National Hunt Chase – Expert Tips & Predictions
The National Hunt Chase is the oldest race at the Cheltenham Festival, with its history dating back to the 19th Century. A gruelling test of stamina over 3m6f is the longest trip on one of the two traditional courses and our experts have picked out the warriors they fancy most in this year’s race below.
National Hunt Chase Bookmaker Odds – Race 7, Tuesday 14th March 5:30
|Gaillard Du Mesnil |
|J: P W Mullins|
T: Willie Mullins
|Mahler Mission |
|J: J C Barry|
T: John C McConnell
|Chemical Energy |
|J: J J Codd|
T: Gordon Elliott
|Minella Crooner |
|J: B O’Neill|
T: Gordon Elliott
|Mister Coffey |
|J: Derek O’Connor|
T: Nicky Henderson
|J: N McParlan|
T: Willie Mullins
|J: D G Lavery|
T: Gordon Elliott
|J: Joshua Newman|
T: Chris Gordon
|J: Lucy Turner|
T: Venetia Williams
|J: Gina Andrews|
T: Ben Pauling
All About The National Hunt Chase Trophy in 2023
We’re all set for another fantastic renewal of the National Hunt Chase, with some big names entered and looking to be targeting the race this year.
It was targeted by Gordon Elliott for his second season novice Galvin in 2021 and Willie Mullins had Stattler run out an impressive winner last year.
The clear market leader is Gaillard Du Mesnil for last year’s winning trainer, who has bags of experience with him now being a second season novice. This season he gained his first win, and could hardly have been more impressive in the process, when running away with the Grade 1 Nevills Hotel Novice Chase in December.
He’s twice finished behind Mighty Potter this season, including when third behind Mighty Potter at the Dublin Racing Festival, but he won’t face anything of the level of Mighty Potter here.
At the other end of the experience, Willie Mullins also has Ramillies entered, who has only had the two races over fences so far. He made a winning start over fences at Thurles in December, before just edging out Thedevilscoachman at Naas in January, in a race which saw the placings reversed following a stewards enquiry.
Away from Willie Mullins, Churchstonewarrior looks to be trainer Jonathan Sweeney’s best hope for a first Cheltenham Festival winner, but he has over seven lengths to find with the aforementioned Gaillard Du Mesnil on their last outing and may find him too good again.
However, he followed up that runner-up effort with a battling victory in the Ten Up Novice Chase, finishing 3/4 length clear of Mahler Mission, who is another who could line up here.
The Irish are dominating the market currently, with the best British hope looking to be Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey. The second season novice is still yet to shed his maiden tag over fences, but has put in some respectable performances, notably chasing home L’Homme Presse in the Scilly Isles Novice Chase last season.
He will have to put in a career best performance to defeat the Irish contingent though, and with just three British-trained winners in the last ten renewals, it looks likely this race will go to an oversea’s trained runner yet again.
With only novices allowed and 23 fences to be jumped, experience can often be a key factor. Galvin put that to excellent use in 2021 as a second season novice and there have also been two ten-year-old winners in recent renewals.
As such, there is a 1lb allowance for five-year-olds in the race, but that has made no difference to their success rate: only one horse of that age has won since 1903 and, almost concerningly, two horses simply described as “aged” have won the race since then.
From recent runnings, it is clear that one of three things is necessary. The aforementioned experience is one thing: Galvin’s extra chasing season would have helped, while the older, sturdier legs of Rathvinden and Ravenhill carried them to victory in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
The second thing is a touch of class. Minella Rocco won a sensational renewal in 2016, beating Native River, with the pair going on to be second and third in the following year’s Gold Cup. Also beaten that day were Vicente, Vieux Lion Rouge and Pleasant Company, while Definitly Red and Shantou Flyer were fallers.
Tiger Roll also fits the bill in terms of quality, winning this in 2017 before his Grand National escapades. He also, of course, fits the third criteria: stamina, proven prior or subsequently.
All of Teaforthree, Cause Of Causes and Rathvinden were placed in the following year’s Grand National while Tiger Roll won the next two. It is not all about experience with the stamina-laden horses though. Before Rathvinden, no ten-year-old had won since 2002.
For quality, both in terms of equine and human participants, this race has probably never been so good. And thus we come to the final key trend: find a horse ridden by a top Irish amateur.
The 2021 professionals-only race aside, every running apart from 2014 (kudos to Joshua Newman) has been won by one of Ireland’s leading amateurs. The names to have won read as follows: Katie Walsh, Derek O’Connor, JT McNamara, Patrick Mullins, Jamie Codd and Lisa O’Neill. All would be considered among the top dogs, with “The Coddfather” in particular having excelled in this contest with three victories. Without him, it’s well up for debate as to whether Le Breuil or Ravenhill would have won.
2023 National Hunt Chase Prize Money
Just over £118,000 was available in 2022, with over £60,000 going the way of Stattler’s connections.
The prize pot for the 2023 renewal is £125,000.
National Hunt Chase History
The race had somewhat of a nomadic existence in its earliest form. First run in 1860 at Market Harborough, the only time it was held at Cheltenham in the 19th Century was in its second running in 1861.
From then on it passed through such archaic tracks as Rugby, Burton Lazars, Crewkerde and Little Dalby, as well as the continually functioning Wetherby and Sandown Park, before it eventually settled permanently at Cheltenham in 1911, predating the modern Festival. It has now become incorporated as an integral part of the four days in March as one of only three contests reserved for amateur riders.
With its rich, early establishment, this used to be a race more heralded than the Gold Cup and boasts Lords, Majors, Captains and Lieutenant Colonels in its trainer and jockey winners’ lists. There was also an early sign of its propensity to lead to Grand National heroes when Quare Times, trained by Vincent O’Brien, won this race in 1954 before the National the following year.
Speaking of famous trainers, there are a number who have won this before…as jockeys. Ian Balding, Michael Dickinson, Robert Alner, Mouse Morris and Willie Mullins have all won this since the 1960s, the last-named doing so twice for his father Paddy in 1982 and 1984.
There have been some sensational rides in this race in the past, but probably none more so than in 2002. J T McNamara deserves to be remembered for his astonishing effort to get the recalcitrant Ruth Dubh to win, despite almost always seeming to hate being in front. While professionals are not allowed, that has not stopped there being memorable moments in the saddle.
Winners since 2000
|2002||Rith Dubh||J:J T McNamara|
|2003||Sudden Shock||J:Denis Culen|
|2004||Native Emperor||J:Robert Widger|
|2005||Another Rum||J:Mark O’Hare|
|2006||Hot Weld||J:Richard Harding|
|2007||Butler’s Cabin|| J:Alan Berry|
|2008||Old Benny||J:Charlie Huxley|
|2009||Tricky Trickster||J:Sam Waley-Cohen|
|2010||Poker De Sivola||J:Katie Walsh|
|2011||Chicago Grey||J:Derek O’Connor|
|2012||Teaforthree||J:J T McNamara|
|2013||Back In Focus||J:Patrick Mullins|
|2014||Midnight Prayer||J:Joshua Newman|
|2015||Cause Of Causes||J:Jamie Codd|
|2016||Minella Rocco|| J:Derek O’Connor|
|2017||Tiger Roll||J:Lisa O’Neill|
|2019||Le Breuil||J:Jamie Codd|