Footpad and Sceau Royal head Festival novice chase entries

Filed on 26 Jan 2018 @ 10:10

Entries for the three Grade One championship novices' chases at the Cheltenham Festival - the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase, the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase and the JLT Novices' Chase, have been unveiled.

Owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede have a strong hand in the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase with both hot favourite Footpad (Willie Mullins IRE) and Sceau Royal (Alan King) who top the 28 entries.

Footpad has looked the real deal in two starts over fences this season, having latterly defeated Any Second Now (Ted Walsh IRE) by 11 lengths in a G1 contest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, while Sceau Royal blitzed a strong field that included North Hill Harvey (Dan Skelton), Brain Power (Nicky Henderson) and Capitaine (Paul Nicholls) in the G1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown Park on December 9.

Footpad also has the option of the JLT Novices' Chase over two and a half miles. His trainer Willie Mullins accounts for nine of the 13 Irish-trained entries for the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase, with G1-winning hurdler Saturnas also among his team.

Last year's Champion Hurdle third Petit Mouchoir is one of two entries for fellow Irish handler Henry de Bromhead.

Lambourn-based Nicky Henderson, with six triumphs, is the most successful trainer in the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase. Britain's champion Jump trainer has two entries in Brain Power and River Wylde.

Bigmartre and Saint Calvados have been entered by Harry Whittington, who trains just to the north of Henderson, and both are unbeaten in two chase starts this term.

Irish trainers have a strong hand in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, with 28 of the 62 entries. They include 2017 Pertemps Network Final victor Presenting Percy (Patrick Kelly IRE), who has won two of his three starts over fences, and last year's G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle runner-up Monalee (Henry de Bromhead IRE).

Noel Meade has high hopes for Snow Falcon following his 28-length success in a beginners chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Prior to that, the eight-year-old, a dual G2 victor over hurdles, finished third behind Death Duty in the G1 Drinmore Novices chase at Fairyhouse on December 3.

Meade said: "Snow Falcon is in good form and the plan is to go for the Flogas Novice Chase [2m 5f] at Leopardstown on February 4.

"We have put him in the two races at Cheltenham - the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase and the JLT Novices' Chase. I suppose his run in the Flogas will give us more of an idea, although, at this stage, I would say the RSA looks more up his street, but we will see.

"Touch wood, he has been jumping fences better than he jumped hurdles, which is encouraging because he was a good hurdler. Fingers crossed, he can keep going the right way."

Gordon Elliott's 12 entries in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase include Leopardstown G1 scorer Shattered Love and Sutton Place, while Willie Mullins has 11 contenders to choose from.

Yanworth (Alan King) was among the best hurdlers last season, annexing G1 races over two miles and three miles, and may run here after landing the G2 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

Dorset-based Anthony Honeyball has two in-form contenders in dual Listed scorer Ms Parfois, one of six mares among the entries, and facile Kempton Park handicap scorer Fountain's Windfall. The last mare to win the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase was Brief Gale in 1995. G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase hero Black Corton (Paul Nicholls) is also engaged.

Willie Mullins has dominated the JLT Novices' Chase (59 entries), staged over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles, since its addition to The Festival in 2011, with four wins.

Mullins' 13 entries include Footpad, Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only and Bonbon Au Miel. The latter pair are owned by Andrea & Graham Wylie, successful in this race last year with Yorkhill and in 2016 with Black Hercules.

Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling) could try to follow up his victory in last year's G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at The Festival.

Other eye-catching names include the Gary Moore-trained Benatar, who is three from three over fences this campaign, French import Terrefort (Nicky Henderson) and recent Doncaster scorer Mount Mews (Malcolm Jefferson).

Gordon Elliott has an excellent record in the National Hunt Chase (70 entries) with three of his five starters having been successful. His 10 entries include 2016 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle runner-up Fagan and Punchestown G2 scorer Jury Duty.

Keeper Hill (Warren Greatrex) and the Colin Tizzard-trained duo, Elegant Escape and Sizing Tennessee, are also entered.

Filed on 26 Jan 2018 @ 10:10