Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase Preview
The newly named Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase has a roll call as good as any at The Festival. The likes of Florida Pearl, Denman and Bob’s Worth have all tasted success in this over the years with both Denman and Bob’s Worth going on to win the Gold Cup the year after. Monkfish has already got people talking about him doing this famous double, and he looks sure to go off a heavily backed favourite. I suspect this may be a classy enough renewal and he will have to beat the likes of Latest Exhibition, Eklat De Rire and The Big Breakaway. Recent years have thrown up some exceptional races, so hopefully this year’s renewal does not disappoint.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 4/5
Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner has taken to fences like a duck to water and physically looks the finished article now. Quite a thin, rangy, novice hurdler, Monkfish did plenty wrong in the Albert Bartlett and despite being headed up the run in, battled back for the win, demonstrating an abundance of natural ability but also an outstanding attitude. Life over fences started with a smooth debut success over some very good horses. The likes of Sams Profile, Diol Ker and Escaria Ten all placed in behind him that day. Pitched into Grade 1 company on his next start over Christmas, Monkfish ran into old enemy Latest Exhibition where he got the job done to win by 3 lengths. The pair met again in the Flogas Novices Chase at The Dublin Racing Festival, where Monkfish dazzled from the front. Effortless jumping, matched with relentless galloping, saw him power away for an 11-length success. Having impressed on his two chase starts to date, he seemed to have improved again. On the clock Monkfish has been very good too and I was extremely impressed with his finishing effort last time out. From landing at the last to the line, by my calculations, Monkfish was over a second faster than Energumene, Chacun Pour Soi and Off You Go. Now this comparison needs to be taken loosely as horses were racing over different trips, but Willies three all won in the same manor and it must signify the enormous amount of ability Monkfish possesses.
Trainer: Paul Nolan
Current Odds: 8/1
Latest Exhibition, a Grade 1 winning hurdler, would be the star 3-mile novice chaser if it were not for a certain Monkfish. He has taken to fences well this season and can be excused a defeat at Punchestown, due to unfavourable heavy ground. Connections now have a decision to make. Do they take on Monkfish for a fourth time or opt for another target? Rumours are connections may be looking at the Grade 1 at Fairyhouse two weeks after The Festival or even The National Hunt Chase. Should something happen to Monkfish though, you wouldn’t want connections to rue a missed opportunity, especially given this is a horse who has never finished outside of the top 2! They have a tough call to make.
EKLAT DE RIRE
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead
Current Odds: 10/1
Eklat De Rire is the surprise package of the 3-mile novice chasers. Modest form over hurdles saw the son of Saddex come into the season with a lower profile than most of his rivals today. An eye-catching debut success over the useful School Boy Hours was duly noted by a few shrewd punters but he really entered the fray with a classy win over Escaria Ten and Pencilfulloflead on his last start. In true Henry De Bromhead fashion, this horse seems to have improved bundles for a fence, and he is an exceptional jumper. On bare form lines and ratings, he has plenty to find with the likes of Monkfish and even Latest Exhibition, but his potential is still somewhat of an unknown. Stable mate Minella Indo went into his novice campaign on the back of an Albert Bartlett success but Eklat De Rire has taken a similar path to him over fences despite the lack of hurdles form. I would not be surprised to see him hitting the frame.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Current Odds: 12/1
2018 Ballymore third and former Willie Mullins inmate, Next Destination, has settled into life at Ditcheat well. On his last start for Willie, he defeated Delta Work over hurdles, so we know he can perform to an extremely high level. A hugely encouraging run over hurdles after 920 days off saw Nicholls waste no time in sending him chasing, and he boasts a perfect record of 2 from 2 over the larger obstacles so far. The form of these chase wins may be a little below what it usually takes to win this, but there can be no doubting his attitude. In both chase starts, Next Destination has been asked questions some way from home but has responded gamely to all Cobden’s urgings. He jumps really well and should relish every inch of the 3 miles around Cheltenham. I do think he may get slightly outpaced at the top of the hill and could be one to stay on into a place. He would certainly be a big player should connections decide to have a crack at The National Hunt Chase.
THE BIG BREAKAWAY
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Current Odds: 12/1
Bought for £320,000, The Big Breakaway has always had a lofty reputation and did not disappoint in his novice hurdle season, winning two good contests before an extremely promising fourth to Envoi Allen in the Ballymore. Given the Tizzards were out of form that week, this effort can be marked up and I must say, I was extremely excited about this fella going chasing this year. Having backed him at 25/1 for this race before his chasing debut at Cheltenham, I was thrilled to see an excellent round of jumping and a commanding win. He was a tad immature at times, but all in all, it was a hugely encouraging start to life over fences. Dropped in trip for his next start, The Big Breakaway never looked himself and was duly beaten by Bold Plan. I would be inclined to ignore that run as the yard were in awful form and he needs three miles. Last time we saw him, I thought he ran a massive race in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton. He was beaten around 4 lengths by Shan Blue but jumped awfully throughout. Kempton can be a tough jumping test and some horses aren’t suited by the nature of the track. I suspect The Big Breakaway falls into this category and would expect to see him jump a lot better on his return to Prestbury Park. The Tizzards are starting to bang in a few winners so I wouldn’t ignore the chance of big improvement either. He’s a lively each way player at 12/1.
Such is the reputation and form of Monkfish, the “outsiders” for this years Brown Advisory Novices Chase look an extremely talented bunch. Scilly Isles winner, Sporting John, heads that list having powered home up the Sandown Hill to land Grade 1 honours. This step up to three miles looks a good move but he will have to prove he handles the track, having blown out in last season’s Ballymore. I do have slight question marks about his jumping too. Fiddlerontheroof hasn’t quite kicked on from his Tolworth win as a novice hurdler and has found a fair few too good this season, recording form figures of 21222 so far over fences. The Tizzards are yet to fully fire this season and I’ve no doubt there is improvement to come. Reynoldstown winner Remastered is an awesome jumper but has quite the gap to breach on Official Ratings and connections may well side with a crack at The National Hunt Chase. Dickie Diver, Pencilfulloflead and Escaria Ten all possess plenty of ability and could attract each way support on the day, but like Remastered, connections may have their eye on The National Hunt Chase or even one of the handicaps.
Crunching The Numbers
- 22 of the previous 25 winners were aged 7 or 8
- 19 of the previous 25 winners were 10/1 or lower, including 12 at 5/1 or lower
- 15 of the last 25 winners had finished in the top 3 in a previous start around Cheltenham
- 22 of the last 25 winners had finished in the top three on all completed starts that season
- 23 of the previous 25 winners had finished in the top 2 on their most recent start
- 19 of the last 25 winners had between 8 and 16 career starts
Unsurprisingly, both Monkfish and Latest Exhibition tick all 6 trends but third favourite Eklat De Rire only scores 4, with no previous Cheltenham form and less than 8 career starts. Next Destination comes out well but doesn’t fit the right age profile, whilst The Big Breakaway only scores three, being a 6 year old, priced higher than 10/1 and having had less than 8 career starts. Of the outsiders, Fiddlerontheroof and Sporting John both scored 4.
According to the betting, this years Brown Advisory Novices Chase looks a one horse race and when it comes to picking the winner, I agree. Monkfish has looked a potential superstar and for all I believe The Big Breakaway, Latest Exhibition and Eklat De Rire are all, and will be, extremely good horses, I just think Monkfish is a cut above. On all known form he has Latest Exhibition beat, whether it be over hurdles or fences. The Big Breakaway hasn’t had the ideal prep and despite thinking there were reasons for his poor round of jumping at Kempton, he is going to have to be foot perfect to be competitive here. Eklat De Rire is the unexposed type, we don’t really know how good he is. That being said, his form is some way off Monkfish, and he lacks course experience. With Monkfishs’ exceptional jumping and the ability to make his own running, I’m not entirely sure how Paul Townend will choose to ride him and personally don’t think it will make that much of a difference! 2022, now more than ever, seems along way off but he is my idea of the 2022 Gold Cup winner and can land this on route!
My Idea of the Winner
- Monkfish 4/5
Each Way Play
- The Big Breakaway 12/1
- Latest Exhibition
- The Big Breakaway
By Sam Rideout
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