1.30 Marsh Novices' Chase
Thursday 12 March | Age: 5yo+ | Prize: £150,000
The Marsh Novices’ Chase (registered as the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase) is a Grade 1 National Hunt Chase which takes place on the New Course at Cheltenham with a distance of two miles and four furlongs.
ON paper this looks like an incredible race to start the third day of the festival.
Itchy Feet looks like a classy chaser in the making, winning his last two races nicely, Mister Fisher has been very impressive in several races this season and Samcro who was once thought to the be one of the best horses in training comes here looking to prove himself at the top level again after a period in the doldrums.
But there is only one horse that will be making all the headlines on Thursday morning and I'm hoping he is the one making the headlines on Thursday night too.
FAUGHEEN the machine is one of the most incredible horses of his generation: winner of the Champion Hurdle and the Ballymore (then the Neptune) at the Festival, unbeaten in his first 10 starts under rules and then just as the fire looked like it might be going out and he was all set to be retired they switch him to fences and he is now unbeaten in his first three chase starts.
At the age of 12. It is truly remarkable and the record books suggest that it just can't be done but he looks like he wants to win now more than ever and if he jumps well enough to stay in contention it will take a very special horse to get past him going up the hill, 12 year old or not.
I was looking for a bigger price to back Mister Fisher each way and he is my second choice but I don't want any other horse to win this race and 6-1 is a cracking price.
Get on now before everyone else does.
SAMCRO may have become something of a forgotten horse but should go well at decent odds in the 2m 4f Marsh Novices’ Chase.
On his only previous visit to Prestbury Park Samcro landed the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in impressive fashion.
His career over fences hasn’t gone according to plan but he was poised to take the measure of Fakir D’Oudairies when falling two out at Fairyhouse and has since undergone a wind procedure on the back of his Limerick defeat at the hands of Faugheen on Boxing Day.
Faugheen would be an enormously popular victor at the age of 12 and the old boy built on his success over Samcro by lowering the colours of Easy Game and Battleoverdoyen at Leopardstown.
Itchy Feet is the apple of Olly Murphy’s eye and holds re-opposing Midnight Shadow on their Sandown form last month. His jumping was spot-on and last season’s third to Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle gives him excellent track back-form.
Melon’s Cheltenham record over hurdles entitles him to respect. He has finished runner-up at the last three festivals, behind Labaik in the 2017 Supreme before chasing him Buveur D’Air (2018) and Espoir D’Allen (2019) in the Champion Hurdle.
Mister Fisher has jumped like a buck in winning his last two starts for Nicky Henderson, one of which came at Cheltenham, and drying ground is in his favour.
The Irish have mopped up the last four renewals of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, with Davy Russell riding three of them, so it seems prudent to place his mount The Storyteller near the top of my rather extensive shortlist.
The Storyteller is a past festival winner over fences and Gordon Elliott managed to secure his place in the line-up when The Storyteller scraped into the sixth, and final, qualifying spot at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
This looks to be a cracking renewal, with a legend of the sport competing amongst the young pretenders.
This race is bound to revolve around the appearance of Faugheen, who attempts to defy history and win a Novice Chase at Cheltenham at the age of 12yo.
On recent form you’ve got to say the old boy must have a great chance. He won a Grade 1 last time out at Leopardstown, coming in front of Easy Game & Tornado Flyer, who he reposes tomorrow.
But I can’t back him based on this, and I’d rather side with SAMCRO to reverse the form of when they last met. The Gordon Elliott trained horse was clearly not at his best that day, and has since undergone a wind surgery which should hopefully bring him back to his best.
Prior to that run, he was running very well alongside Fakir D’Oudairies, and it looked like he had that horse beaten until falling close home. Fakir has boosted that form yesterday when finishing a close second in the Arkle.
A couple of years ago he was dubbed to be the next big thing, like Envoi Allen, but he’s failed to progress from his Ballymore win, this is his chance of redemption and get the fans back on his side.
Currently 9/2 is on offer with certain bookmakers, and I’d advise an EW bet. The form of Itchy Feet doesn’t interest me, and the same applies to Mister Fisher who will both have to improve on what we’ve seen to get close to the Irish raiders.
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15:30 Doncaster - Race: 7
15:35 Worcester - Race: 2