The Challow Novices Hurdle was first run in 1971 and horses like Denman, Reve De Sivola, Fingal Bay and Tarquin Du Seuil have all come home in front in this grade one over two miles four in the last few renewals.
This race acts as a nice way to end a great week of racing- both in Britain and Ireland. Clan Des Obeaux won the King George beating previous winner Thistlecrack and Verdana out-galloped stablemate Buveur D’Air to win the Christmas Hurdle for the girls. Altior proved his dominance of the two mile chase division with an incredible performance in the Desert Orchid. Apple’s Jade made easy work over in Ireland in a Grade One and Kemboy thrust himself into the Gold Cup picture with a stunning win in the Savills Chase for Willie Mullins.
This is now the final Grade One race of 2018. Last year, there was a thrilling finish to this race after Adrian Heskin made a race of it and kicked for home before three out on the Tom George trained Mulcahys Hill. He was chase by Fergal O’Brien trained Poetic Rhythm and prevailed by a short head as Mulcahys Hill began to tire. The third horse went on to win the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. There were jubilant scenes in the winners enclosure from the O’Brien team as it was their first grade one victory.
The team have a good chance of winning it again with Coolanly. This horse won his only bumper start in October 2017 and then followed in the unbeaten Vinndication at Leicester in December 2017 by four and a half. Connections must must think a lot of him as he ran in grade one company on his last two starts of that campaign but was well beaten. He fell in the Persian War when favourite on his reappearance and then won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade two) in very nice style beating the classy Pym. He seems to have matured over the summer so it probably is a good thing that he never over hurdles last season and he can still run in novice company this season.
Champ got beaten a neck by Vinndication in January 2018 so, based on that, looks to have a better chance than Coolanly. The Nicky Henderson gelding isn’t dissimilar to the Fergal O’Brien runner as he failed to win in his first season jumping but has won his last three by a combined twenty five lengths. Aidan Coleman gave him a peach of a ride in a class two hurdle last time out but the horse was very keen. His stamina is assured and he is already rated 150 so warrants being the favourite.
Paul Nicholls has had nine winners from thirty runners since Saturday. Four of which, two grade ones, were partnered by Harry Cobden. This trainer-jockey combination have Getaway Trump in the line up. This horse is one of my ‘20 To Watch’ horses. I know someone who has a share in him with Owners Group 023 and I began to follow him when he ran in bumpers. He didn’t settle on both attempts in flat races but showed ability. He was very keen on his first hurdle start and a blunder out an end to his chances. Then he was electric on his next two starts and began to repay some of the £90,000 connections paid for him. This is a huge step up in grade for the son of Getaway but he has a good chance and will most likely come on for this race.
Alsa Mix is getting a 7lbs allowance as she is a mare and that boosts her chances. She is unbeaten in point to points and under rules. Last time out, she won a grade two at Sandown very well but she has the lowest official rating of the ones rated. Despite this, Alan King’s mare isn’t without a chance. Kateson is unbeaten over hurdles and last time out he won over course and distance. The Black Sam Bellamy gelding improved for the step up in trip last time out and has claims but this is a big step up in grade for him.
Nestor Park was extremely keen when beaten about fifteen lengths in behind Coolanly on his hurdles bow in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle in November but settled well to win a big field maiden last time out. He ran in good company last year so connections must think a lot of him but this looks a tough ask. Only a half length split this horse and Brewin’upastorm in a listed bumper in February with the latter prevailing. He hadn’t been seen since then when winning a novice hurdle last time out over one mile seven furlongs. This is a big step up in grade and distance for this horse and, similarly to the aforementioned horse, this could be a bit hot for him.
Overall, I think CHAMP looks a progressive type and his recent course and distance success makes me just prefer him to Getaway Trump, who himself looks a nice type for the future. This may come a little soon for him but I don’t doubt he will a grade one one day though and could be the each way value at about 8/1.