National Hunt Chase Cup Tips - 5:30pm Cheltenham

The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup has been run for amateur riders now for 161 years and has been run more times than any other Cheltenham event. It’s distance was cut to about three miles and six furlongs last year after the controversy in 2019 when only four horses finished. At present this year’s renewal will be the first open to professionals only due to the ban on amateurs because of co-vid though that is very much on going. There are currently 59 entries with the maximum allowed to run 16 over the stamina sapping distance of 3m 5f 201 yards of the old course.

Ante-post favourite since the start of the season is the Gordon Elliott trained, Ronnie Bartlett owned Galvin. He’s won four of his eight starts over fences including a novice chase back in October at the track. Elliott said afterwards that he was going to put him away and train him specifically for this contest so his absence since then is in no way an issue. He also has Festival form as he placed 2nd in last season’s now defunct 2m 4f Novice’s Handicap Chase finishing 3 1/4 lengths behind the smart Imperial Aura receiving just 1lb. He does have to prove his stamina for this test mind as he’s never raced beyond 3 miles.

Gordon Elliott is also responsible for six other runners Aforementioned, Braeside, Coko Beach, Escoria Ten, Pencillfulloflead and Run Wild Fred. Thyestes Handicap Chase winner Coko Beach is maybe the best of that sextet. He improved massively for the application of blinkers winning that prestigious handicap off of 10-6 and is now rated 150, that’s only 1lb behind Galvin. Escaria Ten is also a progressive novice chaser who should be suited by this extreme trip. He ran 2nd in a grade 3 event at Naas in January. The winner that day was the Henry De Bromhead trained Eklat De Rire who looks smart. He’s a Irish point winner, hurdle winner and two from two over fences (including the aforementioned grade 3 event). His trainer was talking about the Festival Novices Chase (the old RSA) after the race but whether they want to avoid Monkfish is another matter. If he was given the green light for this he would be a major player.

Willie Mullin’s only has the two entered with his best appearing to be Asterion Forlonge who ran a credible 4th to Monkfish at the Dublin Racing Festival but he has other entries at the meeting.

Leading owner JP McManus only has the one entry and that’s the Nicky Henderson trained Dickie Diver who has only run five times in his career including just the once over fences when runner up in a novice’s handicap chase to Paint The Dream at Newbury over Christmas. His official mark of 141 is 10lb shy of Galvin’s but he is an improver.

Kim Bailey has a nice novice here rated 147 called Happygolucky. 4th in the Martin Pipe Handicap over hurdles last season, he’s won two of his three chases including here in December. He like many here has the option of the Festival Novices Chase over shorter, though obviously that route brings you into battle with Monkfish.

Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits has four entries at the meeting but doesn’t look the strongest in a finish all be it he has plenty of ability.

Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition was runner up in the Albert Bartlett last season to Monkfish and that horse has been his achilles heel this season as he’s been runner up to him in two grade ones at Leopardstown. He would be a major player here if taking this route to avoid yet another clash with Monkfish in the Festival Novice’s Chase.

Next Destination joined Paul Nicholls from Willie Mullins at the start of the season and has won both his novice chase’s for the Ditcheat based trainer. He was under the pump for a while until his stamina kicked in to take care of Fiddlerontheroof at Warwick in January. He was giving the runner up 5lb that day and it was a decent performance. He has some serious back form when with Mullins including when 3rd to Samcro in the Ballymore and winning the 3m grade 1 novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. The talk from assistant trainer Harry Derham after Warwick was that the Festival Novice’s Chase was the most likely next destination (no pun intended!) although that was prior to Monkfish’s demolition job at Leopardstown so maybe connections will have a re-think.

Evan William’s Welsh National victor Secret Reprieve will stay forever and obviously that’s in his favour but he does have to improve again here to take a hand in the finish.

Royale Pagaille is the best part of a stone higher than this field on official handicap ratings but will he run? The most improved chaser in training he’s looked a monster in his three successes for trainer Venetia Williams. Winning at Haydock in December and blowing two handicaps apart on desperate ground at Kempton and back at Haydock for the Peter Marsh. He has three entries at the Festival - the Festival Novices Chase which is highly unlikely as he is owned by the Ricci’s who also own hot favourite Monkfish, this event and the Gold Cup. With his high mark it surely makes sense to aim high and go for the Gold Cup but if he turned up here he would be a short price and probably win.

It’s hard to be confident who will run here with several having alternate entries but the one we know will be is Galvin who’s been trained for this by master trainer Gordon Elliott.

Punters Lounge Tip: Galvin @ 9/2 at William Hill - Click Here To Bet
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