Cheltenham ’13 – Centenary Novices Handicap Chase

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A relatively new addition to the Festival, the Pulteney Land Investment Novices Handicap Chase was first run in 2005 under the guise of the Jewson Chase. The complexion of this race changed somewhat when Jewson took over sponsorship of the new non handicap event in 2011 and the handicap range became restricted to 0-140.

In the two running’s of the race since it has been so oversubscribed with entries that 132 has been the lowest mark to get into the event. Ferdy Murphy’s Divers crept in at the very bottom of the handicap to win off 132 in 2011. Last year Hunt Ball carried 12 stone to victory from a penalty added mark of 142 to prove he was still some way ahead of the handicapper.

In its early days carrying less than 11 stone to victory could have been a positive trend but it seems unlikely on recent evidence that anything will get into the race with such a weight now so it’s hard to draw much of a trend on a weight carrying basis. All previous winners have finished 1st or 2nd on their previous run however.

With handicap entries now out but official weights yet to be released we are a little in the dark as to what weights some will be carrying. With multiple entries over the Festival for some it clouds the situation further but a case can be made for some value at even this early stage.

At the top of layers markets currently:

Colour Squadron (Philip Hobbs)
Old Vic (13.0f) — That´s The Goose (IRE) (Be My Native (USA) (11.7f))
Many will be looking at this as a plot horse on the evidence of his three chase runs so far. However his jumping hasn’t impressed and a chase mark of 139 is only 2lbs lower than his hurdles rating. He looks likely to be close to top weight on this and with jumping likely to be under further pressure in a race like this you would want a fair bit higher than the current top price of 12/1 to tempt you in. His only foray at the track last year didn’t exactly convince that he was suited to here either

Carlito Brigante (Gordon Elliott)
Haafhd (9.4f) — Desert Magic (IRE) (Green Desert (USA) (7.9f))
Probably one of the easiest Festival handicap winners in recent years when he ran away with the Coral Cup off 142 in 2011. Pulled up in the same race last year he hasn’t looked quite the same force since and was comfortable exposed for pace behind Dynaste in November when his rating was 140. I doubt we will see much drop from this and he could be a likely top weight here – given his form of late that mark doesn’t look that far wrong and you’d really want something ahead of the handicapper to win with a welter burden. Furthermore, he’s entered in no less than 5 other events at the Festival so can’t be recommended at all at this stage as a certain runner.

Attaglance (Malcolm Jefferson)
Passing Glance (8.3f) — Our Ethel (Be My Chief (USA) (9.8f))
Admirable hurdler who won at the Festival last year off 139 and then followed up at Aintree. His current chase mark of 133 would have to put him on a shortlist and this is his only entry. There is a suspicion so far that he isn’t quite as good a chaser as a hurdler and his last run was a totally false run affair. Nevertheless not one to discount lightly as we know he has course form.

Vulcanite (Charlie Longsdon)
Dubawi (IRE) (9.1f) — Daraliya (IRE) (Kahyasi (12.8f))
He may well get the fast pace he needed over hurdles here but jumping still not totally proficient for me and 2 miles appears more his trip – I suspect his entry in the Grand Annual may suit him better than this

The Druids Nephew (Andy Turnell)
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Gifted (Shareef Dancer (USA) (9.9f))
Competed in a hot beginners chase at Ascot in November when just touched off by Hadrians Approach off level weights. His current chase mark of 135 looks very workable now when we consider the winner is now rated 147. Furthermore he had behind him that day Rolling Aces (now 149), Kapga De Cerisy (137 but due for reassessment after Sandown win over Fago) and Act Of Kalanisi (140). He didn’t get home next time on soft ground over 3 miles but bounced back on last run to give a 10 length beating to Grandioso who then franked the form with a subsequent win (and now rated 142). He has shown a tendency to jump left at times this season so Cheltenham should suit better and he performed nicely for a 100/1 shot when 6th in the Albert Bartlett last year, travelling nicely out the back but a bit too far from the action up front to take a prominent hand. This being his only Festival entry also a plus for this one

The Irish challenge (other than Carlito Brigante)
Here we are in the dark with regard what ratings these ones will get. Buckers Bridge and Alderwood could possibly be allotted more than 140 and might not be eligible – both also have other entries. Sweet My Lord is an interesting Mullins entry and could be of interest if he gets a low mark but again has multiple entries

Others of note
Battle Group is a bit quirky but has consistently been placed at Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in last 2 years. He’s now sitting with a chase mark of 131 which looks quite attractive considering he was placed in this race last year. That mark wouldn’t see him into the race on last 2 years however and it’s quite likely he will have to try for another placing in another of his entries.

The Cockney Mackem was also placed at the Festival off 128 last year. A nice pipe opener over hurdles at Ascot recently should see him tuned up but ideally would like to see him with less than that magic 132 mark in this to give him a serious chance and so if he did he may not also get in.

VERDICT:
Attaglance is potentially well treated on hurdles ratings but what chasing form he has shown so far doesn’t make him quite value enough at a top price of 14/1. THE DRUIDS NEPHEW in contrast looks to be a better chaser than hurdler and would be expected to have further improvement still to come. In the expectation that he receives a mark of 135 he stands out amongst current entries to be one that may have a few pounds in hand of the handicapper, and is the early selection for this event to provide a welcome tonic for his trainer (who I believe has been unwell of late).

1pt each-way The Druids Nephew @16-1 with StanJames, William Hill, Betfred and Boylesports

Written by Paul Moody, follow him on Twitter @Senor_Moodoir!

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