2020 National Hunt Chase tips – 5/1 shot to get corks popping

Runners and riders in the National Hunt Challenge Cup in 2019.

National Hunt Chase Tips

We take a look at this Grade Two on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and share our National Hunt Chase tips.

The National Hunt Challenge Cup is the oldest of all the 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival. During its 160-year history, many fantastic horses have scored in this Grade Two on day one of the Festival. The most famous winner of them all is Tiger Roll, who triumphed over the four mile trip, before going on to win two Cross Countrys and two Grand Nationals at Aintree.

There were clamours after last year’s renewal, where only four runners finished, to make the National Hunt Chase safer. So, the distance the entrants have to travel has been shortened by two furlongs. Horses need to have placed in a chase over 23 furlong or further, and there are criteria the amateur jockeys need to pass to take part in this historic race.

I’ve taken a look at each of the most likely runners in this historic Cheltenham Festival race and picked out my top 2020 National Hunt Chase tips.

National Hunt Chase tips – The Home Challenge

Danny Whizzbang

Left a lasting impression when winning the John Francombe on his chasing debut. Danny Whizzbang (14/1 Ladbrokes) was then hampered by a faller in the Kauto Star Chase, and could only recover well enough to finish an 18-length third. This test of staying ability will suit Paul Nicholls’ charge perfectly. I just worry Danny Whizzbang is a little too inexperienced for this attritional race.

Two For Gold

Kim Bailey’s charge will be looking to preserve an unbeaten record over fences at the Festival, having scored on all three of his starts. Last time, Two For Gold (16/1 Ladbrokes) got the better of Hold The Note in an epic finish to the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick. People will pick holes in that form, claiming he only outstayed a two-and-a-half-mile horse. But Two For Gold has done nothing wrong this term. He’s certainly a contender to be respected.

Copperhead

Has made rapid progress since going over fences. A 116-rated hurdler at his peak, Copperhead (20/1 Coral) has risen up the weight by almost 30-pounds this season, having won the Mandarin Handicap with 11-11 on his back. Now rated 145, Colin Tizzard may have his eye on the Kim Muir, but if Copperhead was to turn up here, he must be watched carefully.

National Hunt Chase tips – The Raiding Party

Carefully Selected

A fine stayer over hurdles, placing in a Grade One on just his second outing over obstacles. Carefully Selected (4/1 William Hill) managed to claim victory on his first couple of starts over fences, despite several notable errors. Willie Mullins then reluctantly turned his charge out at Navan, just two weeks after his second outing at Punchestown, with the view to qualifying for the National Hunt. Carefully Selected managed to get the job done in that Grade Three, and he’ll be primed to run a big race under Patrick Mullins.

Champagne Classic

The former Martin Pipe winner was due to run in this race 12 months ago, only for injury to rob him of a return to the Cheltenham Festival for the second year in a row. Champagne Classic (5/1 Ladbrokes) opened his second season as a novice with comfortable victories at Fairyhouse and Wexford. Gordon Elliott’s charge then ran a good race behind Battleoverdoyen in the Neville Hotels, passing the post less than two length behind his stablemate. He should have no trouble seeing out this trip and Jamie Codd will almost certainly get booked to take the ride.

First Approach

Noel Meade’s charge has been beaten by Minella Indo on all of his three most recent starts, the first two coming in Grade One novice hurdle last term. First Approach (25/1 Ladbrokes) then lost out to that same rival as he made his chasing debut at Navan. First Approach looks a strong staying chaser in the making, but whether he has the class or experience to compete here is unlikely. He won’t feature in my final 2020 National Hunt Chase tips.

Carefully Selected leads the market for the National Hunt Chase.

National Hunt Chase tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Sam Brown

Returned from a long injury lay-off earlier in the season and bolted up on his chasing debut. Sam Brown (16/1 Coral) then collected his first Graded prize, powering to victory in the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock. Anthony Honeyball came agonisingly close to winning this with Ms Parfois two years ago, so he could throw Sam Brown into the mix. A run in the RSA Chase looks more likely.

Truckers Lodge

Took three starts to get off the mark over fences, winning at Chepstow back in October. Paul Nicholls’ novice then produced a fantastic staying display in the Welsh Grand National, where Truckers Lodge (20/1 William Hill) went down by just two lengths to Potters Corner. A proven stayer over this sort of trip, he could mount a serious challenge. It’s a big leap from handicap to Grade Two company, though.

Speak Easy

Returned after a year out of action with a fine third behind Ronald Pump in a competitive handicap. Speak Easy (25/1 Coral) was then staying on for second behind Carefully Selected at Punchestown in January, only to fall at the final flight. Joseph O’Brien’s charge will need to place over three miles between now and the Festival to get into the National Hunt Chase. If he does, then two-time winning jockey, Derek O’Connor will probably take the ride.

Forza Milan

Really struggled on his first three starts over staying distances for Jonjo O’Neil. However, since moving to Ireland, Forza Milan (25/1 William Hill) has placed second in two good quality staying chases, including a close second behind Carefully Selected at Navan. I’m still not convinced James Nash’s charge is a Graded-quality chaser, but he could challenge for the places.

National Hunt Chase tips – Look At Those Odds

Smoking Gun

Bolted up under JJ Slevin to beat Early Doors in a 25-furlong contest at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. Smoking Gun (33/1 Ladbrokes) was then backed into favouritism for the Thyestes Handicap Chase, but couldn’t land a blow, trailing over the line ninth. Joseph O’Brien’s charge looked good at Punchestown, but he’d need to take his form up a notch or two to get involved here.

Newtide

Kim Bailey’s charge may have been fortunate to score in the Towton last time, as Boldmere was looking the most likely winner before his fall at the last. Yet, Newtide (33/1 Coral) still managed to beat a good-quality yardstick in Ardlethen by five lengths that day, making it two from two over fences. Neither course nor distance should pose any problems. He’s certainly worth a second look at that price.

Lord Du Mesnil

Having racked up a hat-trick of staying handicap victories, Lord Du Mesnil (33/1 Coral) has flown up the weights by 32-pounds since the start of the season. Considering Richard Hobson’s charge received RPRs in the low 150s for his two most recent victories, his current mark of 147 doesn’t look unreasonable. I think there’s a strong chance the team will target the Ultima, but he could make an appearance in the National Hunt Chase tips.

Tower Bridge

Joseph O’Brien’s charge has always looked a strong stayer. Having placed second behind A Plus Tard in last year’s Close Brothers, I was expecting Tower Bridge (50/1 Ladbrokes) to really kick on. Sadly, O’Brien’s charge has still been unable to find that first victory over fences, finishing fourth on his reappearance before failing to complete two big staying handicaps. Tower Bridge still needs to qualify for the National Hunt, but he’d be one to watch if he did manage to get in.

Ardlethen

Upset Lisnagar Oscar on his first start over fences. Ardlethen (66/1 Coral) has since placed in two Graded races, while also finishing fifth at Warwick behind Two For Gold. Dan Skelton’s charge hasn’t got the quality to win Graded prizes over three miles. But he does seem to have a big engine and could be well suited to this sort of test.

Champagne Classic (right) follows stablemate Battleoverdoyen home in a Grade One over Christmas.

National Hunt Chase tips – Verdict

While I think Ardlethen is overpriced on 66/1, of those sitting on each-way prices, Two For Gold is the one who stands out. If Kim Bailey can secure a notable jockey booking, someone of the stature of a Will Biddick or a Sam Waley-Cohen, then Two For Gold’s odds will plummet towards single figures. So, if you fancy Bailey’s unbeaten chaser, you’re better off getting on now.

The problem is, there are two horses of genuine Grade One quality sitting at the top of the market. They will also be ridden by two of the finest amateur jockeys around, in Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd, who have accounted for four of the last seven National Hunt Chase winners.

Carefully Selected has been all the rage in the betting since January and he’ll have no trouble seeing out this trip. Willie Mullins’ charge has, however, been very sketchy in the jumping department on all three of his starts and a mistake here would surely ruin his chances.

CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC has been much more convincing over his fences this season, winning well twice while also placing in a Grade One. The former Festival winner was my ante-post selection in this race last year before his withdrawal, and I identified Champagne Classic as my best long-term punt at the start of this season too.

I think Elliott’s mount has everything going for him in this race and Jamie Codd will be the perfect partner to help Champagne Classic claim his second Cheltenham Festival title. He’ll be my sole 2020 National Hunt Chase tip, and remains one of my strongest fancies for the entire meeting.