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Novice Notes…

I wouldn’t be a huge player in Novice Chases in the early part of the National Hunt season, I tend to wait until we reach into the New Year before playing these types of races on a bit more of a regular basis. I do, however, make sure I’ve taken plenty of in-depth notes on those horses that have just started their careers over the larger obstacles, so that when I do start to look at playing them more regularly, I’m armed with a wealth of notes and pointers to help me come to a more informed decision on their chances, in whatever race they may appear in (whether they stay in novice company or move into open company).

I’ve delved into those notes here and picked out a clutch of Novice Chasers that have caught my eye in the September to December period, as well as providing my associated notes for each horse…

PETIT TONNERRE – 5yo gelding – Trainer – JJ O’Neil | Owner – JP McManus

Chase form to date…

2nd in a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Cheltenham over 2m (17th November)

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4th in a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Sandown over 1m7.5f (9th December)

Notes…

Yet to be seriously inserted into either of his two chase starts to date and looks for all money that they are just getting some experience into him before unleashing the youngster into a handicap further down the line. He has posted figures that suggest his mark of (on or around) OR 138 should be comfortably within range for him and he shouldn’t have any problem overcoming such a mark when the time comes.

He placed over 2m4f & 2m5f last season over hurdles and also ran well over 2m3.5f in a valuable Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in February, before staying on strongly in the 2m1f County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on his final start of the 2022/23 campaign.

The signs are that they are just teaching him the chasing ropes over 2-mile trips at present and this season’s plan may well be a 2m4f-2m5f Handicap Chase, possibly at one of the spring festivals.

Conclusion… Look out for him entering Handicap company, probably over 2m4f-2m5f (although I’m open on his trip requirements/preferences for now).

MARBLE SANDS – 7yo gelding – Trainer – D Killahena/G McPherson | Owner – Dl Adams, Ja Adams & G McPherson

Chase form to date…

1st in a Class 3 Handicap Novice Chase at Ayr over 2m0.5f (4th November)

4th in a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Newbury over 2m4f (1st December)

Notes…

Produced an eye-catching debut effort at Ayr on chase/seasonal debut but probably pitched in too high next time out in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury (although he wasn’t beaten all that far come the line and he posted a solid enough figure with his fourth placed finish).

He was dropped 1-pound to OR 142 for that Newbury run and that should still be a workable mark for connections to go back handicapping with him.

He probably won’t quite prove up to Grade 1 or Grade 2 level (0/4, 0p so far at those levels) but he could well have a Class 1 (Premier Handicap) in him at some stage this season.

Conclusion… A return to Handicap company would be a positive and he’s worth looking out for under the following… NOT G1 or G2 level and trips of less than 2m5f… where he is… 5/11, 4p…

MASTER CHEWY – 6yo gelding – Trainer – Nigel Twiston-Davies | Owner – Anne-Marie & Jamie Shepperd

Chase form to date…

1st in a Class 3 Novice Handicap Chase at Aintree over 2m (29th October)

2nd in a Class 3 Handicap Chase at Aintree over 2m (11th November)

2nd in a Class 2 Handicap Chase at Newbury over 2m0.5f (2nd December)

Notes…

Properly entered my notebook as one to watch when running down the field in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, as his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, doesn’t run many in that race but the ones he does run often turn out to be well above average chasers or high-level hurdlers in future seasons.

Master Chewy posted a career best effort (at the time) on Chase debut at Aintree in October, form that has been backed up since by the 2nd and 4th placed horses both winning since. He improved on that opening effort with a close second at Newbury next time out, a race that probably didn’t play to his strengths as they omitted all the fences down the home-straight, which nullified what looks to be a potent weapon of his, his jumping.

The form of that race has also been boosted since, with the winner and the fourth placed horse both scoring easily next time out.

Master Chewy again posted a high figure when running a close second to the high-class Elixir De Nutz at Newbury, the Joe Tizzard trained 9yo had his bang ideal conditions to attack as well as having the excellent 5-pound claim of young Freddie Gingell in the saddle, which given there was only 1.5L separating the horses at the line could have made all the difference.

They also changed tactics on Master Chewy in that race, holding him up out the back instead of having closer to the pace like on his two previous chase starts, with that riding style also playing into the strengths of Elixir De Nutz, who was able to poach an advantage over Master Chewy at a vital stage of the race.

Master Chewy is already posting figures that mark him out as a Class 1 chaser, bordering on a Graded Chaser, and I’d be very hopeful of connections being able to see the horse defy his current mark of OR 140 in handicap company before possibly raising their sights with him for a crack at Graded company.

Conclusion… Has improved for the switch to chasing and his ‘defeats’ at Aintree and Newbury in November and December can be excused (fences omitted at Aintree and change of tactics at Newbury). Still looks one that can be competitive in handicaps…

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Ben Aitken (Narrowing The Field)

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