The JLT Novices’ Chase (formerly the Jewson) is a relatively new race at the Cheltenham Festival, first introduced in 2011. A previous winner is top class chaser Sir Des Champ, who took the crown in 2012 for Willie Mullins.
Heading the market currently is two horses. The first is Oscar Whisky for Nicky Henderson. Whisky has always been regarded a top class hurdler, winning five Class One races. The problem for him is that he has always been a Two Mile Four Furlong horse. Winning the Aintree Hurdle twice highlights that this is the distance that he loves.
However, the lack of opportunities at this distance at Cheltenham, after unsuccessful attempts in the Champion and World Hurdle, has saw its path move to go over fences.
The Henderson horse has made a very successful start to fences. Although losing on debut to the very handy Tequin De Seuil, he has bounced back firmly from this. Last time in the Grade Two Dipper’s Novice Chase, the contest was fought to the wire yet again and was a classic Gerahty vs McCoy battle. Whisky avenged its defeat to deny the Jonjo O’Neil horse even more bragging rights.
However, the horse I fancy is a horse that Oscar Whisky has already beaten over hurdles. Paul Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm has looked superb over fences. He was an easy winner over Henderson’s Bears Affair on chasing debut, winning by a sum of eight lengths.
This was followed by being victorious in two Class One races. In its last outing, both Wonderful Charm and Oscar Whisky went head to head. Although the two time Aintree Hurdle winner prevailed victorious, it was a valiant effort from the Nicholls stand out.
He conceded six pounds, so at the same weight it would very well have been a different story. To this, I feel that Wonderful Charm just failed to settle throughout the race, looked keen at times and got into a few fences very tight. To this, Wonderful Charm’s runs have been ran constantly at the distance that the JLT is. He will be coming in, in fantastic condition.
Champagne Fever is a horse that could go for this race. Most people thought that the Willie Mullins horse would be aiming at the Arkle Trophy with the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner. However, a poor performance last time out seems to have changed the trainer's mind.
I’ve always thought that Champagne Fever was never a two mile horse, as I said in my Arkle preview. However, I don’t even think that it is a JLT horse. The way Champagne Fever won the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2013 was very workman like.
Although he may have enough pace to hang with the likes of Oscar Whisky, I just feel that the horse is begging for three miles and should aim at the RSA Chase. As displayed in the Supreme, Fever has the heart of a lion and that’s the type of horse you need at three miles.
Mullins however may, and should, choose to run Morning Assembly in the Jewson. A winner of two of his three races this season, last time in the Topaz Novice Chase at Three Miles, the distance clearly got the better of the Mullins horse. However even in his runs over in Ireland I have not been impressed.
Taquin De Seuil has met Oscar Whisky twice this season, with both holding a victory over each other. It seems that Jonjo O’Neil will very much be aiming at this race, after it’s poor run over Two Miles. He holds as much claim as Oscar Whisky to win this race, as both contests have been fiercely contested and could hold sound claims for a place.
Harry Fry also lays claims in his French import Vukovar. Although he has only ran twice since crossing the channel and started very disappointingly when meeting Paul Nicholls’ Mr Mole, Vukovar has certainly bounced back from that performance and crushed Nicky Henderson’s Open Hearted by twenty lengths.
However, I’m not fussed on a horse that has ran just twice in Britain and now heads straight for the JLT.
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