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|Minella Crooner||15/215/2||Ante Post
EW (3 Places) / NRNB
National Hunt Chase
|Place BetPlace Bet|
Date of Tips: 08/02/2023
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For those punters who feel tempted into buying the spread of the number of winners that Willie Mullins trains at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, surely Gaillard Du Mesnil in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase will be one that’s chalked down as a banker.
Clearly, his level of ability and experience will count for plenty in a race like this. But there are two niggling doubts for me – the price, (a best of 7/4 there for those willing to risk that he runs here, or 6/4 with the safety net of ‘Non-Runner, No Bet,’) and his ability to stay the 3m6f trip.
Having been sent off a well backed favourite in last season’s Irish Grand National, it was notable that the final few fences and furlongs were his least taking. An ability to stay a trip is always relative to the ability of the opposition too, but I think at the moment, the market is aligned very much as if he is taking on trees. That is most certainly not the case.
Now is definitely the time to get involved from an ante-post perspective in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase, run at 5.30 on Tuesday 14th March at Cheltenham. One horse who is very much on my radar for the race run in the next few days, so timing is of the essence.
The horse to back now represents a trainer who knows exactly what it takes to win the race, and sometimes not with the obvious one. For ages, Gordon Elliott’s Chemical Energy has been prominent in the market for the National Hunt Chase, but I am much more inclined to the chances of Minella Crooner.
At 16/1 each-way with Bet365, with the concessions of ‘Non-Runner, No Bet’ and ‘Best Odds Guaranteed,’ there is plenty of mileage on backing Minella Crooner right now – even more so as he runs at Fairyhouse on Wednesday afternoon.
I apologise for not giving you much leeway in terms of timing here, but given Minella Crooner needs to finish in the first four today, a prominent showing would not only qualify him for the race, but also surely advertise the claims of this Grade 1 novice hurdle runner-up.
Always highly touted, that Minella Crooner ended his hurdle season with a poor effort at Punchestown has allowed him to slip under the radar somewhat in his first few forays into novice chasing. For the most part, his jumping has been sound, and he has the look of a horse who will stay forever.
With that allied to his undoubted quality, and on the back of some high-class novice chase form to date, backing Minella Crooner at 16/1 each-way with Bet365 now has plenty of upsides I believe.
Similar comments apply with regard to potential Kim Muir flirtations, but if he is (rightly) too highly rated for that, then he can prove to be the liveliest of candidates from the Gordon Elliott stable.
|Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle|
The National Hunt Chase is a Grade 2 race that is run over a distance of 3 miles and 6 furlongs. The race is open to amateur riders and horses aged five years or older. It is run on the Old Course and features 23 fences to be jumped.
The National Hunt Chase is one of the longest races of the Cheltenham Festival and has produced some legendary winners such as Salsify, Cause Of Causes, and Rathvinden.
|Gaillard Du Mesnil||5/4|
12, 5, 4, 4, 4, 7, 3, 3, 11, 9, 5, 3, 4, 10, 4, 10, 10, 5, 6, 8.
Answers on a postcard please, as to what this sequence of numbers represents. It may appear as if I have rather primitively just jabbed down on the number pad on my laptop in random and bizarre fashion.
But what this enlightening tally represents is in fact that last 20 winners of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and the respective number of runs each of them had over fences before winning said race.
60% of the winners of this race this century, have needed 5 or more runs to tune up for it, and an extraordinary 25% have needed 10 or more runs over the larger obstacles to obtain the necessary fitness, experience and durability for what is always a decent test mentally and physically for a horse.
The reason for outlining this is that current favourite, the Willie Mullins-trained Stattler has only had 2 chase starts, and reportedly goes straight for the race without another run.
At a best priced 7/2 with Bet365, he isn’t for me, for all that he has improved for fences and looks a stronger horse than the one that faded late in last season’s Albert Bartlett and the 3m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
3, 3, 2, 10, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 4, 2, 3, 2, 3, 4.
Trotting out figures again, sorry. This is the list of horses Willie Mullins has run in the National Hunt Chase in the last 10 years, and their previous number of starts over fences. The 10 and obvious outlier is 2018 winner Rathvinden, who clearly benefitted from a liberal summer campaign previous to the jumps season proper. While the other figure in bold is the 3, which is his only other winner of the race – Back In Focus in 2013.
For all that supporters of Stattler will point to Back In Focus as an example of a horse who can get the job done in this race, it is worth noting that before joining Mullins he had also run in 3 point-to-points – so in effect, had 6 starts over fences of some kind to fall back on.
Far be it from me to suggest that the master trainer should alter his philosophy when it comes to aiming horses at the National Hunt Chase, but with the lightly raced types, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Instead, I am going to suggest backing one of his entries ante-post, that very much fits the profile.
Ontheropes, has a wealth of handicap experience to slam down on the table – a ready winner of the Munster National and two eye-catching running on efforts in the Ladbrokes Trophy and the Thyestes Handicap Chase (the two hottest handicap chases run this season by far). He has just the hardy and strong-staying look to him which could thrive in the closing race of day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2022, at 5.30 on the Tuesday.
Ontheropes has 9 chase starts in the bag, and at 16/1 each-way with Bet365, looks significantly overpriced to me. He has an entry in the Festival Novices’ Chase over 3m, but has come up short against that kind of company before, and entries in the Irish Grand National Trial and the Randox Grand National itself, strongly suggest the Mullins’ camp know he is a stayer of some potential.
The other horse vying for favouritism at this stage is the Gordon Elliott-trained Run Wild Fred, who does very much fit the profile of a tough, experienced type. But I’m not convinced trainer and owners are seeing eye-to-eye with his campaign this season. Also, Run Wild Fred has had three chances to run at Cheltenham Festivals previously, and connections have passed them up on all three occasions.
While he would look to be an ideal type for the Aintree Grand National, and reading between the lines, the owners Gigginstown House Stud would prefer a tilt there or at the Irish Grand National again. Either way, they have never been fans of the ‘4-miler’ as it was, and Run Wild Fred could easily be a horse better on flatter tracks. Flatter tracks such as Leopardstown, where he has finished ahead of Ontheropes and the second selection Vanillier at Christmas time.
Vanillier burst into life last season when romping home in the Albert Bartlett, so much so that he covered the final circuit of that race quicker than Galopin Des Champs did a little later. That horse needs no introduction now, and is as short as 7/1 for the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup!
Vanillier was below par at Leopardstown before his Albert Bartlett blitzkrieg last season, and so I’d strongly feel that he is being trained to peak at Prestbury Park in March again. His jumping has been gradually getting better with each start, and that he has had four starts over fences will surely help in that regard.
At 14/1 each-way, also with Bet365, Vanillier is definitely able to turn around the form with Stattler from their meeting at Naas at the end of January. Despite being beaten 18 lengths by Stattler, Vanillier hugged the inside of the chase track, which is usually less favourable compared with the wide and stands side route that Stattler took. The following handicap chase further cemented this theory on the card.
That Vanillier was still in with a squeak two out, carrying at least 8lbs more than his rivals, suggested to me that it was a run much better than many will give him credit for.
At 14/1 and 16/1 respectively, Vanillier and Ontheropes are two each-way picks for the National Hunt Chase at 5.30 on the opening Tuesday of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, that are not being given enough respect by the layers in my opinion.
You can get 4 places with Betfred, and others are Non-Runner No Bet, but Bet365 are significantly more generous with their prices on this race, and that has lured me in.
The National Hunt Chase looks a very interesting race and possibly is one of the best renewals of the race that we have seen in recent years. The market is led by Stattler, who has an interesting profile going into the race having just ran twice over fences thus far for Willie Mullins and Patrick Mullins. He won impressively last time out at Naas, but apart from that you’d have to think he might lack for a bit of experience. Instead, I’ll be siding with Run Wild Fred for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd, who is a very notable booking on this horse. He brings all the credentials you need to a National Hunt Chase, with plenty of experience going into the race and having won the Troy own Handicap Chase earlier this year – you’d think this race would be right up his alley. I’m hoping Jamie Codd will be able to use his jumping and get into the race an awful lot easier than some of his market rivals. At a price of 2/1 with Paddy Power, I think he is a very fair bet.
With the entries confirmed for the four graded novice chases at the Festival last week, and a whole host of trials over the last 10 days or so, it is a great time to drill down into the markets for these events.
There have been a number of tweaks to the National Hunt Chase – what used to be known as the ‘4-miler’ will now be catchily dubbed the 3-mile 6-furlonger!’ While the qualification criteria for the race has been tightened up slightly to ensure the race features, on the whole, classier and stronger staying types.
To my eye, you can’t get more classy and stronger staying than a 3m Grade 1-winning hurdler. Champagne Classic, famously categorised as the worst horse that Gigginstown-supremo Michael O’Leary owned after winning the Martin Pipe Conditionals race at the 2017 Festival, is currently second favourite in the NH Chase market. I feel he should be favourite.
On the back of three very notable chase runs this season, which confirmed he has come back in as good a form as before his injury layoff last season, and what looks like a carefully mapped out preparation by Gordon Elliott – he must be backed at 6/1.
The current favourite, Carefully Selected, is a danger yes, but didn’t appear as the cleverest jumper when winning the Grade 3 over 3m at Naas last Sunday. A trait which displayed itself on his chase debut also, and while he was a good hurdler he never won a Grade 1 like Champagne Classic.
There are currently as many as 22 horses in the entry list who aren’t actually qualified to run in the race yet, so should you fancy anything, check carefully before having a bet. Of those at bigger odds, one that would appeal if he was targeted at the race would be Colin Tizzard’s progressive young chaser Copperhead – easy winner of two staying handicaps, he strikes as a horse that could improve for this kind of test.
But for a main selection, look no further than the worst horse that Gigginstown own!
|Cheltenham Tips by Day|
|Day 1 TipsTips for Tuesday 14th March||Day 2 TipsTips for Wednesday 15th March|
|Day 3 TipsTips for Thursday 16th March||Day 4 TipsTips for Friday 17th March|
As the curtain begins to draw on this strangest of all flat seasons, and thoughts now turn to the upcoming jumps campaign, let’s hope the ‘Sport of Kings’ warms the cockles and provides many a notable moment over the coming months for all those involved in it and who follow it.
It is a challenging time for many, but despite not being able to enjoy a day at the races as paying spectators, the ability to watch and bet on the big races has by no means diminished, despite all that is going on. So too, sure as day meets night, Gordon Elliott has plans meticulously mapped out for pretty much his whole string – such is the level of planning and preparation that has catapulted him to the very top echelons of the training sphere.
This morning’s Racing Post comprehensive stable tour has revealed many a nugget, including a nice boost that Abacadabras is confirmed as going down the Champion Hurdle route, while Sire Du Berlais will be aimed at the Stayers’ Hurdle also, making these post-Festival 2020 recommendations look pretty tasty.
Upon further scouring of the comments on his huge string, and another Cheltenham Festival 2021 ante-post bet has leapt to the forefront of my mind. It is an old favourite, who grabbed the place money as part of a nice 1-2 in the Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2020, and was also sadly ruled out of the Galway Plate at the eleventh hour.
Galvin is available at 14/1 with Paddy Power for the 2021 National Hunt Chase, and that looks very much worth taking each-way, as he is due to run just once more, before the depths of winter converge on us. Then he will be prepared fresh and well for the race next March, in a similar fashion to how Gordon Elliott prepared him for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. In emerging out of the pack and chasing home the mightily impressive Imperial Aura, he marked himself down as a class act.
Indeed, that is why I fancied him so strongly for the Galway Plate, and given there was a significant chance that he would have left behind his current rating of 148, had he taken part in that contest – it puts him well in the mix with some of the classier types to have ever taken in the 3m6f feature for novice chasers on day one of the Festival.
A quick glance at the last six winners of the race and the ratings of them – 142, 145, 150, 152, 143, 146 – suggest that you need a high-quality chaser. I am in no doubt that Galvin is better than a 148-rated chaser, and has run two good races at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.
The only doubt could be his ability to see out the extreme trip of 3m6f, as he has never raced beyond 2m6½f yet. But when you consider his sire Gold Well is a regular producer of top notch 3m+ staying chasers, his dam Burren Moonshine won a Durham National, and her sire Moonax won a St Leger on the flat – if that all doesn’t scream stamina-laden to you, then I’m afraid you’re in the wrong game!
See it as a long-term investment, as you won’t get much chance to see Galvin until that first Tuesday in March. But what is assured is that in taking the 14/1 with Paddy Power now, you will enjoy seeing the regular chipping away of that price, as we edge closer to the spring.
The following content was added at 10:55 on Tuesday 9th March 2021
Having already advised Galvin at 14/1 for the National Hunt Novices’ Chase back in November (see above), now is definitely the time to re-visit the race, with a view to seeing if we can potentially give ourselves any other over-priced options.
Royale Pagaille is into a skinny 6/4 generally, and looks as if he will run here, if market moves are to be believed. But I’m not entirely convinced he should be that price, and is one I’d be very keen to take on and/or lay if he’s that price on the day. He has looked impressive, but all his winning has been on very heavy ground, on flat tracks, and against generally out of form handicap opposition, while jumping very markedly to this left when under no pressure at all at Haydock last time.
If you have a quick look down the other horses in the ante-post lists, of those that are 25/1 or lower, I can only see two other potential runners other than Royale Pagaille and Galvin. Put simply, it is a market that is ripe for another each-way selection, if the right horse can be found.
Those two potential runners are Longhouse Poet, who has been popular of late, and is into 8/1 best price, and Lord Royal – interestingly the only entry Willie Mullins has in this race.
Longhouse Poet is a classy horse, and won well last time against some solid yardsticks in the shape of The Big Dog and Run Wild Fred, but I’d have my doubts about drying ground and if he will truly stay 3m6f.
Lord Royal however, as I mentioned, despite being Willie Mullins’ sole representative, is available at 16/1 each-way with Bet365, who are ‘Non-Runner, No Bet’. That money back concession is important at this stage, as the confirmation stage is tomorrow, and he does hold an entry in this weekend’s Leinster National. But I have seen reports suggesting that Mullins’ is aiming him at the National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase – the last race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Lord Royal has snuck in under the radar somewhat this season over fences, as his first two runs resulted in a fall and a below par effort over an inadequate trip. However, his third chase start, in a first-time tongue-tie, was significantly better. Lord Royal chased home Mr Hendricks that day over 3m on very testing ground at Navan, with The Big Dog 4¼ lengths back in third – form that puts him in the same ballpark as Longhouse Poet.
In terms of recommending Lord Royal as the saver to Galvin, and not Longhouse Poet, is twofold. The price about Lord Royal is much more tempting clearly, but also the notion that Lord Royal could well improve significantly for better ground. He has yet to encounter anything other than soft or heavy conditions for Mullins’, but he fairly points his hooves in stride pattern, and on that evidence, should enjoy skimming off a sounder surface.
Lord Royal is also a lovely big, lengthy, scopey horse who looks like he will stay forever, and at 16/1 each-way with Bet365, he is a really good option to add to the original Galvin bet.