Racing UK

How to bet £20 on the novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival

Thursday 2 February 2017

In the latest of his How To Bet £20 on the Cheltenham Festival ante-post specials, Andy Stephens picks his best long-range fancies in the novice chases.

By Andy Stephens

Race: JLT Novices' Chase

Where and when: Cheltenham, Thursday March 16

Number of entries: 66

Did you prefer the Cheltenham Festival when it was three days, or do you enjoy four? Twelve years since the extra afternoon was introduced it remains an emotive subject.

The raft of extra races has provided more action, more revenue and the opportunity for those horses well served by intermediate trips to shine. But at the same time competition has been diluted and we are left wondering the true gauge of some of our champions.

For instance, how good is Douvan? It would be great to measure him against Un De Sceaux in next month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase but instead it seems his stablemate is heading for the “more winnable” Ryanair Chase.

That is a shame because Un De Sceaux beat all bar Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase last season, having won the Arkle in 2015, and this term has added a Tingle Creek and a second Clarence House Chase to his name. He has won 17 of his 20 completed races and would be favourite if it were not for Douvan.

Vroum Vroum Mag is already entered in six different races and all the permutations can make ante-post betting a nightmare.

My 33-1 fancy for the JLT Chase - the Kim Bailey-trained Charbel - is a case in point because he could yet line-up in the Arkle.

I’m banking on Altior, and to a lesser extent Min, staying on track for the opening day contest because, if they do, it will surely convince his connections to have a crack at the longer contest, which looks far more open.

Charbel is unraced beyond two miles but he has often looked well worth a try over further and Bailey has himself indicated he is keen to unleash him over longer trips.

He would have run him in the Dipper Chase on New Year’s Day - over the same course and distance as the JLT - had it not been for a combination of testing ground and the fact that several of the trainer’s team were a little off colour at the time.

The six-year-old’s form over shorter stands extremely close inspection.

He lost only one of his three runs in bumpers - when a keeping-on fourth to Bellshill at Punchestown - and his efforts last season as a novice hurdler included a close second to Yanworth, an eight-length win over Brain Power and a fourth behind Altior, Min and Buveur D’Air in the Supreme when he got outpaced in the closing stages.

They are six extremely sexy horses and this term he has done little wrong in two starts over fences.

First time out he got the better of two solid yardsticks in Le Prezien and Top Notch at Uttoxeter, despite apparently having had only one school on grass beforehand. The pair he beat have since won all five of their subsequent races and are rated 149 and 152 respectively.

Charbel has since had only one more run, when a six-length runner-up to Altior in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in December.

The top-notch winner got on top late on but only after Charbel, who pulled 14 lengths clear of the third, had traded at 2-1 in-running on Betfair.

Altior effortlessly followed up by 18 lengths in a Grade Two event at Kempton over Christmas and is odds-on across the board to land the Arkle.

When you add it all together, you have to think Charbel is among the best novice chasers around and yet 32Red, Boylesports and 888sport all dismiss him as a 33-1 chance for the JLT in a market dominated by Yorkhill, who looked anything but bombproof when jumping erratically at Leopardstown last month.

In addition, there is still a chance that Yorkhill could be diverted to the Champion Hurdle.

Of course, that 33-1 will have no value if Charbel ends up in the Arkle (he is a general 25-1 for that race) but why take on Altior for a third time?

Bailey has indicated Charbel will run next in a 2m contest at Market Rasen on February 19, or the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton over an extended 2m4f six days later.

He seems a forgotten horse to me but should he win either of those races, especially the latter, then I fancy people will wake up pretty quickly to his credentials. If you want a safety net, then take the 20-1 that bet365 quote because they are offering non-runner, no bet.

Race: JT McNamara National Hunt Chase

Where and when: Cheltenham, Tuesday March 14

Number of entries: 71

My other long-range fancy among the novice chases at the Festival is Arpege D’Alene, a general 14-1 for the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase over 4m on day one of the meeting.

The Paul Nicholls-trained grey does not have many miles on the clock and ran a cracker when edged out in the Pertemps Final off a mark of 146 at the Festival last year.

It has taken a little bit of time for him to understand what is required over fences but he is bred for the job - his sire is Dom Alco and he is a half-brother to the classy Triolo D’Alene - and his past two efforts, both at Cheltenham, indicate he has a decent staying prize in him.

On the first occasion he was doing all his best work at the finish when chasing home the progressive Singlefarmpayment, who received 5lb, over 3m1f and then he stayed on to be a close third in a competitive handicap over an extended 3m2f on New Year’s Day.

Arpege D’Alene boasts a rating of 145 and that suggests he is already up to the standard required - plus of course he is open to loads of improvement over an extreme trip.

The first four home in an excellent renewal last year were rated between 143 and 149, while 12 months earlier none of the 17 runners were rated higher than 148.

In 2014 only three of the runners had a mark higher than 139, while in 2013 just two runners were rated higher than 143. In 2012, the top-rated runner Teaforthree (146) took the spoils.

Jockeyship can also be important in the race - it is exclusively for amateurs - but Will Biddick regularly rides for Nicholls in such events and there are few better about than him.

Biddick has ridden Nicholls-trained runners in the past two renewals and was also on board the stable’s Harry The Viking when he was second in 2012.

How to bet £20 on the novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival

National Hunt Chase: £4 win on Arpege D’Alene at a general 14-1

JLT Chase: £10 win on Charbel at a general 33-1 plus £2 each-way

Plus a £1 each-way double on the pair


Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup:

£6 each-way on Djakadam at 14-1 with 32Red, Sky Bet and William Hill

£4 each-way on Minella Rocco at a general 40-1

Stan James Champion Hurdle:

£20 win on Vroum Vroum Mag at 8-1 with Paddy Power (non-runner no bet)

Betway Champion Chase:

£16 on God’s Own at 7-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power in the market without Douvan

£4 on Vaniteux at 20-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power in the market without Douvan

Stayers’ Hurdle:

£4 win on The New One at 25-1 with Stan James

£16 win on The New One at 16-1 with bet365 (non-runner no bet)

Ryanair Chase:

£6 win and £3 each-way on Valseur Lido at 10-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power

£4 each-way on Sub Lieutenant at a general 16-1

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