Marsh Novices Chase Guide

Itchy Feet

Trainer - Olly Murphy

Jockey - Gavin Sheehan

Another runner in last years festival, Olly Murphy’s 6 year old run a massive 3rd in last year’s supreme novice hurdle.

Beaten on season debut over hurdles, he switched to fences and has won both of chase starts.

He romped around Leicester in an easy little 3 runner affair, but immediately caught the eye with an impressive round of jumping despite not beating much.

We last saw him in the Scilly Isles chase at Sandown where he gave Olly Murphy his first grade 1 winner.

The gelding outgunned Midnight Shadow up Sandown’s stiff hill and showing a huge engine. 

Slight mistakes didn’t curb his effort last time out and with a cleaner round of jumping he looks one to be going close. 

Samcro

Trainer - Gordon Elliott

Jockey - Davy Russell

An 8 year old who’s not unfamiliar to Cheltenham festival glory, he showed his promise in 2018 taking the Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle.

He demolished a smart field that day but has yet to really hit the same heights since. 
Potentially one of the most frustrating horses in training, he failed to shine over hurdles since his Ballymore win and didn’t win another race over timber.

The switch to fences came in November and he showed his superstar qualities to take apart a weak field without breaking a sweat. 

Contesting the Drinmore chase in December he looked to be travelling all over Fakir D’oudairies before falling 2 out.

The frustration continued as last time out he bumped into faugheen and as 4/6 favourite was easily beaten by the veteran.  

Wind surgery has been used on him since so if it’s had an effect he could swing for home still travelling under Davy Russell to another festival win. 

Faugheen

Trainer - Willie Mullins

Jockey - Paul Townend

Trends and stats mean nothing when it comes to this legend. A former champion hurdle winner, Faugheen will yet again return to Prestbury Park, but this time as a 12 year old novice chaser. 

Unbeaten over fences, he’s taken to the bigger obstacles like a duck to water and taken 2 Grade 1 events.

Last time out the Flogas Novices chase at the Dublin racing festival he raised the rough to outstay Easy Game on the run in. 

If he repeats his 2015 heroics, the noise around Cheltenham will be deafening.

He was held in 3rd in last years Stayers Hurdle, but has looked a lot more effective over this intermediate trip recently. 

Mister Fisher

Trainer - Nicky Henderson

Jockey - Nico De Boinville

The sole representative for his stable arrives here looking for a hat trick of chase wins. He was just held on chase debut over 2 miles at Warwick by 4 year old Torpillo. The youngster used his weight for age allowance well and made every single yard of the running to hold off smart rivals. 

Mister Fisher has since shown his winning ability over fences and won a 2.5 mile chase at Cheltenham back in December. A solid class 2 race, he out battled Good Boy Bobby up the hill to a course and distance win. 

We most recently saw this 6 year old at Doncaster in the grade 2 Lightening Novice’s chase where he showed a turn of foot to pip Al Dancer to the line by a length.

A good combination of stamina for 2.5 miles and tactical speed for 2 miles, he looks one to really look out for here. 

Melon

Trainer - Willie Mullins

Jockey - Patrick Mullins

Another runner for the Irish champion trainer, 8 year old Melon has also really yet to sparkle over fences. 

He was 2nd on chase debut to the impressive Fakir D’oudairies, who at the time got a hefty weight for age allowance.

He backed up a solid debut with a win over 2 miles 1 furlong next time out at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

Maybe a lucky win as both he and Gallant John Joe made massive errors at the last.

Melon recovered best and clung on to lead at the winning post. 

It was surprising then to see the form easily reversed in the Irish Arkle and Melon 4th behind Notebook, Cash Back and Gallant John Joe.

This change of trip is interesting and could revitalise a horse who’s usually saved his best efforts for this festival.

With two champion hurdle second places to his name he shouldn’t be ruled out on the big stage. 

Reserve Tank

Trainer - Colin Tizzard

Jockey - Robbie Power

This 6 year old really announced himself last season with a massive Grade 1 win in the Mersey Novice’s Hurdle last April at the Aintree festival.

He lead home Brewin’upastorm and Angel’s Breath in an impressive display. 

As a chaser this season his form reads 2-1-2.

In a 3 runner event in October he made a mistake at the last to be beaten by Jarvey’s Plate quite easily.

He then justified favouritism next time out at Wincanton taking another small 5 runner affair.

We last saw him at Newbury in another 3 runner race where Danny Whizzbang caused an upset in a 3 mile grade 2 event. Reserve Tank failing to justify a price of 1/2. 

A drop back to this trip looks ideal and they’ve had plenty of time to freshen him up for a big run. He’s not without a chance for a yard that does so well with their chasers. 

Bapaume

Trainer - Willie Mullins

Jockey - Rachael Blackmore

A solid 4th place in last years stayers hurdle but he hasn’t shown the same top class ability over fences. 

Seventh when short price favourite on chase debut but he maybe bumped into a really class field behind Ronald Pump, Captain CJ, Speak Easy and Galvin. 

He then made amends and got off the mark over fences next time out over 2 miles and 3 furlongs and reversed the form with Spyglass Hill. 

A last in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last time out would suggest this 7 year old is better over a longer trip and might show himself better with an emphasis on stamina. 

Midnight Shadow

Trainer - Sue Smith

Jockey - Danny Cook

This 7 year old has had plenty of chasing experience this season, he’s already had 5 races over fences this campaign, winning once. Somewhat of a dubious course and distance win, he was gifted the race in the grade 2 Dipper Novice’s chase when Champ fell 2 out. 

The gelding was last seen in the Scilly Isles where he was held in 2nd by the impressive Itchy Feet.

On paper it would hard to see him reverse the form but he was best of the rest in that Grade 1 contest. 

It’s a first time visit to the festival for this horse but a Grade 2 win and a Grade 1 second shouldn’t be ruling him out of having a very good chance each way despite having 3.5 lengths to find with the favourite. 

Tornado Flyer

Trainer - Willie Mullins

Jockey - Danny Mullins

Yet another representative for the Mullins clan, Tornado Flyer comes here with a record of 2 wins in 4 runs over fences.

The 7 year old blitzed a couple of lowly novice events in Ireland oand showed plenty of talent to justify favouritism. 

He unfortunately pulled up on his 3rd start over fences as he was found to have a respiratory infection, but it’s interesting to note he was favourite to beat stablemate Cash Back in that 2 mile contest.

It was good to see him bounce back to fitness at the Dublin Racing Festival where he placed in the 2 mile 5 furlong grade 1 chase behind Faugheen and Cash Back. 

On the surface it would look unlikely for him to be reversing the form with those 2 and finding the 6 lengths to get on terms with them in a more competitive field.

The booking of Danny Mullins in the saddle would suggest he’s 4th string for the stable. 

Saint Sonnet

Trainer - Paul Nicholls

Jockey - Harry Cobden

A French recruit who made his British debut last month, taking a class 4 novice chase at odds of 1/5.

Not the most eye-catching of victories but the 5 year old clearly adapted to his environment well to give weight to his rivals. 

It’s quite hard to assess his form in native France, but he did take 3 hurdle races and a chase over there and has been jumping obstacles competitively since he was 3 years old.

Despite his age coming into this race he definitely doesn’t lack experience or the ability to win. 

The form of his last run has yet to be backed up by any of the beaten runners so again he’s quite a difficult one to really assess.

Nicholls does have a tendency to do very well with his French recruits but this is a really deep contest to drop this youngster into and odds of 20/1 are probably a little bit short compared to what he’s achieved. 

He’s probably best watched for now as a prospect for next year when he’s bigger and stronger. 

Annie Mc

Trainer - Jonjo O'Neill

Jockey - Jonjo O'Neill Jnr

What a revelation this mare has been this season. A perfect record over fences as she’s unbeaten in 3 chase starts. 

Her debut over the larger obstacles came on Boxing Day where she caused an upset to beat 1/2 favourite If You Say Run by 4 lengths.

Annie Mc was getting 5lbs from her rival that day but was a ready winner and jumped beautifully. 

She backed up that effort at Wincanton and scored under a penalty to take another mare’s only contest.

Last time out she re-opposed rival If You Say Run and despite a 9lb swing in the weights going against her she won another mare’s race. 

The concern would be all her form is against her own sex, in small runner fields and in low class events.

The positives are we really don’t know the ceilings of her talent and as a mare she’ll be getting a 7lbs sex allowance against the boys.

She’s interesting at a big price and young Jonjo O’Neill Jr is riding winners in big races for fun. 

Poker Play

Trainer - David Pipe

Jockey - Tom Scudamore

David Pipe’s runner arrives with 3 chase runs under his belt and 1 win. He does have previous festival experience as he ran in the 2017 triumph hurdle, but only managed 14th. 

Despite his early season win in October, that looked to have some decent form he’s not beat a horse home in his last 2 runs.

A step up in class may have exposed him and he was easily beaten in the Paddy Power Handicap chase on New Year’s Day over course and distance. 

Wind surgery since could spark a rival but he’s probably one best watched at a big price. He has very little exposure to graded races and might just be wanting for quality in these kinds of contests that are deep in quality. 

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