Thaix.
1 point Monksland @ 16/1 (Betfred, Stan James)
1 point win Volnay De Thaix @ 20/1 (Various)
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