Just the six runners line up for Saturday’s first Grade 2 on the Wincanton card, the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase, with the short-priced favourite Knappers Hill aiming to give Paul Nicholls yet another winner in the race.
Will Knappers Hill win this and go on to be a stable star of the Nicholls yard, much like Silviniaco Conti and Frodon, who won this race in 2011 and 2016 respectively. Or could the likes of Captain Conby or Doyen Star cause an upset? Time will tell!
GG editor Tom Aldridge previews this years race, before giving his verdict on who he expects to come out on top.
Last year’s renewal saw Emma Lavelle’s HANG IN THERE land Graded honours for the first time, keeping on strongly to fend off the final challenger Mortlach. Odds-on favourite McFabulous pulled up early in the race:
Key Race Trends
- 9 of the last 10 winners had won at least once over fences.
- 6 of the last 10 winners came into the race unbeaten over fences.
- 7 of the last 10 winners were aged 5-7.
- Last year’s 5/1 winner Hang In There was the biggest odds winner in the last 10 years.
- 5 of the last 10 renewals have been won by the favourite.
- Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer in the race, winning it 10 times. He’s failed to win any of the last five renewals however.
1. CAPTAIN CONBY
(E Sheehy/Tom Bellamy)
Eamon Sheehy doesn’t have the best record when sending horses over to the UK – He’s sent 33 runners to the UK, with only one winner, which doesn’t bode well for Captain Conby’s chances here. He did make an impressive chase debut, winning easily in a beginners chase at Kilbeggan back in August, pulling clear in the run-in to win by over six lengths. He was soundly beaten when stepped up to this trip last time out though, with Sharjah winning as he liked. It wasn’t a terrible result, with Sharjah looking rejuvenated now switched to fences and is currently around the 20/1 mark for the Turners Novices’ Chase and the Arkle Chase at next years Cheltenham Festival. I just feel with his trainers record in the UK, he might struggle to make his presence felt here, and I have my doubts that he’ll finish in the top two.
2. DOYEN STAR
(Evan Williams/Adam Wedge)
Evan Williams’ 5YO is the youngest in the line up and comes here unbeaten in his career, with a PTP win and two hurdles victories to his name. He won both hurdles races fairly comfortable, always doing enough once hitting the front, and it will be interesting to see how he fares over fences for the first time. Younger horses have an excellent record in the race – in the last 10 years there have been six horses aged 5 or younger to line up in the race, four have won and the other two finished runner-up. That bodes well for Doyen Star and I think he looks a good E/W play in this race – it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he went on to win this.
(Gary Moore/Jamie Moore)
It’s interesting that Gary Moore has opted for this race for Givega to makes his chase debut, as it’s a warm race to be making your debut over fences in. His trainer has stated he’s ready to go over fences now and connections must be impressed with how he’s schooled to pitch him into a Grade 2 straight away. The worry for me is he was pulled up in both Graded races he raced in over hurdles, including last time out when sent off as favourite in the Imperial Cup. He does have winning form on soft ground though, which could prove valuable if he takes to his fences. I just feel the fact he’s struggled in graded company means he might find this too tough on chase debut.
4. KNAPPERS HILL
(Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden)
The sole representative of Paul Nicholls, who is the leading trainer in the race with 10 wins, Knappers Hill is unsurprisingly set to go off a short-priced favourite in here. He’s by far the highest rated in the line up off of 153, with his closest rival on ratings being the 140-rated Captain Conby, and it’s likely he’ll prove his class, having only found the more experienced Unexpected Party too good on chase debut last month. It was a promising debut despite losing, and I’m sure he’ll come on for the run, so he certainly looks the one to beat in this. He’s a two-time course winner from three runs, the perfect trainer for the race, the highest rating and is proven on soft ground, so I think he’ll take a world of beating and should justify his short price.
5. OPENING BID
(Chris Down/Bryan Carver)
Chris Down’s runner has the most experience over fences in this line up, but this will be by far his toughest assignment and he might just find this a step too far. He’s won five of his 12 races over fences so far in his career, including a comfortable victory last time out at Exeter where he never saw another rival. However, this is a big step up in class and all but one of his wins over fences have come on good ground (the other was on good to soft). His sole effort on soft ground saw him well beaten over hurdles, and I think the mix of the unsuitable ground and the big step up in class will mean he’ll struggle in this field.
6. LADY ADARE
(Harry Fry/Jonathan Burke)
The only mare in the line up, Lady Adare is the first mare to run in the race since If You Say Run finished runner-up in the 2019 renewal She was a fairly comfortable winner on chase debut in a mares only race, and she’ll likely find this a much tougher assignment. It’s also slightly worrying that she’s untested on soft ground and has been withdrawn from races previously when the ground has been soft, so it remains to be seen if she will line up here. It’s worth noting she is also entered in a Mares Handicap Chase at Kempton on Monday, so there’s every chance she could line up in that instead.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Adare and Opening Bid were pulled out of the race due to the ground, whilst I feel this will be a tough race for Givega to make his debut in. Of the debutants, I certainly feel Doyen Star will prove the better of the two, and there’s every chance he could remain unbeaten if he takes to fences. However, it’s difficult to get away from KNAPPERS HILL, who should be up to winning this and giving his master trainer a record 11th win in the race. Everything seems to be in his favour and unless Doyen Star can pull something special out of the bag, I think the favourite will win this fairly comfortably.
SELECTION: KNAPPERS HILL (win – 4/6 generally) + DOYEN STAR (E/W – 8/1 generally)
*Odds Correct At Time Of Writing – 1.35pm Friday 10th November*
Andrew Mount’s tip for Friday 10th November 2023.
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