Although not everyone’s cup of tea, the JLT Novices Chase is a race that is taken very seriously by trainers, jockeys and owners.
The intermediate distance can make for less competitive races elsewhere, but this year’s race is shaping up to be a cracker…
Who won the JLT Novices Chase in 2016?
Black Hercules made it another for Willie Mullins after he was rerouted from the National Hunt Chase just days before the race. There was doubts about his speed to handle this test but he displayed more than enough pace to get the job done, travelling strongly and jumping with great fluency, and despite looking in a spot of bother as the third went on straightening for home, he kicked into top gear to win bravely.
The form isn’t strong though and it’ll be a surprise if he can make a mark at open level this year.
How to pick the winner of the JLT Novices?
The race hasn’t really been around long enough to develop some strong trends but there are two key trial races to keep an eye on. Firstly the Novices Chase run at Sandown in February, otherwise known as the Scilly Isles Chase. Secondly, the Dipper Novices Chase run on Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day card, also will be well worth watching.
Both races have a strong record of producing the winner of this event.
Ante-post tip for the 2017 Novices Chase?
Trying to guess where all of Willie Mullins’ crop of talented novice chasers will go is a tough ask but at this stage Yorkhill, last year’s Neptune winner, looks likely to line up in this 2m5f contest with Min surely the stable number one for the Arkle. Patrick Mullins has been raving about the talent of this horse in past few months.
He could be the best novice at the yard. Take the 5/1 and pray Mr Mullins uses his noggin.
The one we like here is the Willie Mullins trained and Gigginstown owned Outlander.
He was a very talented novice hurdler last season, he won a graded race at Leopardstown beating No More Heroes and he ran 6th in the Neptune Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. He was ridden patiently that day and he got outpaced as they kicked for home around the final bend but he stayed on really well.
A change of tactics have since proved to be the making of him. He’s come on leaps and bounds this season for the change to fences also. His trainer Willie Mullins thinks the world of him and couldn’t be any more pleased with how he has progressed over fences. He is 3 wins from 3 over the larger obstacles and looks progressive.
He won on chasing debut at Punchestown beating the talented Free Expression. He travelled strongly throughout the race that day and won going away, he most likely needed that run but still managed to win comfortably.
He then went to Limerick at Christmas and he beat his stablemate Avant Tout by a length and three quarters. He could of easily won by more if asked. His jockey that day said the following “He jumps and stays well and went on today’s ground but I think he’s better on better ground. When he runs in a more competitive race on better ground he could be an RSA or JLT horse and could have a big shout to going to Cheltenham this year”.
After that run Outlander won the Flogas Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown on the 6th of February. He travelled with ease through the race and won in great style from Monksland and stablemate Pont Alexandre.
He’s won three races on ground that he didn’t like, I think if the ground comes up anyway good at Cheltenham he will take a lot of beating. Outlander is as short at 5/1 for this race. There has been strong support for him in the market ever since he won at Leopardstown. He also has an entry in the RSA but this is most likely his main target.
The favourite for this race, Bristol De Mai looks one of the main dangers. He was beaten by Garde La Victoire on debut at Uttoxeter but he has won 4 races since including a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. His only other defeat over fences came to the talented Ar Mad.
That horse got first run on him that day though and the jockey learned from the mistake. His best form comes in small fields though, that’s a slight worry about him given the big field here and the hustle and bustle of Cheltenham. I think he’s a shorter price than he should be.
I wouldn’t be afraid to take him on with Outlander. Of the others Garde La Victiore and Shaneshill have good chances. Garde La Victiore is unbeaten over fences this season and he looked good winning the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham. I’m not sure if this trip will suit him though.
I think he’d be better suited going for the Arkle over 2 mile. A race in which we fancy him without Douvan. Shaneshill was placed in the Cheltenham bumper and the Supreme Novices. He does like Cheltenham.
He looked to be having a great season until his last run. He was very disappointing and it was very off putting. I think this race could cut up as a lot of the main fancies have other engagements. I wouldn’t be surprised if Outlander goes off favourite on the day. The 5/1 about him is the value in the race.
Selection: Outlander 5/1