Delta Work, already as short as 8/1 for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, is the odds-on favourite in Saturday's Neville Hotels Novice Chase betting, with few willing to challenge a potential superstar.
As with most top Irish chases, one has to look beyond just the owners given that Gigginstown House Stud has won the Neville Hotels Novice Chase three times in the last four years.
Gordon Elliott trained two of those winners and owner JP McManus has had a horse placed in all of those renewals too, but youth is a key Neville Hotels Novice Chase trend as six-year-olds have won every renewal since 2014, when Don Poli won aged five.
The last horse aged older than six to win was Carlingford Lough, who was victorious in 2013. Only three favourites have won since 2010 and one of them was odds-on in a four-runner-race, so the market leader is not always the one to be on.
Delta Work is the 8/11 favourite, the Cheltenham Festival winner having made a perfect start to his chasing career with two wins from two runs, including the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
That day at Fairyhouse he showed a great attitude to get past Le Richebourg, who has since won the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase, despite a bad mistake at the last.
He ought to be right at home back up from that distance of 2m4f to this trip of 3m and the ground should not bother him either, so he has to be a strong favourite and a major contender for the RSA Chase further down the line.
Second in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase betting is Chris’s Dream (5/2 Paddy Power), whose disappointed when well beaten in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham when he was far too close to a scorching pace.
He is an improved horse now though, his chasing debut at Navan a testament to that fact; Faced with a two smart opponents in Gun Digger and Shady Operator, he was an excellent winner from the front, when clearly wanting to go further and he will shake up the favourite. It will be interesting to see who gets the lead from the pair.
Considering how impressive he was last season in the Grade 2 Michael Purcell Novices’ Hurdle and at the Cheltenham Festival in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, Blow By Blow (10/1 Betfair) is one to consider.
The catch is that his form is not consistent. After those brilliant runs last term, he was well beaten at Fairyhouse and Punchestown, and he could muster only seventh in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase last time out, having won his chasing debut by 17 lengths, and been a neck-second in a Grade 2.
Nick Lost (14/1 Paddy Power) was eight-and a-half lengths behind Blow By Blow that day, and will have to make a marked improvement to get involved, while Minella Fair (16/1 Paddy Power) looked a proper grinder when running away with a Clonmel Novice’ Hurdle in March, but hasn't run this season.
The form of Champagne Classic’s Grade 1 win at the Punchestown Festival in 2017 is amongst the strongest in Neville Hotels Novice Chase, but he has been off the track since then and this would have to be a watching brief if he turned up.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Mortal (14/1 Betfair) instantly achieved more over fences in one start than he did over hurdles with a game success in a beginners’ chase over the very useful Any Second Now. Moonshine Bay (50/1 Paddy Power), a subsequent winner, was beaten 15 lengths there, but looks a stayer, so this race should suit him more and there is plenty to work with.
Judgement Day (16/1 Betfair) made it a four-timer over fences with a win at Punchestown in a rated novice chase, when giving 10lbs to the runner-up, no mean feat given that said runner up was a previous winner, who was beaten by two and a half lengths. The six-year-old, who fits our age trend, is clearly thriving and is not to be underestimated.
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