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Cheltenham Festival Race Previews: National Hunt Chase

Will Venetia Williams wave off the Gold Cup for this contest with Royale Pagaille?

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Galvin ridden by jockey Robbie Power (eventual winner background) and Doctor Duffy with jockey Jonathan Burke clear a fence during the (Old) Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices' Chase (GBB Race) at Cheltenham Racecourse.

In the final contest on Tuesday’s card, the National Hunt Chase could see an unprecedented clash between two exciting prospects.

Royale Pagaille, who stormed into the limelight after an impressive victory in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase in January, has seen his price significant trimmed for this contest in recent weeks.

The seven-year-old is now as short as 6/4 in some places, suggesting that his connections have resisted the temptation of a Gold Cup tilt and have decided to target the Grade 2 contest instead.

Royale Pagaille remains favourite for the National Hunt Chase, despite talks of a possible crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Venetia Williams’ mount dismounted long-time market favourite Galvin from the top of the betting earlier in the week, who has been equally impressive this season.

The seven-year-old came second to Imperial Aura in the now-defunct Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase last year and has continued to progress, winning all four starts over fences this term.

He has been kept fresh purely for this contest, with his last run coming at Prestbury Park in October.

It could potentially be a three-way tussle, should Paul Nolan decide to send last season’s Albert Bartlett runner-up Latest Exhibition here.

The eight-year-old has finished behind Monkfish three times in the last year, and it seems that Willie Mullins’ talented novice could just be too good for him.

The gelding does hold entries in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, but he would have to take on Envoi Allen and Monkfish once again.

Paul Nolan has expressed his desire to win and to ‘not finish second again’, so it would not be the biggest of shocks if Latest Exhibition did end up in this race.

One of the few horses to beat Monkfish, Longhouse Poet got his season back on track with a win in a Beginners Chase at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.

Longhouse Poet was beaten by Latest Exhibition at Leopardstown last season, but the two will not reignite their rivalry in this year’s National Hunt Chase

The form of that win has been looking more impressive in time, with both Run Wild Fred and The Big Dog producing solid efforts in big-field handicaps.

Martin Brassil’s gelding is relatively unexposed and could well be open to further improvement, with his 12/1 price tag kicking up some each-way value.

Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve holds an entry in this contest, and the seven-year-old would be well in the mix if Evan Williams doesn’t swerve this for the Grand National.

Paul Nicholls’ Next Destination will only run in this contest is there is no cut in the ground, while Lord Royal holds Willie Mullins’ only entry in this race and will be a shorter price on the day.

Next Destination (right) finished third in the 2018 Ballymore and remains unbeaten over fences as a novice

An interesting contest to round up the opening day of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

BEST SELECTIONS:
  • Royale Pagaille @ 2/1 (William Hill)
  • Longhouse Poet E/W @ 12/1 (Coral)
watch: 12-1 shot ravenhill sees off lord du mesnil in the 2020 national hunt chase under jamie codd

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