Last year’s race
- Winner: Tiger Roll
- Jockey: Ms Lisa O'Neill
- Trainer: G Elliott
- Owner: Gigginstown House Stud
- Age: 7 Weight: 11st 6lb
- Starting Price: 16/1
- Season Form Figures: 14U222133
- Previous Best: 1st - Munster National Handicap Chase (Grade A), Limerick (Oct 2016)
As many as three sets of race conditions alterations since 2002 have led to a superior class of horse required to win the ‘Four Miler’ these days and this is the second year that it will be run as a Grade 2. Ironically, the first time it was run after its upgrade was one of the weaker runnings in recent seasons.
Class has counted for plenty of late. Four of the last seven winners had contested a Grade 1 novice chase earlier in the season and three of those were officially top rated. When Back In Focus won (rated 150 beforehand) he narrowly beat the second-top rated Tofino Bay (149) by half a length and the previous two winners were also officially the best horse heading into the race on 146 and 150. Compare that to zero winners rated higher than 140 between 2000-2010. Despite being the second-top rated horse off 152 ahead of last season’s race, Tiger Roll was allowed to go off at 16/1. Top rated was Edwulf who looked like finishing second until totally losing his action on the run-in. Three of the eight runnings since penalties were dispensed with were won by the favourite.
Just two wins for horses aged younger than seven since 1989 from 77 to try including the last four favourites; Foxrock, Very Wood, Southfield Royale and A Genie In Abottle, would suggest that we steer clear but 6yos were responsible for the 1-3-4 two years ago from just four representatives. As for purely five-year-olds, they only receive 2lb unlike when they were last successful 41 years ago when they received 5lb.
Four of the last seven winners had contested a Grade 1 novice chase earlier in the season and three of those were officially top rated.
Four of the last nine British-trained winners contested a novice chase at the Newbury Winter Festival at the beginning of December with a fifth having its final prep at the same course in February so Newbury form has been a notable factor of late. Warwick form has also had an impact. The 1-2 in 2014 both won at the Midlands course on their previous outing and Alan King also ran his other National Hunt Chase winner, Old Benny, in a novice chase at the same venue two months before his Festival success. Six of the last 11 winners had experienced Cheltenham’s fences earlier in the season and another was placed in the Kim Muir the previous season. Two of those six winners contested the novice chase over an extended 3m at the November Meeting.
Many punters tend to under-rate handicap chase form when analysing novice chases and it was the Munster National winner from five months earlier who came out on top last season. In addition, the 1-2-3 from 2015 had all run in handicap chases earlier in the season as had the runners-up for the previous two years that had also won a quality handicap chase. Two other placed horses in the last 12 years had finished placed in the Scottish, Irish and Welsh National between them.
Having won this race on six occasions, with five of those successes achieved since the race conditions were dramatically altered in 2002, Jonjo O’Neill will be many a punter’s idea of the first name to look for. Four of O’Neill’s National Hunt Chase winners were owned by McManus whose colours were also carried to victory by Bit Of A Skite. Also note Gordon Elliott who has trained three of the last seven winners and he looks set to run the former Albert Bartlett runner-up, Fagan, amongst others. Fagan was last seen finishing second to Black Corton at the Cheltenham October Meeting and Elliott gave all three of his National Hunt Chase winners a run at Prestbury Park over fences in the autumn.
Alan King’s entries are also worth a look with two winners in the last ten years but Paul Nicholls is 0-18 of which ten started in the first five in the betting. Gigginstown finally got their win last season having close a few times recently, notably when Tofino Bay and Four Commanders led over the final fence before finishing second and third respectively. Their Measureofmydreams also hit the frame in 2016.
Of the leading amateurs, Nina Carberry must wonder what she has to do to win this race having led over the final fence in three of the last eight editions. Katie Walsh has ridden a winner, runner-up and third in recent years and Jamie Codd has the won the race twice.
Other trends to note are that the last 15 winners had run at least three times over fences (three of the last eight winners were second-season chasers), eleven of the 16 winners either won or finished second last time out and four of the last 11 winners arrived here very fresh having not run during the same calendar year.
At a glance summary
- Contested a Grade 1 chase
- Previous Cheltenham chase form earlier in the season
- Ran at the Newbury Winter Festival at Newbury or ran well at Warwick
- Contested a high-class handicap chase
- Second-season chasers
- Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Gordon Elliott or Alan King
- Owned by J P McManus
- Officially top or second-top rated
- The favourite
- Not run this calendar year
- Five year-olds
- Trained by Paul Nicholls
- Fewer than 3 chase starts