The Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase Race Card

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered as The Fred Winter) (Grade 3) (GBB Race)

1st
Mark Walsh

Brazil

Age: 4
Weight: 11.6
OR: 137
J:
 
Mark Walsh
T:
 
Padraig Roche
prominent, tracked leaders when hampered 2nd, went second after 5th, pushed along when challenging after 3 out, carried right 2 out, soon ridden, 2 lengths down last, kept on well run-in, led narrowly inside final 110yds, all out
2nd
Paul Townend

Gaelic Warrior

Age: 4
Weight: 11.1
OR: 129
J:
 
Paul Townend
T:
 
W P Mullins
jumped right throughout, led, pushed along home turn, 2 lengths ahead last, soon ridden and faced strong challenge, headed inside final 110yds, kept on well
3rd
Harry Cobden

Bell Ex One

Age: 4
Weight: 11.1
OR: 130
J:
 
Harry Cobden
T:
 
Paul Nicholls
midfield, headway after 5th, in touch with leaders when ridden after 2 out, switched left approaching last, went third but drifted right run-in, ran on well

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.