All you need to know about the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 14.
By Harry Allwood
When and where can I watch it? 1.30pm, Thursday, March 14, Cheltenham Racecourse, live in stunning HD on Racing TV.
What Grade? Grade One.
What Course? New Course.
What Distance? 2m4f (16 fences).
What Prize-money? £150,000 (Winner: £84,405).
Age restrictions: For 5yo +
Weights and Allowances: 11st 3lb (5yo). 11st 4lb (6yo +). Allowances - Mares 7lb.
Key statistics and trends:
All the past winners were aged either six or seven.
Seven of the past eight winners were sent off 7-1 or shorter. The only exception being Benefficient who won at odds of 20-1 in 2013.
Seven of the past eight winners had previously raced over fences between three and five times. The only winner not to have done was Yorkhill who won last year’s renewal on his third chase start.
Seven of the past eight winners were trained in Ireland. 2014 winner Taquin Du Seuil is the only British-trained winner.
Seven of the past eight winners had won at least two races over fences.
Seven of the past eight winners had won on their latest completed start over fences.
Seven of the past eight winners had previously won a Graded chase.
First run in 2011 and formerly known as the Jewson, the JLT Novices’ Chase is one of the newest races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Jewson were the original sponsors before insurance company JLT took over the sponsorship in 2014.
The quality has improved each year and the race has produced some future superstars, with the 2017 renewal working out particularly well.
Willie Mullins has won the race four times with three of those victories coming in the past four renewals. Ruby Walsh has also won three of the last four renewals and is the leading jockey.
Andrea & Graham Wylie recorded back-to-back wins in the race in 2017 when Yorkhill fended off the late challenge of Top Notch and are the leading owners.
Last seven winners:
2018 - Shattered Love:
Shattered Love showed the boys how it's done when she defeated her rivals by seven lengths under Jack Kennedy.
Gordon Elliott's mare cruised through the race before powering away from her rivals and continued Elliott's good run of form at the Festival.
Speaking after the race, Elliott said: "She's a good, big, tough mare - she looks like she's a gelding."
"Gigginstown buy these big, staying chasers and all credit to Jack Kennedy, he has come here and nothing is fazing him. She is a big girl and we are lucky to have her."
2017 – Yorkhill:
Yorkhill justified favouritism to gain his third win over fences and maintain his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles.
The 2015 Neptune winner was the first leg of a remarkable four-timer for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who had drawn a blank on the first two days of the Festival.
The form of the 2017 JLT has worked out extremely well as runner-up Top Notch won two Grade Twos earlier this season, and third-placed Disko won a Grade One and Grade Two chase on his next two starts.
Politologue, who finished fourth, has also won two Grade Twos since, as well as a Grade One, and is now one of the market leaders for this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
2016 – Black Hercules:
It was the perfect start for the Irish on St Patrick’s Day when Black Hercules battled bravely under Ruby Walsh to beat Bristol De Mai by three lengths, with L’Ami Serge a length further behind in third.
It was a 50th Cheltenham Festival success for Walsh, who said after the race: “He jumped super, travelled really well and dug really deep when I needed him to. He was tough.”
Black Hercules has not won a race since, and has not run since he finished third in a Grade Two Chase at Thurles in January 2017.
However, last year’s Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai and L’Ami Serge, who won the Grade One French Champion Hurdle in June 2017, have certainly boosted the form since.
2015 – Vautour:
Vautour produced one of the most impressive performances we have ever seen at the Festival when he jumped exquisitely and bolted up by 15 lengths.
It was Vautour’s second win at the Festival, having taken the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, and he went on to complete a Festival hat-trick when he produced another great round of jumping to win the Ryanair Chase in 2016.
Vautour sadly died when he was put down after a freak accident at Willie Mullins’ yard in November 2016. His owner Rich Ricci, who held the gelding in high regard, paid tribute afterwards and said: “Looking back, he was extraordinary at Cheltenham, he was a sight to see. I’ll never forget that JLT run, it was something to behold.”
2014 – Taquin Du Seuil:
A P McCoy fought through the pain barrier to record his second win in the JLT when he guided Taquin Du Seuil to a narrow victory in 2014.
The pair got the better of Uxizandre, who went on to win the Ryanair Chase 12 months later.
McCoy, who had taken a heavy fall in the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle the day before, said afterwards: “I was very sore last night when I was getting out of here. I’m very pleased for Jonjo O’Neill, he just gets them to perform this week. The horse is a survivor.”
2013 – Benefficient:
Benefficient caused a 20-1 upset when he powered home to beat hot favourite Dynaste and provided Bryan Cooper with his first Festival winner.
Cooper, who went on to complete a Festival hat-trick the next day when he guided the ill-fated Our Conor to victory in the Triumph Hurdle and Ted Veale in the County Hurdle, said afterwards: “This horse has done so much for me, he has given me my first Grade One and now my first Cheltenham win.
“I never missed a fence. He was wearing a hood for the first time and it made him settle down as he is a bit of a worrier.”
2012 – Sir Des Champs:
Sir Des Champs ran out an impressive winner of the JLT in 2012 and followed up his victory with a superb performance when he won the Grade One Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown by 36 lengths.
After his victory in the JLT, winning rider Davy Russell said: “Once he hit the tapes all I had to was keep him on his feet. He was brilliant - wing, wing, wing all the way. He never missed a beat at every fence.”
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding had won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap the year before, and was denied a Festival hat-trick when he finished second in the 2013 Gold Cup behind Bobs Worth under A P McCoy.
Sir Des Champs won 11 of his 25 races under Rules and now races regularly in point-to-points.
2011 – Noble Prince:
A P McCoy recorded his 200th winner of the season when he rode former French racer Noble Prince to victory in 2011. The Philip Hobbs-trained Wishful Thinking was sent off the well-backed 7-2 favourite but was unable to go with Noble Prince after the last and eventually finished four lengths adrift. Noble Prince was strongly fancied to follow up his JLT success in the Ryanair Chase 12 months later but failed to complete.
He ran the final race of his career when he was pulled up in a Hunter Chase at Leopardstown in February 2016 and was successful 10 times in his 52 starts under rules.
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