The Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase is the final race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
As a handicap for novices, results can be quite random, but that doesn’t deter punters from trying to find the winner. They were cheering last year when the well gambled on favourite Hunt Ball romped hom.
I’m sure no one will forget the scenes in the winners parade last season when the magnificent Hunt Ball landed a huge gamble for his exuberant owner Anthony Knott, who reportedly won over £700,000 on the horse winning.
The horse was perhaps the greatest story of the 2012 Festival. Hunt Ball started off last season winning from a measly mark of 69 before progressing incredibly up the ratings to winning at the Cheltenham Festival off nearly double that on his back.
The gelding finished the season on a mark of 157 after taking third in the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree.
Knott’s reaction in the winners enclosure was one of sheer joy and he will be hoping that the ground goes his way for a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup stint come March.
To see which horse comes out on top, catching the action with online bookmakers Coral is our recommendation. All punters need to do to access the HD coverage is to sign up to an account with Coral, place at least a £1 bet on the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and the race will be accessible at the click of a button. However, the bet placed has to be have struck on the day of the race. Any ante-post bets placed will not be valid to claim the live stream.
Planning an ante-post attack on a novices race is a tricky prospect due to the improving nature of the horses, so holding fire until the declarations before the Festival looks the way to place this market.
When going through the entries, keeping an eye on horses that fit certain trends for this race could be a theory to keep in mind.
For instance, the last eight winners of this race, including Hunt Ball, had finished first or second in their previous race before going to Cheltenham.
The best example of this was the 2011 winner Divers, who ran the week before his Festival win at Carlisle in order to get his rating high enough to get into the race.
Inexperience isn’t a bad thing in this race either, as six of the last eight winners had not won more than once over fences in their chasing career. It seems as though this race can bring out plenty of improvement in horses.
Even horses that haven’t tasted a success in their career can be a force in this race, as Fingeronthepulse won this race as a maiden in 2008 and two other maidens have finished placed despite a low pool percentage.
There are a couple of novices that look worth following with this race in mind. Super Duty is a horse that looks to have a bright future over fences and he looks the perfect handicap type that trainer Donald McCain likes to go to war with in races of this nature.
He finished behind Poungach on his chasing debut, which is form that has been nicely franked. McCain’s horse then showed a real liking for testing conditions when romping through the mud over the same course and distance as this race is run back in December.
Despite looking like a horse who appreciates tough going, McCain feels he is better than that, and he’s one not to rule out even on good conditions. It will be interesting to see what route McCain plots with the horse pre-Cheltenham.
Another horse to follow for the upcoming months looks to be Tiger O’Toole, who looks a horse capable of much better than his current mark. He ran the top-class Fingal Bay very close at Chepstow earlier in the season and will relish a stiff track like Cheltenham following a couple of below-par performances at tighter venues.