Ante-post betting on the Jewson Novices' Chase is far from easy with trainers having a rather irritating, if understandable, habit of entering their charges in every possible race at the Cheltenham Festival. OK so maybe not every race but it seems to be fairly standard practice to enter your novice chaser in at least two of the three distance variants; the Arkle, the Jewson and the RSA.
The ante-post markets do offer some guidance as to where a certain horse may end up, with their price for one of the possible targets often considerably shorter than the others, and the non-participation of the one you select has to be factored in to the equation when striking your wager at this early stage. However, the beauty of having an interest now is that you may be able to steal a march on the punting public, possibly securing a larger price about a horse that you think seems likely to target the contest in question.
Therefore, not only do we have to find the winner but we also have to analyse what we think may turn up; a most ponderable double-header. Three that would be of obvious interest, but are more likely to head elsewhere, are Dynaste, Boston Bob and Arvika Legionnaire. The first mentioned is second only to Simonsig on Timeform's list of the top novice chasers this season following a trio of impressive victories, two of which were gained over two and a half miles, but his participation in the Feltham Novices' Chase over Christmas, the same race Grands Crus won last season before going on to contest the RSA, would suggest that connections are thinking along similar lines this time around.
Boston Bob, runner up to the ill-fated Brindisi Breeze in the Albert Bartlett last season, has always appealed as being more of a stayer despite him having done the majority of his racing at two and a half miles. He looks set to run this coming weekend, over two miles and five furlongs, and the suspicion is that trainer Willie Mullins will then be aiming his eight-year-old at the RSA and a potential clash with Dynaste. There is a school of thought to suggest that Mullins may decide to dodge David Pipe's stable star and instead run him in this, a race in which he would be one of the leading players, but at this stage he has to be left to one side.
The vibes to date have pointed towards Arvika Legionnaire, who also hails from the yard of Willie Mullins, taking his chance against Simonsig in the Arkle. However it is of note that the eight-year-old contested the 2010 Albert Bartlett, finishing fourth and travelling well for a long way until his stamina gave out, and his highest Timeform performance rating was achieved when slamming his rivals in the two and a half mile Drinmore Novice Chase. The more you look at his race record the more you fancy he might line up in the Jewson, although presumably much will depend upon how he fares in this coming Saturday's Irish Arkle as to where he ends up and the temptation to land a prestigious race over two miles must surely be too great.
Having dealt with those whose target is not clear we can take comfort in discussing Captain Conan who, despite also holding an entry for the Arkle, seems certain to run in this rather than taking on his stablemate Simonsig. The six-year-old boasts some strong form as a novice hurdler, not beaten all that far by Darlan at Aintree, and he has made a solid start to life over fences by winning at Cheltenham and the Grade 1 Henry VIII Chase at Sandown. He is a high-class chasing prospect that is sure to prove capable of better, but do we really want to be taking 4.94/1 about him when much tastier prices are available about some of his rivals?
Having earlier mentioned two that Willie Mullins seems likely to run in different races, we can now attempt to pinpoint just who he will saddle in this event. The one that seems to tick the boxes is Aupcharlie, a seven-year-old who has had just the three starts over fences to date. He was impressive on his chasing debut, at this trip, and has since finished second in a pair of Graded contests over three miles, leaving the impression on both occasions that a crack at the Jewson would be just what the doctor ordered. His high cruising speed and sound jumping lend themselves kindly to a race of this ilk, and he could represent a bit of value at 12.011/1.
Fago, who made an impressive British debut at Newbury earlier this month, is another that seems more likely to head to the Arkle but one that is of note for this contest is Oscars Well. The eight-year-old was a high-class hurdler, running his best race when second to Hurricane Fly in last year's Irish Champion Hurdle, and he has made a good start to his chasing career by winning two of his four starts. He was put in his place by Arvika Legionnaire at Leopardstown last time, suggesting that he would be suited by two and a half miles, and looks set to face that one in the Irish Arkle but don't be disheartened were he to be beaten again as connections have suggested that a step up in trip is on the cards come the Festival.
Were Oscars Well to run respectably, and again suggest that a step up in trip would suit ideally, he could be clipped in for the Jewson and make the 11.521/2 we have already taken look a fair price.
Aside from those already discussed, it is rather difficult to weigh up the few that are next best in the betting, not only as to where they may turn up but also their chances in whatever develops into being their target. Tap Night has plenty of scope to do better as a chaser but is yet to race beyond two miles over the larger obstacles, whilst Unioniste arguably needs to improve to take this contest, despite winning a valuable Cheltenham handicap impressively in December.
Trainer Tom Taaffe has intimated that Argocat, winner of a Grade 2 at Limerick, will run in the Jewson but he is another that needs to improve as does Mount Benbulben, who clearly has the ability to win good races but needs to cut out the fencing errors.
In summary it is most difficult to predict this race as you have no real idea as to who the field will contain. Oscars Well strikes as one to do better at this trip and will have his supporters, as will Captain Conan, but Aupcharlie is difficult to ignore at 12.011/1 given that he seems to be his stable's preferred contender for this race. His style of racing ought to suit this event, and he could prove capable of better than he has shown over fences to date.
Back Aupcharlie @ 12.011/1 in the Jewson Novices' Chase
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