One of the newer additions to the card and a race that has seen changes made to its conditions since its inception in 2005 – run in the first six years as an open handicap with no ratings cap, last year was the first time that it had been run as a 0-140 event. That change has led to trainers having to be very cute about how they campaign their horses in order to qualify for this event as they can’t exceed that 140 cap but also seemingly have to have a 130+ rating in order to get into the race.
As with its hurdling equivalent at the Festival (the Fred Winter), this novices’ handicap is a race where it has proven best not to have shown too much of your hand too early as all but one of the seven winners had been beaten on their first two chase starts. However, all seven entered the race directly off the back of a win or second-place finish. In fact, horses to either win or finish second last time out have recorded four 1-2-3s in seven runnings and a 1-2 on another occasion. Those who bet on horse should remember this.
The age group that you want to concentrate on is the seven-year-olds as they have taken five of the seven runnings – horses aged eight plus have a rather poor 1-44 record. As we have seen it’s tough getting handicapped for this event and the trainers won’t want to have run their horses too much in an attempt to qualify for the right mark and all the winners have had between just 3-6 runs that season, with the bias towards the lower end of the scale. People making Cheltenham 2012 bets need to bear this in mind.
One important factor is that all of the last six winners were making their handicap debut and form taken from Listed or Graded class chases is of particular value. It is also worth taking note of horses that ran in one of the Festival novice hurdles in the previous season, that experience has proved very worthwhile as shown by three of the last six winners meeting that criterion.