Novices’ Handicap Chase

The Novices’ Handicap Chase, most recently run, for sponsorship purposes, as the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, is a Class 1 Listed contest open to horses aged 5 years and upwards, officially rated between 0 and 140, according to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). The race is run over 2 miles 4 furlongs and 78 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham and is currently scheduled as the final race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival in March each year.

The Novices’ Handicap Chase is a recent addition to the Cheltenham Festival program, having been run for the first time in 2005, when the Festival was extended from three to four days. In fact, the inaugural event, run as the Jewson Novices’ Chase, turned out to be an incident-packed affair. The long-time leader, and eventual winner, King Harald, blundered at the last, causing jockey Mattie Batchelor to lose both irons, but recovered to win by 4 lengths; Batchelor subsequently won the Lester Award for Jump Ride of the Year for his heroics.

None of the current crop of National Hunt jockeys has won the Novices’ Handicap Chase more than once although Graham Lee, who became a full-time Flat jockey in 2012, at the age of 36, won on L’Antartique (2007) and Divers (2011). Trainer Ferdy Murphy, who relocated to France in 2013, saddled both of the aforementioned winners and is the most successful handler in the history of the Novices’ Handicap Chase.

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