Cheltenham - At The Races

13:30 Cheltenham 15 Mar 2018

JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) (registered As The Golden Miller) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £85,425 - 9 ran

1

2m 3f 198y

Soft (Heavy in places)

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Gary Nutting
by Gary Nutting

Published 16th February

WILLOUGHBY COURT looks a solid favourite for the JLT Novices’ Chase despite losing his unbeaten record over fences at the New Year’s Day meeting at Cheltenham.

Ben Pauling’s 7yo appeared to get bogged down in the heavy ground and is better judged on his earlier Newbury success over the winner that day, Yanworth.

Jumping well out of the less taxing surface, Willoughby Court never looked like being beaten, tracking the early leader before taking it up after the halfway mark and quickening clear in grand style.

That display confirmed the promise of his chasing debut at Huntingdon where he did well to win, notwithstanding his very short odds, after forfeiting ground at several obstacles by jumping left.

Furthermore, he already boasts top-class Festival form courtesy of his gutsy victory over heavily backed favourite Neon Wolf in last year’s Neptune (now the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), the pair dominating the finish.

The 2m4f trip at Cheltenham has seen many memorable trailblazing performances over the years - the likes of Village Vic and Dublin Flyer readily to spring to mind - and though they were in handicaps, this race itself has tended to favour frontrunners/prominent racers.

Furthermore, he already boasts top-class Festival form courtesy of his gutsy victory over heavily backed favourite Neon Wolf in last year’s Neptune (now the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), the pair dominating the finish.

It’s not hard to imagine therefore back on better ground Willoughby Court putting it up to his rivals from an early stage and getting them out of their comfort zone.

Yanworth is one horse capable of travelling well off a strong pace given his peak hurdles rating was 164 and he had the pace/stamina to win Grade 1 events in that sphere over two and three miles.

It all came together for him in the Dipper, with Willoughby Court lacking his usual fluency, but Alan King’s 8yo still doesn’t quite convince with his jumping of fences and that element of his game would surely be tested on the likely quicker ground.

There’s also the possibility he won’t run in this anyway given he’s prominent in the betting for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.

The Irish have a cracking record in the race, having won all bar one of the seven renewals, but it’s not easy to work out which are their main hopes this time around (most have alternative entries) plus the selection’s credentials do look rock-solid.

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

JLT NOVICES' CHASE (Thursday 15th March)

2pts win WILLOUGHBY COURT (5/1 Bet Victor, Unibet OR 4/1 bet365, 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 8 Yorkhill 7 11 4 - 111-411 53 days W P Mullins R Walsh 6/4 4:58.90
2016 Good 9 Black Hercules 7 11 4 - 117-11F 32 days W P Mullins R Walsh 4/1 4:55.00
2015 Good 8 Vautour 6 11 4 - 11-1121 53 days W P Mullins R Walsh 6/4 4:46.30
2014 Good 12 Taquin Du Seuil 7 11 4 - 6-11321 54 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) A P McCoy 7/1 4:56.50
2013 Good to Soft 13 Benefficient 7 11 4 - 7-21241 47 days A J Martin B J Cooper 20/1 5:04.90
2012 Good 10 Sir Des Champs 6 11 4 - 111-111 47 days W P Mullins D N Russell 3/1 4:52.80
2011 Good 11 Noble Prince 7 11 4 - 354-122 53 days Paul Nolan A P McCoy 4/1 4:49.70