CLOSE BROTHERS NOVICES’ HANDICAP CHASE INFO
Date: Tuesday (16:50), March 14, 2023
Type: Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase
Distance: 2 Miles 4 Furlongs
The race is run on day one of the Cheltenham festival, taking place this time around on Tuesday March 14th at 4.50PM, the penultimate race of the day. Open to those aged five and over, the Close Brothers Handicap Chase is one of the top novice handicaps of the season, carrying Listed status and being worth £70,000 in total, £39,000 of which will go to the winner.
A young race, the Close Brothers Novices’ has only been on the Cheltenham schedule since 2005 when the festival was first extended to four days but already it has firmly established itself on the National Hunt calendar. It provides horses perhaps not seen as good enough to contest races like the JLT Novices’ a chance to be weighted fairly and go for Cheltenham glory.
Entries are not yet open for the Close Brothers Handicap Chase and, given the sheer number of horses who could potentially be aimed at this race, no market is available for it either. As soon as the race begins to take shape and betting opens up, we will preview the event and offer some value ante post Close Brothers Handicap Chase tips. As of now, you can browse other Cheltenham races free bets, no runner no bet offers, and other Festival-related promos.
The Close Brothers Handicap Chase is a very competitive novice event, something reflected in the average price of the last ten winners for sure, while there is even more to glean from the facts of the last ten winners to help us make selections for the 2022 renewal.
The amazingly popular Hunt Ball was a real exception to the rule in so many ways, and he is the only one of the last ten winners of this event to have had a busy season. Eight of the other 9 (89%) had run either 3 or 4 times that season, suggesting a busy campaign would not be advantageous. 8 out of 10 (80%) had won that season, another 8 out of 10 were placed last time out and 10 out of 10 (100%) were placed either last time out, or the time before meaning strong recent form is essential.
True, this is a novices’ race, however that pertains to how many chase races they have had rather than their age, so we aren’t looking only for younger animals. A Plus Tard and Ballyalton are the only runners at the extremes of 5 and 9 years old, with the other eight runners (80%) all having been aged 6-8, with 6 or 7 being the ideal based on this evidence.
Just two favourites have won this in the last ten years, one being Hunt Ball who was a horse essentially belonging to the public and who was always going to be backed, the other being A Plus Tard who clearly had plenty in hand that we could not have known about. As for the other eight, they have gone off at an average SP of around 10/1 which in a race as competitive as this, is not huge. This is great for us, as it means while not being carried away with the market leader, we may look no further than those up to around 12 or 14/1 to find our most likely winner.
Naturally as a relatively new race nobody has dominated here, the leading jockey with two wins being Graham Lee who has long since transferred to flat racing in Britain, though he is matched by Brian Hughes who may well be competitive again this season. Ferdy Murphy is the record winning trainer, again with just two wins, so as yet no particular yard has truly excelled in this event.
Keep a close eye on all online bookmakers for Cheltenham offers this year, as despite last year’s generosity having contributed to an overall reduced gambling yield, the layers once again will absolutely need to remain competitive and so deals with surely be forthcoming.
Last year’s offers included Coral’s Double Your Winnings on the First Race at Cheltenham (up to £25), Betway Sports’ £30 in Free Bets and the Bet £10 Get £40 Cheltenham Special Sign Up deal from Betfred.
When betting opens up on the race, we can begin to seek out the great ante post value, especially with the probably advantage of ‘non-runner, no bet’ options and the chance to bet each-way.
The ante post market will no doubt by lively and will fluctuate every week as more races are run before the festival, while final declarations will be announced on Sunday March 8th. At that point we will see how many runners will take part, but it is likely to be above the 16 required to give us four places for each-way bets, however bookmakers may well offer even more.
Winner: Imperial Aura
Tipped by many for success in the Listed 2m 4f Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase (previously run as the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase), Imperial Aura was a welcome winner at the Cheltenham Festival for local Gloucestershire trainer Kim Bailey.
Always well supported in the market for this event, the seven-year-old went one better than when runner-up in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase on Festival Trials day at Cheltenham in January. Connections looked to have laid 4/1 joint-favourite Imperial Aura out for this particular race and he had certainly brushed up on his jumping since he previous run.
Having placed twice before at the course, he tracked the leaders and led approaching the penultimate fence. Imperial Aura then came under a ride from jockey David Bass and ran on strongly to put the race to bed. He could even afford to idle a little close home to score by 3 1/4 lengths from Gordon Elliott’s Irish raider Galvin, who attracted strong market support to also head the betting at the off. Hold The Note from the Mick Channon stable was a further nine lengths back in third.
Imperial Aura is sure to get a hike in the weights from his current official rating of 143 for that victory. It would be no surprise to see him take a step up in grade next season and try his luck in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham come November. On his course form – two seconds and now a victory at the Festival – Imperial Aura could even emerge as a possible Ryanair Chase contender in 2021, if continuing to make the further progress that he looks more than capable of.
Money had come pre-race for Joseph O’Brien’s Tower Bridge, but there was also plenty of interest surrounding Henry De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard considering owner Cheveley Park Stud’s new involvement in jump racing which was fascinating.
Strictly on form, A Plus Tard had something to find with this field off his handicap mark, but the money kept rolling in until he eventually went off the 5/1 favourite of twenty runners.
Having led early and remained prominent throughout, it seemed jockey Rachael Blackmore was supremely confident and in the end that was well founded, the pair going clear before the final fence to ultimately score by an impressive-looking 16 lengths at the line.