Wednesday 5 April 2023

Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle

The Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 2 hurdle race run over 2 miles and 179 yards at Cheltenham in March. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to young female horses aged four years and upwards who, prior to the start of the current season, have not won a race over hurdles. The titular Dawn Run was an extraordinary racemare, who remains the only horse in history to have won both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Currently scheduled for the third day of the four-day Cheltenham Festival, the race is a recent addition to the programme, having been inaugurated as recently as 2016. Since its inception, it has been run under various titles, for sponsorship purposes, most recently as the Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

It would be fair to say that Willie Mullins, the leading trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, has 'farmed' the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle in its short history. In fact, Mullins won the first five of the seven renewals so far, with Limini (2016), Let's Dance (2017), Laurina (2018), Eglantine du Seuil (2019) and Concertista (2020). The 2023 renewal is scheduled for Thursday, March 16, but at this still early stage, Mullins' five-year-old mare Ashroe Diamond – who opened her account over hurdles at the first time of asking at Navan in November, 2022 – heads the ante-post betting market at 9/1.

Mullins' dominance aside, recent trends suggest that punters might do well to concentrate on mares aged five or six years, officially rated 136 or higher, who have run at least twice and, preferably, won at least once, during the current season. Likely candidates could include Ahorsewithnoname, who finished a close second last year, but remains a novice over hurdles, and Luccia, who has yet to jump a hurdle in public, but could hardly have been more impressive when winning a Listed 'bumper' at Sandown by 17 lengths last March.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 3 miles and 80 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham in March. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, it is one of three Grade 1 novice steeplechases run at the Cheltenham Festival – the others being the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Turners Novices' Chase – and the most prestigious novice steeplechase of the season in the staying division.

Inaugurated, as the Broadway Novices' Chase, in 1946, the race has been run under various titles, including the Totalisator Champion Novices' Chase and the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, for sponsorship purposes since 1964. Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable was announced as the new sponsor in 2021, having previously sponsored the Festival Plate, a Grade 3 handicap steeplechase run over 2 miles 4 furlongs and 127 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham, since 2015.

The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase is often described, justifiably, as the novices' equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and its roll of honour reads like a 'Who's Who' of staying steeplechasers since World War II. The likes of Mandarin, Arkle, Ten Up, Master Smudge, Garrison Savannah, Looks Like Trouble, Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere all returned to the Cheltenham Festival to win the 'Blue Riband' event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in subsequent years.

Somewhat ironically, Willie Mullins, who did not win the Cheltenham Gold Cup until 2019, having previously saddled the runner-up six times, is the leading trainer in the history of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Mullins has already enjoyed success with Florida Pearl (1998), Rule Supreme (2004), Cooldine (2009), Don Poli (2015) and Monkfish (2021) and looks to hold a very strong hand once again in 2023, if the ante-post betting market is to be believed. Obviously, the 2023 renewal of the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase – scheduled for 2.10pm on Wednesday, March 15 – is several months away, but The Nice Guy, a ready 5-length winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in 2022, sets a very high standard.

Thursday 5 January 2023

Turners Novices' Chase


The Turners Novices' Chase is a Grade 1 novices' steeplechase run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 168 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the race is currently scheduled as the first race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. It is, in fact, one of three Grade 1 novices' steeplechases staged at the Festival, but the only one run on the New Course, which places more emphasis on stamina than the Old Course.

The Turners Novices Chase is officially registered as the Golden Miller Novices' Chase but, since its inception, in 2011, has been run under several different titles for sponsorship purposes. Originally known as the Jewson Novices' Chase, the race was elevated from Grade 2 to Grade 1 status in 2014, at which point it was renamed the JLT Novices Chase to reflect the new sponsors,

Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT). Marsh & McLennan acquired JLT in 2019, resulting in another name change, to the Marsh Novices' Chase, the following year. Turners took over sponsorship in 2022.

The intermediate distance of the Turners Novices' Chase is ideal for novices' who lack the speed required for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, over 2 miles, and/or the stamina required for the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase, over 3 miles. In its relatively short history, Willie Mullins has won the race four times, courtesy of Sir Des Champs (2012), Vautour (2015), Black Hercules (2016) and Yorkhill (2017) and is the leading trainer in its history.

Willie Mullins also has plenty of live contenders for the 2023 renewal, including the current ante-post favourite, Sir Gerhard, Appreciate It and El Fabiolo. It will be interesting to see how the pecking order in the division develops by the time 1.30pm on Thursday, March 17 rolls around.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

The Fellow


Trained by Fran├žois Doumen in Pau, southwestern France and ridden, for much of his career, by Polish-born jockey Adam Kondrat, The Fellow won the King George VI Chase at Kempton in 1991 and 1992. However, as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, he is probably best remembered for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, at the fourth time of asking, in 1994. That said, anyone who backed him in the previous three renewals has good reason to remember that his defeats were attributable, at least according to some observers, to his jockey.

The Fellow made his first appearance in the 'Blue Riband' event in 1991, as a six-year-old, when has was sent off a largely unconsidered 28/1 outsider. However, despite Kondrat taking a wide route for the whole way and a bad mistake at the fifteenth fence, The Fellow was the only horse to make a race of it with eventual winner Garrison Savannah. Indeed, The Fellow 'sprinted' up the run-in, making up the better part of three lengths, but was denied by a short head.

On the back of that performance, and his subsequent win in the King George VI Chase, The Fellow was sent off 7/2 second favourite for his second attempt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1992. Kondrat rode a not entirely dissimilar race and, after a ding-dong battle with eventual winner and third, Cool Dawn and Docklands Express, on the run-in, The Fellow was headed in the final strides and denied by a short head for the second year running.

In 1993, The Fellow was sent off a heavily-backed 5/4 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but could manage only fourth, beaten 9½ lengths, behind Jodami, having been outpaced from the top of the hill. He was back again, as a nine-year-old, in 1994, by which time it seemed his time had passed. However, sporting blinkers and ridden closer to the pace than had previously been the case, The Fellow was always travelling and jumping well and kept on strongly in the closing stages to beat Jodami by 1½ lengths and, finally, reward his connections' perseverance.

Friday 14 October 2022

Nicky Henderson


In recent seasons, Nicky Henderson has been forced to play 'second fiddle' to Irish trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott at the Cheltenham Festival, at least as far as the leading trainer award is concerned. However, it shouldn't be forgotten that the 'Master of Seven Barrows', who saddled his first Festival winner in 1985, has won the leading trainer award nine times, most recently in 2012.

In fact, he is the second most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, behind only Mullins, with 70 winners. Henderson has won the Champion Hurdle a record eight times – including three years running with the talented, but fragile, See You Then in 1985, 1986 and 1987 – the Queen Mother Champion Chase six times and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Stayers' Hurdle twice apiece. Championship races aside, Henderson has also won the Triumph Hurdle seven times and the Coral Cup four times; he remains the leading trainer, outright, in the history of both races.

Apart from See You Then, other multiple Festival winners for the yard include Bobs Worth, who won the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in 2011, the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase in 2012 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013, and Sprinter Sacre, who won the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2012 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice, in 2013 and 2016. The latter remains the third highest-rated steeplechaser in the history of Timeform, behind only Arkle and Flyingbolt.