Exciting Novice Chases In Prospect
A new sponsor and some top-class entries are revealed today for the four non-handicap championship novice chases staged at The Festival from Tuesday to Friday, March 13 to 16 at Cheltenham.
The Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase will be backed by the sport’s daily paper for the first time on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13, and the two-mile contest promises to be a real thriller following today’s publication of entries.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the Racing Post Arkle Chase three times previously and he is responsible for the current antepost favourite in Sprinter Sacre, a 16-length winner at Kempton on December 27.
Other leading contenders include the 2010 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle winner Peddlers Cross, last year’s William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Al Ferof and Menorah, who landed the same race 12 months earlier.
Cue Card, who captured the 2010 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, is another with winning Festival form while the 11 Irish-trained entries include Sir Des Champs, who was successful in last season’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The seven-year-old won a Grade Two novices’ chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day over two miles and five furlongs and Keighley is favouring the Jewson Novices’ Chase as a Festival target.
“You’d have to say the Jewson will be the preference at this stage – I think that will be the race for him,” revealed Keighley. “He’s been in really good order since Cheltenham, he’s had a nice break and we could bring him back for one more run before The Festival.
“I’m not quite sure where he would run though - there is a race for him at Warwick. There are also some other graded races, and some more low-key races, but we will see nearer the time.
“Riding him prominently made a massive difference on New Year’s Day, he is a relentless galloper and jumps very well so I think he will run a big race in the Jewson. I think riding him prominently over two and a half miles will prove to be his ideal trip. He acts well on good ground, but he would prefer a little bit of cut.”
There is a bumper 19-strong entry from Ireland that includes the exciting Last Instalment from Philip Fenton’s yard.
There are 56 engaged in the Jewson Novices’ Chase including no less than 23 from Ireland. It looks a wide-open contest at present with Sir Des Champs one of the current market leaders along with Solix, one of four entered by trainer Nicky Henderson.
The Festival’s longest race will be run under a new title this year on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14, to commemorate a landmark for Her Majesty, The Queen, in 2012.
The Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase, over four miles and for amateur riders, has 79 entries this year with one of the leading contenders looking to be the Paul Nicholls-trained Harry The Viking, who carries the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson.
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