Classic Novices’ Hurdle

The Classic Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle race run over 2 miles and 56 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in late January. The race was inaugurated, over the slightly longer distance of 2 miles and 110 yards, in 2005 and initially run as the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices’ Hurdle. Sponsorship subsequently passed to Ballymore Properties, Neptune Investment Management and back to Ballymore in 2018.

Nicky Henderson, who was responsible for Aigle D’Or (2008), Bobs Worth (2011), Santini (2018) and Birchdale (2019), and Alan King, who was reponsible for Batonnier (2012), Ordo Ab Chao (2015), Yanworth (2016), and North Lodge (2022), are the leading trainers in the history of the Classic Novices’ Hurdle. Bobs Worth, of course, went on to complete a notable hat-trick at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Spa Novices’ Hurdle (2011), the RSA Chase (2012) and the Cheltenham Gold Gup (2013) in successive years.

The 2007 winner, Wichita Lineman, also won twice at subsequent Cheltenham Festivals, justifying favouritism in the Spa Novices’ Hurdle (2007) and the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase (2009); on the latter occasion, the King’s Theatre gelding was the subject of a memorable ride – later voted the greatest in the history of the Cheltenham Festival – by A.P. McCoy.

The 2023 renewal of the Classic Novices’ Hurdle is scheduled for Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 28. Horses that feature prominently in the ante-post betting for the Spa Novices’ Hurdle, a.k.a. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, are an obvious starting point, but punters might like to note that just two of the last ten favourites for the Classic Novices’ Hurdle have won. That said, eight of the last ten winners were in the first three in the betting, with the other two returned at 12/1 and 16/1 respectively.

Cotswold Chase

The Cotswold Chase is a Grade 2 steeplechase run over 3 miles, 1 furlong and 156 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in late January. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the race is scheduled for Festival Trials Day, six weeks ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, where it serves as a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cotsworld Chase was inaugurated, as the Tote Double Chase, in 1980 and, notwithstanding weather-related abandonments, has been run under various sponsored titles ever since. The race was awarded Listed status following the revision of the National Hunt Pattern in 1989 and, although demoted for much of the nineties, was promoted to Grade 2 status in 1999.

Since 1980, just three horses – namely Little Owl (1981), Master Oats (1995) and Looks Like Trouble (2000) – have completed the Cotswold Chase/Cheltenham Gold Cup double in the same season. That said, See More Business (1998, 2001) won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1999, Native River (2021) did so in 2018 and Neptune Collonges (2011) and Many Clouds (2015, 2017) won the Grand National in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Paul Nicholls, trainer of See More Business and Neptune Collonges, also saddled Taranis (2010) and Frodon (2019) to victory and is the most successful handler in the history of the Cotswold Chase.

Recent Charlie Hall Chase winner Bravemansgame is currently 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Nicholls has expressed reservations about his credentials for the ‘Blue Riband’ event. He said, ‘He still doesn’t convince me he is a dour three-and-a-quarter-mile stayer until he proves otherwise…’ Trends-wise, just two of the last ten favourites for the Cotswold Chase have won, but previous course form, preferably winning form, and an outing within the last eight weeks are important factors to bear in mind.