The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate is a Handicap Chase ran over a distance of 2m5f on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. A maximum of 24 runners can go to post for this race worth £110,000. Last year Road To Respect won very easily, and this year heads to Cheltenham as a Gold Cup contender.
16:10 – Grade 3 Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase 2m5f
Trainer Noel Meade knows what it takes to win a race like this, and he will be hoping he has another novice that the handicapper has underestimated. Last season, Road To Respect won ‘The Plate’ from a mark of 145 in very easy style. He subsequently went on to win the Grade 1 Ryanair Novices Gold Cup at Fairyhouse (beating Yorkhill) and this season has won the Grade 1 Christmas Chase, making him a solid Gold Cup contender. If you combine this with 2016 winner Empire Of Dirt (subsequently 2nd in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup), you can really gauge the type of class a horse needs for this test. Recent winners of this contest have been very well treated by the Handicapper however, so it’s wise to look for a classy horse at a fair weight with plenty of scope for improvement.
With this criteria in mind, Snow Falcon makes large appeal for Noel Meade as he aims to make it back to back successes. The eight-year-old has already achieved an official rating of 157 over hurdles, including two Grade 2 wins in the Lismullen Hurdle and the Boyne Hurdle. Last season he finished fifth in the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival, before claiming third behind Yanworth in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle. This clearly demonstrates the class required to win this race, with lots of potential for improvement from his current chase mark.
Snow Falcon is only rated 149 over fences so far, but has shown a high level of ability in his few starts this season. The Noel Meade charge started his season on the flat by winning over 1m6f at Killarney. He then finished second in a Navan Handicap before having a go in the Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket. A month later he made his Chase debut at Naas, finishing second to Mossback in a very competitive heat with Bacardys, Jett and De Plotting Shed all in-behind. In the pink colours of Patricia Hunt, this son of Presenting then stepped into Grade 1 company at Fairyhouse, where he finished third to Death Duty in the Drinmore Novice Chase. At the end of the month he headed to Leopardstown to compete in a beginners chase, and this time Snow Falcon was not for stopping. His main market rival in Bacardys might have fallen five out, but our selection bawled along and jumped really nicely to score by an impressive 28 lengths eased down. The ability he showed that day is highlighted by the fact that the second (Wishmoor) has since come out and won twice over fences. Keen to test his ability once more, Noel Meade sent the eight-year-old back to Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival, where he contested the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase. The form of this race looks like one of the strongest novice events in Ireland this season, with impressive winner Monalee firmly on track for the RSA. Snow Falcon only finished 5½ lengths away in fifth that day with Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only and Dounikos in-between. All four of these horses are well fancied for various novice events at the Festival, and it would not be surprising to see more than one of them winning.
Having already shown glimpses of his ability over fences, Snow Falcon looks a cracking bet if he turns up for the Brown Advisory Plate. The Noel Meade charge has been given a fair racing weight of 11-4, and this could be a platform to more Graded success over the larger obstacles. He jumps very well, and having already ran at the Cheltenham Festival twice (Fifth in the 2015 Ballymore and fifth in the 2017 Stayers) this experience again puts our selection above his rivals. Although a definitive target hasn’t been confirmed yet, Snow Falcon is worth a punt using the Non-Runner No Bet concession as he will surely go off a lot shorter if taking up this engagement.
Snow Falcon Each/Way in the Brown Advisory Plate @ 20/1 NRNB
Despite Snow Falcon’s target not yet confirmed, I am only really interested if he goes for the Plate. This is because I feel this 2m5f trip suits a lot better than the competitive 3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase on day one.