Cheltenham 2024 | Festival Focus – Novice Chases

Cheltenham Day 1

There’s been some exciting novice chasers all season, and the best of the best will compete at Cheltenham. Best of Bets takes a deep dive into the four novice chases during the week.


MyPensionExpert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase – 1m 7F 199yds – Grade One

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The shock of the race came on Monday evening was that Marine Nationale was ruled out. Therefore the top two in the market now are the Irish Arkle one-two, Il Etait Temps and Found A Fifty.

Il Etait Temps was impressive in the race, running on after the last to chin Found A Fifty on the line.

But it’s worth noting that Il Etait Temps didn’t perform too badly over Christmas over two-and-a-half miles behind Gaelic Warrior.

Also, the Irish Arkle is a full furlong and 29 yards longer than the Cheltenham equivalent. And Il Etait Temps looked like he needed all of that to beat Found A Fifty.

The shorter distance will favour the latter and was impressive on both debut and over Christmas. He’s finished in the top two on all chase starts.

Facile Vega has major doubts about coming to the Festival after two extremely disappointing runs.

Gaelic Warrior was finally found out going left-handed when falling at the last and jumping at a poor standard. His performance at the Festival last year also found out his weakness.

As for the British, JPR One looks like the best jumper in the UK but was found out at Sandown in his Grade One test. He only won by half-a-length last time out, so doesn’t hold too much of a threat to the Irish dominated market.

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Master Chewy is the top rated British horse, but disappointed in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Lingfield last time out.

His win in the Wayward Lad was nothing short of impressive and Nickle Back backed the form up by winning the Grade One Scilly Isles’ at Sandown.

If there’s plenty of pace on, and the ground not too testing, we may see an upset come courtesy of him.


I couldn’t see another runner apart from Marine Nationale, but with him out I’m siding with Found A Fifty. He’ll appreciate the lack of distance and will bring some pace in the closing stages. 7/2 (General).

Each-way pick: Hunters Yarn is the top pick for the double-green of Munir and Souede and annihilated the field when breaking his maiden last time out. He did fall at the last on chasing debut but was five lengths clear of the rest and had the win in the bag. Has a chance, despite being down the pecking order in the Mullins market. 11/2 (General).

TRICAST: Found A Fifty, Hunters Yarn, Master Chewy


Maureen Mullins National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase – 3m 5F 201yds – Grade Two

The slog-fest for the novices is back. We could see a future Gold Cup winner, or maybe the next Grand National winner.

Embassy Gardens is the current market leader after two impressive wins either side of Christmas. He’s an out and out stayer, evidenced on his hurdles form last season.

He’s rather unexposed in the field but lacks a key stat that only Stattler bucked in the last ten years. He hasn’t had enough runs.

An alarming statistic for the race is the only horses to have won the race, despite having less than four runs over fences, were Back In Focus and Stattler, both trained by Willie Mullins.

He is a talented horse, with two big margin wins over fences, but does he lack the experience over fences?

Corbetts Cross has only one win over fences, finishing behind Grangeclare West twice and falling after being bumped last time out.

It speaks volumes that owner JP McManus says that he thinks he can win this race, despite some shortcomings this season.

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Salvador Ziggy hasn’t been seen since October. On recent form, he’s been running in the Summer season, which means he will need the ground bone dry.

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Meetingofthewaters has been impressing in handicap chases, barring his last run when unseating at the first. For him, it’s a tossup between the Ultima and here.

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Nick Rockett has fallen victim by Corbetts Cross and, unusually, American Mike when he stepped up to three miles last time out. He’s been stepping up in distance with each run, so there won’t be a worry about the trip.

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Leading the UK challenge is Broadway Boy, who was beat by Flooring Porter at Cheltenham in October but hasn’t followed up since.

Since then, the extended three-mile trips around Cheltenham have him suited down to the ground and wasn’t expected to perform when going to Warwick.


I’m taking on the favourite, just like I did last year. Hopefully Corbetts Cross won’t fall at the last like Mahler Mission did and beats Embassy Gardens, but it won’t be by far. 5/2 (General).

Each-way pick: Broadway Boy has a big liking for the course and the further he goes, the happier he is. Surprised he isn’t shorter, but double figures is a steal. 10/1 (Boylesports, BetUK).


Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – 3m 80yds – Grade One

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This looks like a match race between two of the heavyweight trainers, but is it just a simple as that?

Willie Mullins confirmed that Fact To File was to run here, which caught everyone’s attention. And there’s little question as to why he won’t win.

He stayed every yard of his last two races over an extended two mile five furlong races. Some would say that he’d be better going to the Turners, but Mark Walsh hardly touched him when trouncing Gaelic Warrior.

He’ll suit the step up in trip, rather than the step down. And American Mike has gone on to win since, over further, which gives him a little extra boost. He’s also another JP horse that hold the only entry for the owner.

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Stay Away Fay was largely touted to beat his more experienced individuals in the Cotswold Chase. However, he got put to bed by Capodanno.

That’s not to say he’s easily the best British novice chaser coming into the Festival, and can build on his Albert Bartlett win.

His only blip came when fourth behind Apple Away at Aintree. He is one of Nicholls’ top hopes for the meeting.

Monty’s Star pulled up in last year’s Albert Bartlett, but impressed on his second start over fences, overturning a loss to Three Card Brag winning by five-and-a-half lengths. However, he’s not at the level of the top two in the market.

Grey Dawning might be shorter for the Turner’s, but a ultra-impressive victory at Warwick threw up the big possibility of him coming here.

He seemed to like the sharp, left-handed track of Warwick, which should suit him on the Old Course.

He was beaten by Ginny’s Destiny in November and holds some decent claims here, but not as much as the top two.


It’s a match between the top two and the verdict goes to Fact To File. Stay Away Fay is the best of the British, but Fact To File looks to be best of the lot and should have a nice future for Mullins and co. 5/6 (BetUK).

Each-way pick: Plenty on offer, but Sandor Clegane ran a cracker of a race to finish third in the Albert Bartlett last year. He held his own when finishing second in his last two races, particularly behind Embassy Gardens. 20/1 (BetUK, BetGoodwin).


Turners’ Novices’ Chase – 2m 3F 168yds – Grade One

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It’s safe to say that we could see a carbon copy repeat of last year’s race. A Paul Nichols horse, campaigned at Cheltenham over C&D, winning a novice handicap off top weight on Trials Day.

Ginny’s Destiny is one of Nicholls’ leading claims at the Festival, campaigned the same way Stage Star was.

It may be worth noting that his bigger margin wins came on the old course. This race on the new course.

But that’s clutching at straws and presents big leading claims.

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Grey Dawning was downed by three-quarters of a length in December over C&D and Dan Skelton has to decide which race will suit him better.

He has a realistic chance of winning this race after impressing over the intermediate trip. But he’s equally the same on sharp tracks over three miles. He’s shorter for this race which can provide clues, but not answers.

Gaelic Warrior will likely come here, but as mentioned before left-handedness is his Achilles’ Heel and will be the lay of the week wherever he turns up.

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Iroko was my first antepost pick way way back in November. But then he suffered an injury that was thought to rule him out for the season.

But Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerrerio have nursed him back to health and he seems to be 100% fit.

It’s a big risk to race him without giving him a prep run, but he’s unbeaten at the Festival after winning the Martin Pipe last year. The new course and distance will suit him to the ground.

Apart from Gaelic Warrior, it looks like a lottery to find the next Irish runner. So, we could end up with another short-stacked field.


As much as I like Ginny’s Destiny, Iroko knows that Festival feeling. His win sent a statement to the rest of the division. They thought they got away with it after his injury announcement. The form from Warwick might not have worked out, but his performance was striking. Plenty of value for a talented horse. 11/2 (Unibet, BetUK).

Each-way pick: Has anyone noticed this is the only entry American Mike holds? He has three options and is worth a punt on NRNB. He either is supplemented for one of the two staying races, come here or miss the Festival. Considering this is his only entry and is a double-figure price, Gordon Elliott may have played the bookies silly. 16/1 NRNB (BetUK).

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