Cheltenham Festival 2015 – National Hunt Chase

Fresh from his triumphant treble at Sandown on Saturday for Community Members, here are Will Kedjanyi’s thoughts and tips on the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham Festival 2015. JP With over a month to go before the Festival, the ante0post games have already begun, with Un De Sceaux’s Irish Arkle romp diverting both Vautour and Gilgamboa to the JLT in all likelihood. But this does not render the race pointless from a betting point of view, with the presence of such an imposing favourite there may be a small turnout which makes ante-post each/way betting tempting if you can find a runner to turn up (Josses Hill for me, God willing!). The legion of contenders Mullins means that nearly every race’s market is subject to his plans and even the National Hunt Chase isn’t able to escape this, with Don Poli currently a 3/1 favourite. A previous Festival winner, having taken the Martin Pipe Hurdle in fine style, he is two from two over fences, having won well on his debut at Gowran Park before knuckling down to draw well away from Apache Stronghold in a fantastic Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown. The form of that race – with Apache Stronghold three lengths behind and the pair 11 lengths clear of the third that day – entitles him to go to the RSA Chase as favourite if connections so choose. However, he is not the only horse that connections have who could go to the RSA with Valseur Lido having beaten Apache Stronghold by 8 lengths in the Drinmore. Mullins has yet to give confirmation on either target and with both entered in Sunday week’s Grade One Flogas Novice Chase (in reality, the P.J Moriarty, a common route for Mullins’ RSA candidates) at Leopardstown, we will be none the wiser until then at least. In any case, there are still three each/way places to fight for should he turn up and with nothing guaranteed, it’s worth looking at other options. Should Gigginstown decide not to run Don Poli, then Wounded Warrior looks a sure thing to be their representative and he fits the bill of a typical contender. Noel Meade’s charge found things happening far too quickly for him at Christmas – most likely when massively below form – when nowhere in the Shannon Airport Novice Chase, but upped to three miles for the first time over fences, he turned the Woodlands Park Novice Chase into an absolute procession at Naas when last seen, travelling well on the lead before grinding a good field into the ground from the last. Before his Christmas disappointment he had been second to none other than Don Poli (admittedly on that one’s chasing/seasonal debut), and a convincing winner over Blood Cotil, so his form stands up well through his chasing career, a view backed up by the fact that he has the fifth highest RPR in the field at the time of writing. The step up in trip should really suit him given how long he has taken to get going over fences, so there are no worries on that count and he makes each/way appeal with Valsleur Lido likely not to run and Don Poli not a certain runner either. In the event that Gigginstown did run Don Poli – in which case he would be a fantastic bet on the morning of the race – then Wounded Warrior’s presence would have to be considered doubtful and that would leave the door open to the large British contingent and Sego Success looks to be chief amongst them. Alan King’s charge has looked and out and out stayer since his disappointing debut over fences in October. Had it not been for a bad mistake at the fourth last he would surely have gotten much closer to the winner that day, and he bounced right back when beating none other than Sykbet Chase winner If In Doubt at Doncaster. His last run was easily his most impressive, when taking a Listed Novice Chase at Warwick where he took the entire length of a long straight to get past Grand Vision late on. His jumping was once again rock solid and it is very encouraging to know that he recorded a winning time that dipped below Racing Post standard, the only one on Classic Chase Day. While many horses could be suited by a marathon trip, Sego Success is definitely in need of it based on a visual impression and that only strengths his case in my eyes and it’s hard to see him doing anything but thrive for this trip. With just seven starts under rules and only three over fences, he can still improve. Connections are undecided as to where to send The Young Master – Neil Mulholland indicated to the Racing Post that the RSA Chase may be the most likely option – but given his hugely progressive streak, with the form of both his romps at Wincanton (for which he was infamously disqualified) and Ascot standing up very well, he would be a massive player if coming here. Southfield Theatre lost nothing in defeat when second to Carraig Mor, trying to give a lead and 7lbs at Newbury, but the fact that he has not been seen since November doesn’t help his chances. Nevertheless, he is one to look out for if seen in the coming weeks and would be another of interest if turning up. Mala Beach’s fourth at Christmas has him matched closely with Wounded Warrior but he didn’t jump well that day and despite being a stout stayer over three miles, he didn’t end his race strongly so there may be stamina doubts too. As De Ferbet looked a sick horse when last behind Wounded Warrior last time but was a very impressive winner before that; He’s unexposed but was beaten fair and square by Paddy Power 4th and likely Thyestes second (heavy faller) The Job Is Right. I find it hard to see Thunder and Roses running with Gigginstown having two other options and Cogry’s form doesn’t look upto the required standard. Vroum Vroum Mag’s connections surely have other ambitions that may include the Mares Hurdle. Vivaldi Collonges will surely be much better for this extreme trip but he’s had just the one run so far and more experience (in a bigger field over fences) is a prerequisite. This race may well have suited Very Wood, but two blowouts since his chasing debut make him unbackable. Return Spring would be a lot shorter had it not been for his Classic Chase blowout but he has flopped at the last two Festivals and was a poor 5th behind Ned Stark at Wetherby today (Saturday 31 January). Of the others, it’s hard to see Perfect Gentleman running here and Broadway Buffalo would want softer ground to show his best. Advice 1 pt each/way Wounded Warrior, National Hunt Chase (10/1 Sportingbet, Skybet) 1 pt each/way Sego Success, National Hunt Chase, (12/1 Skybet, Coral) For our exclusive Community Members only preview of the RSA Chase, JOIN US for just £6 per month. You’ll also get £10 off admission to our Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening in Cheltenham on Friday 6 March, tips every day and much more – learn more about Free and Community Membership.