What are the best bets in the National Hunt Chase?
16:50 The 146th Year Of The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Steeple Chase), 4m
Last year’s 1-2-3: Cause Of Causes (8/1), Broadway Buffalo (12/1), The Job Is Right – 17 ran.
Ante post punters have had a rough deal as first Black Hercules and then his stablemate Roi Des Francs have been rerouted to the shorter RSA, having been a single-figure price and near-favourite for this race. In their absence, Minella Rocco now finds himself at the head of the market and potential backers will be hoping the six-year-old can reproduce his showing in the Reynoldstown at Ascot over 3m last time, where he made up a stack of ground to close within a half-length of the winner Vyta Du Roc, looking every inch an out-and-out stayer. The form of that race does need treating with some caution, though, as the two market leaders took each other on early and fell in a hold late on. Still, he’s clearly got the talent and engine to win this and will have the assistance of Derek O’Connor – chief hit-man-for-hire in the amateur ranks – in the saddle. His trainer Jonjo O’Neill landed this contest five times between 1995 and 2007, so know;s what’s required. Top price: 5/1 bet365 NRNB.
Who else is fancied?
Running and riding plans are still very fluid at the time of writing (Friday before) so some guesswork is involved – the fact we won’t know the final field until 24 hours before is a joke in this day and age! Gordon Elliott’s Noble Endeavour seems certain to line up and he will prove popular after some solid efforts over fences this term, with his second in last season’s Martin Pipe seemingly another positive. However, the way he was run down on the run-in in that shorter race marks him out as a doubtful stayer.
Colin Tizzard’s Native River has looked a thorough stayer and that along with his flawlessly good jumping make him a big player, should he line up here instead of the RSA. Feltham Chase runner-up Southfield Royale is another sound jumper who should relish the step up in trip, though he does lack the experience of some of these and only one other six-year-old has triumphed in the last 10 runnings (eight were aged seven or eight).
And the rest?
You can make a case for several others – it’s that sort of race – but it may be worth remembering this has become a punter-friendly contest since some alterations to the conditions in 2010, with no winner going off bigger than 14/1 (Poker De Sivola that year) and three favourites (5/1 twice, 9/4) obliging. It’s now a glorified four-mile RSA Chance and, with the bigger yards having a bigger chance of producing the winner, the best horses will continue to come to the fore. In which case, the likes of Vicente, Paul Nicholls’ main representative, and the Willie Mullins quintet of Pont Alexandre, Sambremont, Measureofmydreams, Avant Tout and Shaneshill all need respecting.
Trainer quote: “He’s already won three novice chases, including one at Cheltenham, and the four-miler looks ideal for him. He doesn’t have the pace for the RSA but I think he’ll stay forever.” – Paul Nicholls on Vicente.
Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding bets on the second horse home as a free bet up to £25 and they are also offering place terms of a quarter the odds, while some shamefully stick to one fifth. It would be no surprise to one or more firms on the day offering four places instead of the standard three.
What’s the verdict?
Not such a lottery of a race any more but I’m still keen to take on the likely favourite Minella Rocco, who owes his position in the market to his connections and a single decent effort over fences, the form of which is dubious. Besides, there are plenty of solid alternatives and, with the big stables now to the fore, I’m going to take a punt on Paul Nicholls’ VICENTE as he looks the ideal sort – stays all day, Cheltenham form in the book – and has a decent amateur on his back to boot. You’ve got to love his current price of 20/1 too -will surely be half that on the day!
SELECTION: Vicente each-way @ 20/1 bet365 NRNB