2020 Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – Tips for day three’s opener

The runners and riders in last year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Marsh Novices’ Chase Tips

We take a look at the opening Grade One on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and share our Marsh Novices’ Chase tips for Thursday 12th March.

Formerly known as the JLT, the Marsh Novices’ Chase always gets day three at Cheltenham off to the ideal start. It’s fitting that Irish horses have dominated the opener on St Patrick’s Day at the Cheltenham Festival, with top-quality chasers like Sir Des Champs and Vautour featuring amongst the seven Irish champions since the race was introduced nine years ago.

This year’s renewal promises to be as thrilling as ever, and I’ve taken a look at the most likely runners to provide you with my Marsh Novices’ Chase tips.

Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – The Home Challenge

Itchy Feet

Ran a blinder at Cheltenham last year, finishing third behind Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Itchy Feet (6/1 Coral) then went into the Scilly Isles Chase on the back of a simple novice chase success over just two rivals at Leicester. Olly Murphy’s charge looked a class above his rivals that day, handing his trainer a first Grade One success with a superb round of jumping. I’m quite sceptical about how well the form of that Scilly Isles will work out. Itchy Feet is a prime contender here none-the-less.

Mister Fisher

A mistake three-out proved costly on Mister Fisher’s (8/1 Unibet) chasing debut, as he went down by three lengths to Torpillo. Nicky Henderson’s charge then took care of Good Boy Bobby over course-and-distance here at Cheltenham, quickening clear in eye-catching fashion after the last. Mister Fisher dropped back to two miles and ground out a first Graded victory in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster. He looks set to serve up a strong challenge.

Reserve Tank

Improved leaps and bounds on good spring ground at the end of his novice hurdles campaign, sealing back-to-back Grade Ones at Aintree and Punchestown. Colin Tizzard was then keen to exploit decent ground early in the autumn, sending Reserve Tank (16/1 William Hill) out three times over fences. Although he managed to win the Rising Stars at Wincanton, Tizzard’s charge was beaten by Jarvey’s Plate on debut at Chepstow, and didn’t jump well at all when second in the John Francombe. Dropping back to two-and-a-half-miles should be ideal, but I think Reserve Tank has a lot to prove in the jumping department. He won’t be one of my Marsh Novices’ Chase tips.

Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – The Raiding Party

Faugheen

I was one of many who thought it was incredibly risky going novice chasing with a 12-year-old, especially when you look at the form Faugheen (6/1 Paddy Power) had shown over hurdles the past 18 months. As it turns out, Willie Mullins’ star has looked a natural over fences, staying on to beat Samcro in a Grade One at Limerick over Christmas. Paul Townend’s mount then held on at the front to beat Easy Game in the Flogas at the Dublin Racing Festival. I’d have thought that Faugheen’s form and popularity would have propelled him into 2/1 or 3/1 favouritism after Leopardstown. The fact he remains a 6/1 shot, therefore, is very interesting.

Easy Game

Got the better of stablemate Allaho to win on his chasing debut at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. Robbie Power’s mount was then one of the first off the bridle in the Flogas, but Easy Game (12/1 William Hill) just kept finding down the home straight and came within half-a-length off foiling Faugheen’s fanfare. Willie Mullins’ charge didn’t run well in the Ballymore last year, despite being backed into 7/1 before the off. He’s clearly a better chaser than a hurdler, though, and deserves his spot near the head of the betting.

Allaho

Looked to be in need of the run when finishing behind Easy Game at Leopardstown. Allaho (8/1 Coral) then announced his intentions over fences with a bloodless triumph at Fairyhouse, securing a 21-length victory from the front. Having finished close behind Minella Indo in two Grade Ones last term, I’m expecting Allaho to line up against that same rival in the RSA. However, the fact he’s sitting so close to Faugheen in the betting suggests Mullins might pull the old switch-a-roo!

Faugheen and Paul Townend lap up the applause after Leopardstown.

Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Black Op

Black Op (14/1 William Hill) is actually the third-highest British runner in the Marsh Novices’ Chase betting, having run consistently well over fences so far this term. However, his best result came in the three-mile Kauto Star at Kempton, where Tom George’s charge crossed the line a half-length runner-up. I would be amazed if Black Op turned up here instead of the RSA. He simply doesn’t have the quick enough, or slick enough over his fences to win a Grade One over this sort of distance.

Fakir D’Oudairies

Joseph O’Brien’s charge has been impressive during his first season over fences, making the most of his weight-for-age to win the Drinmore by a streak. Mark Walsh then didn’t cover himself in glory at Leopardstown, where Fakir D’Oudairies (12/1 Coral) went down narrowly to Notebook. I think two-and-a-half miles is indeed Fakir D’Oudairies’ best trip, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the team chose the Marsh over the Arkle. However, soft ground is key to his chances, and he’s much more likely to get that on day one than day three. With that in mind, the Arkle would be his most suitable assignment.

Samcro

Has really drifted out of Festival reckoning since Limerick, where Samcro (12/1 Unibet) was beaten comfortably by Faugheen. Despite a late fall in the Drinmore, punters were still keen to side with the former Ballymore winner in that Grade One. Yet, doubts that Gordon Elliott’s charge isn’t a strong finisher resurfaced, as Samcro found little in the closing stages and was outstayed by Faugheen. There’s a strong chance Samcro will turn up in the Marsh to try and rebuild his crumbling reputation. Yet, there’s a voice in the back of my mind telling me he could end up running in the Arkle.

Bapaume

Failed his test of speed in the Arkle Trial at the Dublin Racing Festival, where Bapaume (20/1 William Hill) was beaten out of sight as Notebook and Cash Back fought out the finish. Willie Mullins’ charge was a strong stayer over hurdles, so he was never likely to prosper over the minimum distance. This looks his most likely Cheltenham assignment and Bapaume will jump as well as any of his peers. Would I back him to win? No.

Melon

Melon (25/1 Unibet) has managed to win one of his three starts over fences, surviving a late error to score at Leopardstown over Christmas. Mullins’ eight-year-old was comfortably beaten by Fakir D’Oudairies on debut, and trailed over the line a 20-length fourth behind Notebook last month. I think Melon will run in the Arkle. He won’t win it, though.

Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – Look At Those Odds

Midnight Shadow

Sue Smith’s star took advantage of a late fall from Champ to snatch victory in the Dipper here at Cheltenham. Midnight Shadow (25/1 Paddy Power) then backed up that performance with a runner-up finish at Sandown, where he was powerless to deny Itchy Feet in the Scilly Isles. I’ve actually been a little underwhelmed with the way Midnight Shadow has jumped since switching to fences. I don’t think he has the class to win this Grade One. He won’t be one of my Marsh Novices’ Chase tips.

Simply The Betts

Harry Whittington’s charge really impressed on Trials Day. Having made most of the running, Simply The Betts (25/1 William Hill) fought back when passed by Imperial Aura and stayed on gamely after the last to seal a taking victory. I’m sure the Close Brothers would have been at the forefront of Whittington’s mind going into Trials Day. An outing in that handicap is now out of the question, after Simply The Betts was bumped up to 149. A run in the Brown Advisory Plate is more likely than an outing in this Grade One.

Good Boy Bobby

One who will probably make an appearance in the Marsh is Good Boy Bobby (33/1 Coral), despite being comfortably beaten in the Scilly Isles at Sandown. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge shaped well behind Brewin’upastorm on debut, before a snug victory on his second start over fences. Good Boy Bobby was fancied by many at Sandown, but weakened alarmingly after the second-last. I couldn’t have him on my mind after that.

Tornado Flyer

Completed a clean sweep of the places for Willie Mullins in the Flogas, where Tornado Flyer (40/1 Unibet) stayed on to finish third. This Grade One bumper winner flopped on the big-stage twice over hurdles, but seems much more comfortable over the larger obstacles, despite falling on his second-start. He shaped more like a stayer at Leopardstown to me. I’d be surprised if he had the pace to win this.

Fanion D’Estruval

Venetia Williams’ chaser showed a smart turn-of-foot on his British debut, bolting up in a handicap at Newbury. Fanion D’Estruval (50/1 William Hill) was then fancied in the Wayward Lad, but Charlie Deutsch’s mount never looked comfortable that day, jumping poorly at practically every obstacle. It’s a testament to the potential this horse has that he was only beaten four lengths in the end. A run in the Arkle looks likely, but I really think he’ll be suited by a step up in distance. Fanion D’Estruval is one to watch at a massive price.

Mister Fisher clears the last to win at Cheltenham’s International Meeting.

Marsh Novices’ Chase tips – Verdict

It’s hard to second-guess what Willie Mullins is going to do at the best of times, and the betting isn’t giving punters any pointers here. If Faugheen is going to run at Cheltenham, then you’d think it would be here. However, there’s no doubt he would stay the RSA trip, and considering the way he’s run at Cheltenham the past two seasons, I wouldn’t be shocked if they bypassed the meeting and went straight to Punchestown.

Allaho scares me. I think he’s the classiest chaser in the betting and looks open to plenty of improvement. Yet, there’s a strong chance he will run in the RSA, so I’m going to take a slight chance and back MISTER FISHER.

Nicky Henderson’s charge was always going to have a tough task on his hands giving weight to a race-fit Torpillo on debut, and the two-mile trip proved a little stiff in the end. Mister Fisher had to be bumped along a couple of times in the Rymans Novices’ Chase second-time out, but I thought he responded to his rider’s urgings really well, eventually sealing a snug victory over Good Boy Bobby.

Once again, Nico needed to ask Mister Fisher for an effort in the Lightning Novices’ Chase up at Doncaster, and again Mister Fisher produced the goods. The likes of Al Dancer and Lisp are proper two-milers, but Mister Fisher swept past them with ease and hung on well in the closing stages. He’s already proven over course-and-distance, and the decent ground they’re likely to get on day three should suit him perfectly. Mister Fisher will be my sole Marsh Novices’ Chase tips at an appealing each-way price.