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Fascinating Novice Contests Taking Shape at The Festival
23/02/11

Fascinating races are in prospect for the novice contests at The Festival following the scratchings deadline, details of which are revealed today, Wednesday, February 23.

The Grade One Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, run on Centenary Day, Tuesday, March 15, has 23 horses going forward with Timeform making the Willie Mullins-trained duo of Blazing Tempo (165) and Mikhael D’Haguenet (163) the pick of those. Heading the home-trained defence is the Nicky Henderson-trained Finian’s Rainbow (162p with Timeform), unbeaten in three starts over fences, and the Alan King-trained Medermit (162), who was successful in a Grade One contest at Sandown on February 5.

Quel Esprit
© racing-images.co.uk

Quel Esprit
The longest race to take place at The Festival is the four-mile National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 16, which has 57 contenders remaining. Top-rated with Timeform for this contest is Irish challenger Quito La Roque (163+) from the stable of Colm Murphy and successful on his latest two starts, both of which have come in Grade Two company. The four top-rated horses with Timeform for this event are all trained in Ireland, with Quito La Roque followed by Magnaminty (161), Alfa Beat (160+) and Quel Esprit (160).

A total of 32 remain in the Grade One RSA Chase, also run on Ladies Day, for which Timeform awards Wishfull Thinking a rating of 172p following his success in the Grade Three Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, January 29. He is followed by Blazing Tempo on 168 with the current ante-post favourite Time For Rupert, who is unbeaten in two starts over fences at Cheltenham this season, on 166p.

This year’s Festival will witness the first running of the Grade Two Jewson Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles, which takes place on St Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17. A bumper 40 horses are still entered in this event, with Timeform again making Wishfull Thinking and Blazing Tempo top-rated in this event. This is the only novice contest that the Paul Nicholls-trained Robinson Collonges remains engaged in. The six-year-old, rated 164p with Timeform, has not been seen out since a bad mistake put him out of contention in the Vote AP Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.

On the hurdling front, it looks like the opposition has it all to do against Cue Card in the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, run on Centenary Day, with Colin Tizzard’s charge having a rating of 169p with Timeform, 7lb clear of his closest rival Magen’s Star (162p). A total of 59 entries remain in the traditional curtain raiser to The Festival.

In the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, run on Ladies Day and for which there are 68 entries remaining, the Jessica Harrington-trained Oscars Well is top-rated with Timeform on 166, just ahead of the Nicky Henderson-trained Bobs Worth, who is unbeaten in two starts at Cheltenham, on 165p. The same two horses dominate the Timeform ratings for the 69 entries left in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, run on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 18.

The JCB Triumph Hurdle looks as wide open as ever with 55 left in, including a number of unexposed contenders. Timeform makes the Paul Nicholls-trained dual Cheltenham scorer Sam Winner the current pick with a rating of 166.

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