The Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase Race Card

Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed Race)

1st
David Bass

Imperial Aura

Age: 7
Weight: 11.4
OR: 143
J:
 
David Bass
T:
 
Kim Bailey
tracked leaders, went 2nd approaching 9th, led before 2 out, ridden between last 2, ran on strongly after last, idled towards finish
2nd
Davy Russell

Galvin

Age: 6
Weight: 11.3
OR: 142
J:
 
Davy Russell
T:
 
Gordon Elliott
held up, blundered 1st, headway after 3 out, went 2nd 2 out, outpaced by winner after last, hung left and rider dropped rein final 150yds, kept on towards finish but no real impression
3rd
Jonathan Burke

Hold The Note

Age: 6
Weight: 11.5
OR: 145
J:
 
Jonathan Burke
T:
 
Mick Channon
midfield, ridden and headway after 3 out, ridden approaching 2 out, kept on to take 3rd final 150yds, not trouble front two
4th
Tom O'Brien

Whatmore

Age: 8
Weight: 11.0
OR: 138
J:
 
Tom O'Brien
T:
 
Henry Daly
midfield, headway 3 out, tracked leaders 2 out, ridden and unable to quicken when hit last, kept on same pace run-in and no impression on front two (vet said gelding lost its right-fore shoe)
5th
Harry Skelton

Beakstown

Age: 7
Weight: 11.1
OR: 139
J:
 
Harry Skelton
T:
 
Dan Skelton
held up, headway after 4 out, chased leaders and close up 2 out, unable to quicken approaching last, kept on same pace run-in and no impression on front two
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Sixth race of Champions Day

The Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase, usually known as ‘The Close Brothers’ is the sixth race on Champions Day and the second handicap of the festival.

The race is run over 2 miles and 4 furlongs, with 16 fences for the runners. The race is open to horses five and older however they must be novices and must have a handicap rating between 0 to 145.

History of the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase

The race is one of the new races at the Festival, having in been established in 2005 when the Festival went from a three-day meeting to four, with Cheltenham wanting a handicap especially for first season chasers.

Initially the race was running on the Thursday and was sponsored by Jewson’s. That was until 2011, when the race was changed to be ran on the old course and was changed to be ran on the opening day. The race didn’t have sponsorship in 2011 and instead was used to acknowledge 100 running’s of the Cheltenham Festival.

Sponsorships changed again for the next few years, with Pulteny Land and Investments taking over for the 2012 edition whilst Rewards4Racing sponsored the race in 2013 and 2014 before a Barbados restaurant group took over for 2015. Since then however, sponsorship has been assumed by Close Brothers, who are set for their fifth year in 2020.

With the race being a novice handicap, the prize money isn’t as perhaps as large as some of the more prestigious Grade One’s of the festival however there is still £39,000 up for grabs when winning the race.

Recent Years

There have only been 15 renewals of the race, with perhaps the most impressive winner last year, when A Plus Tard ran out an impressive 15 length winner for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

These days known for his action on the flat, Graham Lee amassed two victories in the race before switching codes, which makes him the joint most successful jockey in the race alongside title chasing Brian Hughes, who’s two victories have came in the last four renewals and there’ll be no doubt, he’ll be hoping for another live chance in 2020.

The two have had their successes on the following horses:

Graham Lee:

L'Antartique (2007)

Divers (2011)

Brian Hughes:

Ballyalton (2016)

Mister Whitaker (2018)

Lee’s two victories were when combining with the late Ferdy Murphy, who is still the only trainer to win the race more than once.

Ferdy Murphy:

L'Antartique (2007)

Divers (2011)

Like with other handicaps at the festival, as time has gone on, the race has required even better horses to win it, no better shown than A Plus Tard’s victory in 2019, who clearly showed he was more than just a handicapper.

When the race began, the first five winners all were successful carrying a weight of under 11 stone however that trend has disappeared in recent years, with six of the last seven winners carrying at least 11 stone, 7 lb and it may be worth looking at that coming into the 2020 edition.

MPU

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