Vautour is a short price on what he's shown and Ptit Zig is readily preferred
JLT Novices’ Chase, 2m4f, New Course (due off 1.30pm)
As is par for the course at the meeting, Willie Mullins provides the favourite in the shape of Vautour, who is no stranger to success at the festival, having stormed up the hill to win last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by six lengths. He took to fences like a duck to water when slamming useful yardstick Clarcam by eight lengths on his debut at Navan in November, but it hasn’t quite gone to plan since. That horse comprehensively overturned the form at Leopardstown in December, although to be fair to Vautour he did rather ruin his chance with a bad mistake five out, and he had nothing more than an exercise canter when beating one rival when returned to that track in January. He wasn’t particularly fluent there either and given the concerns over his jumping and the fact he won’t be afforded an easy lead, which may be important to him, he looks plenty short enough. Top price: 9/4 Coral.
Who else is fancied?
Ptit Zig blotted his copybook when falling at Ascot last time but that was a Grade 1 against more experienced rivals and his trainer Paul Nicholls reports him none the worse for that. Previously, he’d impressed in rattling off a four-timer over fences, including when winning over a furlong further (2m5f) at Cheltenham in December (New Course), and his time that day was five seconds faster than that of Splash Of Ginge, who won a handicap over course and distance 35 minutes later. Valseur Lido, a stablemate of Vautour, won the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice at Punchestown in December and would have needed the run when only second to the Noel Meade’s Apache Stronghold (who re-opposes) at Leopardstown last time. It was the owner’s insistence he runs here instead of the longer RSA Chase, which was Mullins’ preferred option as he sees him as more of a staying type.
Any decent outsiders?
Paul Nicholls is also represented by Irish Saint and he’s respected, although he’s done the majority of his winning racing right-handed and on ground softer than he’s likely to encounter. The aforementioned Splash Of Ginge needs to step up again, as does Sandra Hughes’ Tullow Tank. If there is a fly in the ointment it could be Colour Squadron, who has yet to break his duck over fences and has been called some rude names in the past. He’s a bridle horse who doesn’t find a lot for pressure but he does go well at the track – form figures of 13th (2012 Supreme Novices’), 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd – and he could outrun his odds under AP McCoy in first-time blinkers.
Trainer quote: “He got tight to one at Ascot and paid the penalty. The plus side was he didn’t have a hard race and he’ll hopefully learn from the mistake. He goes well at Cheltenham.” – Paul Nicholls on Ptit Zig
Best bookie offer
Sky Bet are offering money back as a free bet (up to £25) if the favourite – almost certainly Vautour – wins the JLT.
The gut feeling is to take on the favourite at short odds and I’ve no hesitation in putting up PTIT ZIG as the value alternative, although a big run form outsider Colour Squadron wouldn’t surprise and he’s tempting each-way.
Selection – Ptit Zig @ 11/2 Paddy Power