Cheltenham Tips – Jewson Novice Chase
The inaugural running of the Jewson Novice Chase took place just last year which, and in the end went to Ireland and Noble Prince. The Paul Nolan trained animal is now bang in contention for this year’s Ryanair Chase, the same day, so the Jewson could prove to be a welcome addition to the Festival. Many don’t feel this way, but why shouldn’t novices be accommodated like the pros have with the Ryanair. That again is another debate, but, for me, both are a welcome addition for owners and trainers who have a horse ‘stuck between trips’.
Given the race will only be having its second ever running come the Thursday of Cheltenham we, as punters, don’t really have a lot of hard cold facts to delve into in terms of the stats. Stats are not the be all and end all in racing, but they can help in pointing us in the right direction of finding winners. Some stats will always prove more sustainable than others, and, as ever at Cheltenham, course form is always a strong form variable to monitor.
Of last year’s running in the Jewson it’s interesting that three of the first four home had contested handicap hurdles on the course, not just contested, but ran well in. Noble Prince was fifth in the County Hurdle, Wishful Thinking fell two out when bang in contention in the Coral Cup and Radium was second in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle. Of all the stats that could be pried out of this race the course form stat is most prevalent. Young improving chasers should also be looked at while horses coming into the race with good recent form should also be monitored.
Recently this race was involved in huge controversy with the defection of Peddlers Cross from the Arkle to here. The Donald McCain runner was thought to be Arkle bound, but connections decided to redirect earlier this week. All doesn’t seem to be well with the 2010 Neptune winner, reportedly missing out on various schooling sessions in recent weeks. The vibes really aren’t good about the son of Oscar and it wouldn’t all be a surprise if he were to miss the Festival altogether. Given his shaky season he cannot be backed at 11-4 and he, now, enters the area of a Cheltenham lay.
With Peddlers not a viable betting option four horses stand out from the chasing pack, Champion Court, For Non Stop, Solix and Cristal Bonus. Lambro and Call The Police are two others I’m weary of, but both have multiple engagements.
With course form so important we’ll start with Champion Court. Trained by Martin Keighley, not too far from Cheltenham, Champion Court is one of few horses to have course and distance form. He was also a good fourth in last season’s Albert Bartlett where a rushed preparation did him no favours. In fact, his last three runs have been at Prestbury Park. After winning nicely at Aintree in an average race, where he won nicely after jumping adequately, he was sent to Cheltenham for the first of his three recent runs. Here he had the harsh task of trying to concede five lbs. to the current RSA and Gold Cup entry, Grands Crus. He jumped well again, but for a mistake three out and has run a blinder against last year’s World Hurdle second. His second trip to the Cotswold was seen four weeks later when connections decided a step-up in trip was warranted. Again he jumped well, but was slightly caught on the hop when the race started in ernest. It looked like they were racing a fair bit from home and not blessed with a sharp turn of foot couldn’t get back into the race. A bad mistake three out didn’t help. But he stuck-on well and was game in defeat. He finally got his head in front again when dropped in trip, over this course and distance. A change of tactics duly helped. This time he was seen to better effect front running, and jumped every single fence, with aplomb, apart from one early which he fiddled over. The nice aspect about this performance was he jumped well, but at pace, a strong pace. The only complaint would be he can jump out to his right which is not ideal around Cheltenham, but given his jumping, talent and attitude we can’t rule him out especially with his form up there with the best of this field.
Money has come for the Nick Williams trained For Non Stop in recent days. The son of Alderbrook was running a massive race in last year’s Coral Cup, when heavily gambled, but came to grief at the second last when booked for a place. His three runs over fences have been of the highest quality especially the opening pair when bumping into the likes of Al Ferof and Cue Card. At Sandown he ran Al Ferof very close after putting in a fine round of jumping. He is surely flattered by the proximity to the winner, but his jumping and gritty attitude mean he is a horse to like. It’s also worth pointing out the front two pulled along way clear of the chasing pack. On his second chase start he was beaten convincingly by the classy Cue Card. The Colin Tizzard runner was giving the now seven-year-old seven lbs. which doesn’t exactly mirror strong form, but again, For Non Stop jumped well and showed a good attitude. He never got in a blow over a trip on the sharp side for him, but stayed on nicely in the latter stages. The likable grey finally got his head in front at Newbury three weeks ago when cosily accounting for the solid, Michael Flips. The strong early pace saw him out the back early, but he was given a super ride by Noel Fehily who produced him at the last, with ears pricked, to overhaul the runner-up quite easily. Once more he jumped well and stayed strongly – the running of the Jewson will suit and he’ll be staying on well up that hill.
In last year’s Coral Cup Solix would have finished behind For Non Stop if the latter had not fallen, but under top-weight the Henderson inmate ran a blinder especially as it was only his second run in Britain after switching from France. After last year’s Festival run he was put away by connections with a successful chasing campaign in mind. He reappeared in spectacular fashion when blundering his way around Ascot, but still managed to win. He didn’t look a natural at all and somehow, still got his head in front and cosily too. He then went to Cheltenham the following month and carried a five lbs. penalty to success with ease. The field wasn’t strong, but he came up the hill in strong fashion, and more importantly jumped much better. He still looked novicey in places, but it was a marked step-up and the faster pace at Cheltenham should aid his cause. His final outing again came at Cheltenham where he bumped into Champion Court who will reoppose come the Thursday of the Festival. After taking a while to warm to the task he jumping got better, but he couldn’t reel in the impressive winner, Champion Court. This particular day he gave the Martin Keighley runner three lbs. and will meet him on better terms come Cheltenham, but I’d be surprised if he turns around the form.
Jumping will be all important in the event, for novices. There is no doubt in my mind who the best jumper of a fence is, Cristal Bonus.
A classy horse in France, he switched to the Evan Williams yard in 2010 before coming to Ditcheat the following year. Williams described him as a ‘machine’ when with him, but unfortunately couldn’t hang on to the son of Della Francesca. His two hurdle runs saw him pitched in against the likes of Menorah and Grands Crus. He ran well on debut giving Menorah weight at Cheltenham before never being sighted behind the grey on the same course, on his next start. The six-year-old was then put away for a year until returning at Chepstow back in January. That was an egg and spoon race, but you could not be but impressed by his rout. He won very easily with his ears pricked throughout – he seems like a horse that enjoys his racing. As I’ve already adhered to he’s a fantastic jumper and showed that at Chepstow. On his next start he then went to Kempton for a below par Grade Two where again, he hacked-up. Although this was an average field, for the Grade, he still dominated from the get-go and duly ran his rivals into submission. He jumped unbelievably well, again with ears pricked. He corrected himself nicely at the last before bounding away from his rivals. It was a good performance which on the formbook leaves him on a par with Solix. However, he jumps much better than the Henderson horse and after a recent wind operation more improvement may still come. He has a little bit of a knee action, but he handled quick ground at Kempton. The time of that race was good in comparison to others on the card, another positive to take. He’s a horse I really like.
In summation it’s yet another race I’m looking forward to, unsurprisingly. Peddlers Cross is an old favourite of mine, but from a betting proposition I just can’t have him. Solix is a fair old tool, but his jumping is a worry and I’d fancy Champion Court to uphold the form. For Non Stop has some of the best form on offer, but others may just be that bit more progressive I could be wrong here, however. Champion Court is a horse I like – his jumping and attitude, but I’m just going to pass him over for the classy Cristal Bonus. The Paul Nicholls runner could well prove a cut above these and I can find little fault with him. I think he’ll front run, jump and gallop his rivals into the ground. He looks solid and hopefully the ground won’t be rattling quick. We’ll have the best jockey in the business on board and, again, that’s another massive bonus.
2pts win Cristal Bonus @ 4-1 (NRNB)