Ante-Post Preview #4 – 13/02/2019
2m4f JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – Thursday 14th March 2019
The JLT Novices’ Chase is one of three Championship Novice races for Steeplechasers, and opens Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. The race is run over an intermediate distance of 2m4f, and last year was won by the likeable Mare Shattered Love. Since the races’ inception in 2011 Willie Mullins has struck up an impressive four wins (50% strike rate!), most memorably when Vautour demolished his rivals by fifteen lengths in one of the all-time great Cheltenham Festival performances. In a weird season which has been halted by both the weather and Equine Flu, we’re set for another competitive renewal.
The JLT is usually full of double-entered horses whereby this is a ‘Plan B’, which means if you can find a runner then your horse will likely go off a lot shorter on the day. At this stage, I feel the following horses can be ruled out: La Bague Au Roi (Confirmed goes straight to Aintree), Topofthegame (RSA), Le Richebourg (Arkle), Kalashnikov (Arkle), Delta Work (RSA) and Vinndication (RSA). This leaves us with horses at very backable prices, and they will almost certainly be a lot shorter once the race sorts itself out. The top two horses in the market Defi Du Seuil (4/1) and Lostintranslation (5/1) both look set to run here, however are very short prices to oblige – especially when you consider how closely matched they are on form. Lostintranslation is one of my favourite horses in training, however I think he will be seen at best effect over three-miles in due course.
With the Champion Irish trainer having such a good record in the race, Real Steel makes huge appeal to make it five JLT wins for Willie Mullins. Owned by Sullivan Bloodstock Limited, this six-year-old made a promising start to his Chase career at Leopardstown over Christmas, travelling well alongside Paloma Blue before falling at the last when he had every chance. Despite taking a tumble that day Real Steel clearly took to fences, and a Novice making an error like that can only help speed up his education. The form would’ve been useful even if finishing second as Paloma Blue is no slouch, having finished ahead of Real Steel in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle last season. This son of Loup Breton made amends for his mistake at Fairyhouse last month however, impressively scoring by ten lengths on his second start over the larger obstacles. Paul Townend chased the leaders that day before jumping to the lead at the second last and scooting clear of his rivals in the fashion of a very smart horse. This win came stepped up to 2m5½f, which seemed to suit his running style perfectly as he can both travel and show a turn of foot when required.
Despite showing promise over Hurdles last season, the Closutton team never really seemed to get to the bottom of Real Steel’s potential. He infamously fell at the last alongside stablemate Sharjah in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in December 2017 and didn’t seem to enjoy making his own running when fifth behind Samcro at the Dublin Racing Festival last year. One of the strangest moves after showing ability at two-miles however was when Willie Mullins sent him to the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival last season, which clearly was a stretch too far for his stamina. Now that connections seem to have had a good run with Real Steel and found a trip which suits, I would expect him to go close in the JLT at Cheltenham as Willie Mullins’ main chance of a winner. Inexperience would be the main worry for connections, however it is interesting that Yorkhill also only had two runs over fences before winning this race for Willie in 2017.
Real Steel Each/Way @ 20/1
Seletion moved 05/03/19:
Hardline Each/Way @ 20/1 NRNBHardline has since been rerouted to the Arkle Novices’ Chase, and you can find the new article here
Good luck! – Jake Price