Cheltenham 2018 – Close Brothers Novices H/C Chase

Ceebee previews the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and he has bets on Barney Dwan and Adrien Du Pont.

This is a handicap but it’s really a ‘B’ JLT. There’ll be 6lbs between top and bottom. So, give or take, the best horse will win. Adrien du Pont is the one I like.

He won 3 of his first 4 hurdle starts, including a defeat of Sceau Royal. His second season over hurdles was a bit of a right-off, despite being narrowly beaten in a French G1. This season however, over fences, he has been very good.

An easy winner on debut (2m5f on good and the form has worked out fairly well) before chasing home Willoughby Court and Yanworth. He got involved that day, getting close enough, and let’s face it both of those two would be very short off 145 here! The next time at Ascot, he went off like a scalded cat and didn’t get home. It wasn’t awful but he’s far better than that. The good news is Nicholls says he’ll be held up at the Festival and as a free going sort he’ll benefit from the strong pace. His final start was over an inadequate 2miles and during the quiet Nicholls January period. Back up in trip, ridden with restraint, I expect he’ll show up really well.

Barney Dwan is a bit obvious but he looks rock solid. He has the important festival form (2nd in Pertemps) and has won his last two chases in impressive fashion. He’s rated higher over hurdles so could be expected to be a little better than this 143 mark. I just wonder will this be a little sharp for him?

Tree of Liberty, 25/1 in a place, deserves a positive mention. 2 from 3 since joining Kerry Lee and the defeat behind Saint Calvados was not disgraceful. The big field is a bit of an unknown but he certainly arrives here in good form.

The same can be said for Testify who’s 3 from 3 but all his best form seems to be on soft or heavy ground, not ideal. He was a decent novice hurdler and wouldn’t be out of place in the JLT so is the right type.

Ozzie The Oscar won on his first start last season, on decent ground, before disappointing on two starts during the winter. He then ran a cracker to be beaten a length in the County Hurdle at 50/1. This season has been a replica to date. He won on his first outing, and chase debut, on decent ground, before disappointing on his next two starts through the winter. He has an obvious excuse - The Hobbs yard has been poor this season but may be rounding in to form at just the right time. It may leave his horses, like this guy, underrated. The 2m4f trip is an unknown so he may be of more interest in the Grand Annual.

Born Survivor also ran well at the 2017 Festival and was a good winner on his chase debut. Since then he’s been beaten twice but at Haydock on heavy ground it is definitely excusable. He’s a strong travelling sort who’ll be suited to this test and could be one at a fancy price. Currently 25/1.

Rather Be deserves his spot near the head of the market also. He has been an easy winner in his two completed chases and showed 2m4f on good ground with a big field was no issue at Aintree last spring.

Movewiththetimes hasn’t always been the easiest of rides. I also believe he’s a little overrated. I’m not a fan of that Betfair and Ballyandy hurdle form from last year. Finian’s Oscar put him in his place easily enough when conceding 8lbs, I don’t think he’s good enough.

The Unit looks a little shy on chasing experience. Tommy Silver goes for the Grand Annual. Art of Payroll hasn’t had the ideal prep. Sizing Tennessee looks exposed and below the level required. I’d like to have seen more from Kalondra last time. He has a few nice pieces of form but his most recent effort isn’t one.

Of the Irish… I’m a Tycoon Prince fan but coming here on the back of a fall isn’t ideal.

I would’ve said Any Second Now was a 2miler but they’ve taken him out of the Grand Annual and this is the target. I’m not sure he’s the plot people think he is. If you ask me he’s been trying on every start this season. Strange for such connections I know. He has kept good company but Monalee, Invitation Only and Footpad put him away with ease. He was no better than this over hurdles either.

De Plotting Shed is well-in on his best hurdles form but I’m not too sure about him. He’s lost his last 10 starts and was single figure odds for 7 of them. He’s far too short now.

Jett doesn’t travel and Patricks Park won’t get in. Livelovelaugh might be last in and of interest for popular connections but not for me.

Summary – at the head of the market I’m against De Plotting Shed, Movewiththetimes and Any Second Now. Preference would be for Barney Dwan or even Rather Be but in a competitive affair perhaps there’s more value a little further down the page.

Advised Bets:

1pt e/w Barney Dwan at 8/1 with Paddy Power and Boylesports

1pt e/w Adrien du Pont at 16/1 with Ladbrokes and Boylesports

Others to consider:

Born Survivor 25/1, Testify 20/1, Tree of Liberty 25/1