THIS week’s Path to Prestbury ventures along the novice chasing route and one of our big hopes Bob Olinger took up much of the post weekend chat after he won his second novice chase in the Grade 3 at Punchestown on Sunday.
At this stage we need to note - get the races right. If you are told to back one in the Festival Novices – it doesn’t exist!
Bob Olinger has been given an entry in the Turners and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase though he’s never really been mentioned for the longer race.
At the moment, Ferny Hollow (6/4), Bob Olinger (evens) and Galopin De Champs (6/4) head the three markets at best available prices. They are also three of the top-rated by Timeform, with Edwardstone rated the equal of Bob Olinger. All three favourites are previous Festival winners.
Last year three odds-on favourites lined up for the three Grade 1 novices but only Shishkin gave backers no worries, albeit Monkfish did win. Envoi Allen, hailed as the next star chaser, crashing out at the fourth.
Turners Novices’ Chase
Sunday’s winner Bob Olinger was one of the stars of the Festival last season. There was even a thought he might stay over hurdles and go for the Champion Hurdle this year.
His seven-and-a-half-length success in the Ballymore when he cruised by the British number one Bravemansgame was among the most impressive of the 2021 nmeeting. This autumn, his eagerly awaited first outing over fences at Gowran didn’t please everyone. He travelled well into the race under Darragh O’Keeffe, nodded three out, and was a bit up in the air, screwy at the last. He beat Bacardys, well-beaten at Christmas in the Grade 1, by six and a half lengths.
He was better at Punchestown last weekend without really convincing, to these eyes, that he was a natural over fences.
He can clearly jump, get the height over a fence but we missed out three fences and Capodanno, who won an incident-packed race previously at Naas, made him work.
The sharp bend into the straight might have been something to do with Rachael having to chivvy him along at that stage. He did find plenty and also clocked well on time figures.
Henry de Bromhead’s post-race comments left a little concern: “We’ve done a lot of schooling, a lot more than we normally would, with him do, and he’s really taken to it well. Rachael’s done a fantastic job with him at home. The other day we schooled him and we both went yeah, that’s it.” So it’s taken a while to get there. He has the right rider and trainer to steer him but pause for thought here?
If Henry had some doubts, should we be worried? He still delivered the goods on the clock and is Timeform’s second top-rated novice.
The make-up of the Turners is typically uncertain in mid-January. His market rival at this stage is L’Homme Presse, Venetia Williams’ fluent jumping novice with three wins from two miles three to two mile five. More importantly, those three wins came at tracks that offer a stiff jumping task for a novice.
It is presumed Galopin De Champs goes for the longer Brown Advisory. He is in both races as is Bravemansgame. There might be bit of game-playing among the top trainers yet.
What concerns me at the odds is that slight hesitancy in Bob Olinger at a fence. With those two fences in the straight at Cheltenham, both likely to be taken flat out, you can’t really afford to be hesitant at them like Minella Indo was at the last in the RSA. And there are big ditches that you need to be positive to, you can’t go backing off them.
Some firms have him a shade of odds-on with evens the best available. To me you are backing the horse who won the Ballymore, not the novice chaser we’ve seen so far.
Take it or leave it? I’ll leave it.
So what of Willie Mullins – he has two big guns in Ferny and Galopin but a lot may change if some of those snipers to be deployed between now and then step up and some have the potential to do so, especially Blue Lord, Saint Sam and Haut En Coleurs.
We should learn more, ground permitting, from the DRF as some of the Irish look sure to clash in the two novices with a few also given entries in the older all-aged Grade 1s.
Blue Lord, Ferny Hollow, Saint Sam, Haut En Coleurs, Jungle Boogie, Capadanno, Ciel De Neige, Galopin Des Champ and Stattler need sorting out!
Brown Advisory Novices’
Galopin De Champs seems the one for this and he got everyone excited in his beginners’ chase win at Leopardstown at Christmas.
In Britian, Bravemansgame has won his three chase starts in a very accomplished manner, but he was brushed aside last year.
His Kempton Grade 1 came at the expense of Ahoy Senor who had beaten him over hurdles in the Aintree Grade 1 but the Nicholls horse was by far the more accomplished over the bigger obstacles at Kempton.
It was clear Nicholls had confidence in his jumping by starting him off against more experienced horses including last year’s Marsh second Fusil Raffles at Newton Abbot, where he looked a natural jumper. But for a Grade 1, Kempton winners have a dreadful record in the Cheltenham novices.
This race has many quoted that may or may not run. Ahoy Senior has two Festival entries – the Gold Cup and the Brown Advisory. I see little value in taking short prices at this stage but backing something when another win would see many points chopped off his current odds has to be worth a shot.
Bearing in mind if he wins his next race well at Wetherby, he will shorten considerably. The gap of 12/1 to 4s with some firms between himself and Bravemansgame is an over reaction to his Kempton defeat where he blatantly didn’t jump his best. I’d take a chance at the 12s.
Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase
Short-priced favourites have a very good record in the two-miler – seven from the last 10, including Simonsig, Sprinter Sacre, Un De Sceaux, Douvan and Altior. The horse who was best over hurdles also regularly wins this.
We did have a 33 and a 16/1 winner in the last decade – but Hardline was a daft favourite in a weak renewal in 2019.
I had some doubts about Ferny Hollow over fences based on his keenness and needing a hood before he got his act together in bumpers and with only one run over hurdles. He has made the transition to fences well. He impressed Willie in giving 13lbs and a beating to Riviere D’Etel at Christmas. One negative was not having to jump a fence at flat out speed with the last omitted.
Haut En Coleurs, five-and-a-half winner of his beginners’ chase at Christmas, has only turned five, has raced only four times and could be open to the most improvement of all by March.
By contrast Jungle Boogie, not a name you found on many 10 to Follow lists, is an eight-year-old and won only his third outing at Punchestown by 12 lengths over the new year. He was odds-on for all his three runs, bumper, maiden hurdle and beginners’ chase. He is also entered in all four novices – make what you will of that.
Blue Lord mixed it with the best hurdlers and is two from two in good style over fences, although he too had no fences to jump when off the bridle at Naas.
Edwardstone is the British opposition to Ferny Hollow and has impressed in his attitude in graded wins at Sandown and Kempton.
He was just over five lengths behind Belfast Banter when fifth in the County Hurdle last year.
While many winners were prominently ridden last year, if we have Ferny and Riviere D’Etel in here again, a hold up horse could have an advantage and he looks solid at 9/2.
Kempton’s Wayward Lad has been a good guide to the Arkle for the best of British: Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Altior, Shishkin.
National Hunt Chase
The Grade 2 National Hunt has always been the most difficult ante-post race for the reason that it’s more difficult to predict who will run. Winners can have a wide depth in ability too. Minella Rocco beat Gold Cup winner Native River in 2016 but Le Breuil just stayed all day to win the slog in 2019.
Saturday’s Warwick winner Threeunderthrufive has been touted for this but he had good time figures on his three-mile Cheltenham win in November and this trip might stretch him.
Gordon Elliott’s record stands out with Cause Of Causes, Tiger Roll, Ravenhill and Galvin from the stable. Braeside, Fury Road and favourite Run Wild Fred all appeal.
Capadanno went to many notebooks on Sunday. I’d definitely prefer one with lots of experience rather than one like Mullins’ Jungle Boogie or En Beton. En Beton seemed to take all by surprise when showing plenty of stamina in making all impressively in a Punchestown novice on New Year’s Eve to win at 10/1.
You would be advised to hold fire until a few are committed to this one.
Two who have not made the headlines yet but should not be forgotten are Gabynako and Beacon Edge, first and second in the Drinmore.
Gabynako has plenty of experience, was impressive when beating Fury Road in his beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse but may have got bogged down at Limerick when well beaten behind Master McShee. Gavin Cromwell’s charge made crucial errors in the Grade 1 Drinmore but was only beaten a length and a half by Beacon Edge. He is 33/1 for the Turners.
Beacon Edge is also a high-class hurdler, beaten just five and a half lengths in the Stayers Hurdle last year. He missed Christmas but good run at the DRF could see his 16s for the Brown Advisory, his only entry, contract.