Cheltenham - At The Races

16:50 Cheltenham 13 Mar 2018

National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £74,950 - 16 ran

6

3m 7f 170y

Soft (Heavy in places)

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Gary Nutting
by Gary Nutting

Published 22nd February

Colin Tizzard seemed to be laying the ground this week for ELEGANT ESCAPE to run in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase and it’s a hint probably worth taking.

The Dorset trainer told the assembled media at his pre-Festival press day he had been leaning towards the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase for his promising 6yo but in the same breath said the situation might change if a top Irish amateur became available.

The last part of the sentence could well prove significant given the stable ran Native River, also aged six, in this two years ago to finish second to Minella Rocco in a hot renewal of the four-miler.

Native River has since won a Hennessy and Welsh National, as well as finishing third in last year’s Timico Gold Cup, a short head behind Minella Rocco, to Sizing John - races Tizzard already has in mind next season for Elegant Escape.

The gelding would be entitled to go for the RSA on his close match-ups with Black Corton this season (beat Paul Nicholls’ horse at Newbury, finished second to him in the Kauto Star at Kempton) but had previously been put in his place by Ballyoptic at Exeter.

With stamina looking very much his forte, he looks a good fit for this race given his novice rating of 150 is actually a pound higher than Native River achieved at the same stage of his career.

Only seventh in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year, he would also appear to have a bit to find with one of the RSA favourites Monalee on that evidence, the latter having finished 20-plus lengths ahead of him when runner-up to Penhill.

With stamina looking very much his forte, he looks a good fit for this race given his novice rating of 150 is actually a pound higher than Native River achieved at the same stage of his career.

Having bagged three of the last seven renewals with Chicago Grey, Cause Of Causes and Tiger Roll (last year), Gordon Elliott’s entries demand close scrutiny.

Dounikos, winner of his first two starts over fences before a close fourth to Monalee in the Flogas at Leopardstown last time, is first string if the current betting is any guide, albeit he’s yet to race beyond 2m5f since switching from hurdles.

Mall Dini, winner of the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle two years ago, is interesting given his Festival record on goodish ground (also finished close fifth in last year’s Fulke Walywn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase).

Pat Kelly’s 8yo has yet to make the frame in three starts this season but has run well enough on soft/heavy ground to suggest he could well peak again returned to Cheltenham.

Gary's Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):

National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase (Tuesday 13th March)

1pt win ELEGANT ESCAPE (10/1 BetBright, Betfair Sportsbook, Bet Victor, William Hill OR 7/1 bet365, 6/1 Paddy Power - both Non-Runner No Bet)

Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo

Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2017 Good to Soft 18 Tiger Roll 7 11 6 - 222133 134 days G Elliott Ms Lisa O'Neill 16/1 8:22.30
2016 Good to Soft 20 Minella Rocco 6 11 6 - 11-3P62 24 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) Mr D O'Connor 8/1 8:14.00
2015 Good to Soft 17 Cause Of Causes 7 11 6 - 2220-75 47 days G Elliott Mr J J Codd 8/1 8:18.60
2014 Good to Soft 15 Midnight Prayer 9 11 6 - 1-61U21 31 days A King (44 miles) Mr J Newman 8/1 8:10.30
2013 Good to Soft 16 Back In Focus 8 11 6 - 18-2111 75 days W P Mullins Mr P W Mullins 9/4 8:32.20
2012 Good 19 Teaforthree 8 11 6 - 8-321P1 18 days Miss R Curtis (124 miles) Mr J T McNamara 5/1 8:13.80
2011 Good 16 Chicago Grey 8 11 6 - 211F25 78 days G Elliott Mr D O'Connor 5/1 8:20.90
2010 Good 18 Poker De Sivola 7 11 6 - 70-2951 30 days F Murphy (227 miles) Ms K Walsh 14/1 8:11.10
2009 Good to Soft 19 Tricky Trickster 6 11 11 - 1-42212 46 days N Twiston-Davies (1 miles) Mr S Waley-Cohen 11/1 8:25.50
2008 Good to Soft 20 Old Benny 7 11 7 - 1-27322 33 days A King (44 miles) C Huxley 9/1 8:26.30