One of the advantages of betting in novice chases at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is that we’re familiar with most of the protagonists from their novice hurdle days. Many of the market leaders have already ran against each other over hurdles, and their novice chase campaigns have only provided more information to those wagering on horse racing betting sites. With just under two weeks to go, we have a fair idea of who will be running where, so it looks a good time to put each race under the microscope.
The Arkle has been a race that has been kind to punters in recent years, and it has paid to look towards the head of the market on betting sites. Eight of the last 10 winners have had a starting price of 5/1 or less, and seven of those were the favorite. This year’s race is dominated by the Willie Mullins-trained El Fabiolo and his Aintree-conqueror Jonbon.
The Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival is probably the best clue we’ve got leading into Cheltenham with regards to this division. It was as strong a novice chase as you’re likely to see, and the fact that El Fabiolo was able to win by such a wide margin really marks him down as the one to beat.
One concern for his chief rival Jonbon is that most of his races this season have been in small, uncompetitive fields where he’s been gifted an easy lead. His latest prep run wouldn’t inspire confidence either as he made hard work of beating his sole rival Calico at cramped odds of 1/16.
The other main protagonist is Dysart Dynamo, and one thing we can take for granted is that he is going to do what Dysart Dynamo does best - go hard from the front. If he gets into a good rhythm, and the other two make mistakes in behind, he may be hard to peg back. However, the chances are that he will be picked up by one of the market leaders in the straight as he begins to tire from his early exertions.
Looking through the rest of the betting, it is extremely hard to envision any other horse winning the race. It is also likely that we’re going to have a small field in this one, as several horses who contested the Irish Arkle such as Appreciate It and Banbridge are likely to step up in trip for the Turners.
The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase has had an open look to it ever since ante-post favorite The Nice Guy was ruled out for the season in October. The race was lacking a standout candidate until Gerri Colombe catapulted to the top of the market following his authoritative victory in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown. He arrives at Cheltenham unbeaten and always seems to do enough to get the job done. He is yet to run over three miles, but I think this step up in trip will eke out further improvement, and he is undoubtedly the most likely winner.
The Patrick Neville-trained The Real Whacker is the clear second favorite on sports betting apps and he showed his liking for Cheltenham in his two wins at the track this season. Neville has been toying with the idea of running this horse in the Gold Cup which shows the esteem he is held in, and he led his rivals a merry dance when winning the Grade 2 Dipper Chase in January. A reproduction of that run should give him a chance, but I have my suspicions he’ll be out of his depth in this. Nine of the last 10 winners of this race were aged seven or eight, meaning I’m also more than happy to draw a line through the nine-year-old Thyme Hill.
Sir Gerhard is another potentially interesting contender for Willie Mullins. Mullins hinted that this may be the race for him after winning his sole chase start at Gowran Park in January. That race wasn’t without incident though, as his jumping was notably sketchy in places. Furthermore, his lack of experience over fences has to be a big worry given nine of the last 10 winners have ran at least three times over fences.
I think it may be worth chancing Ramillies in this, who may be sent here in the likely event his stablemate Gaillard Du Mesnil heads to the National Hunt Chase. He was very unfortunate to be demoted from first place the last day, after what looked like a good piece of race riding from Paul Townend. That would have been on ground softer than ideal, and the horse is notoriously hard to get fit, so there is good reason to believe that there will be further improvement to come. He could be a good each-way bet in a race that doesn't appear to have much depth.
There is only one place to start in this race and that is with Mighty Potter who is sure to go off a short price on horse racing betting apps. Gordon Elliott has always held this horse in the highest regard and made no secret in his novice hurdle days that he would be a different proposition over fences. That has proved to be the case as he’s already bagged two Grade 1s including the Drinmore and a flawless win in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. The one concern I have with him is that I’m finding it hard to erase the memory of his horrid run at the Festival last year, and I’m inclined to take him on.
Appreciate It disappointed in the Irish Arkle, and I think there’s a chance he’s regressed since hacking up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2021. I’m a lot more interested in the horse that pipped Appreciate It for second place at the DRF. Banbridge looked to be outpaced from a long way out that day, but he finished like a train to suggest the extra couple of furlongs in the Turners will be right up his street. He was well beaten behind Mighty Potter in the Drinmore, but that was on unsuitably soft ground which he is very unlikely to encounter at Cheltenham. He jumped like a stag around Prestbury Park in November, and he is sure to have a big say in this.
This race revolves around the participation of Gaillard Du Mesnil, who will be a very warm order should connections opt to run here instead of the Brown Advisory. Experience is usually key in this race and this second-season novice has that in spades. After a gutsy third-place finish in last year’s Irish Grand National under a big weight, we know that stamina is of no concern, and he looks tailor-made for this test. Patrick Mullins will likely have earmarked this horse as his ride in the race from a very early stage, and having the assistance of a top amateur like Patrick is usually worth its weight in gold in races restricted to amateur jockeys. He is very hard to look past in this contest.
Second in the market is Ramillies, a horse representing the same owner/trainer combination as Gaillard Du Mesnil. There continues to be speculation as to whether connections will split the pair up, and Willie Mullins has hinted that Gaillard Du Mesnil will be kept for this race. Other contenders are Churchstonewarrior and Mahler Mission, who fought out the finish in a Grade 2 at Navan in February, however, they are unlikely to be in the same league as Gaillard Du Mesnil.