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2014 JLT Novices' Chase tips: Oscar Whisky to land spoils on day three opener at Cheltenham

Oscar Whisky is Brian Healy's choice to land the opener on day three of the Cheltenham Festival.

Brian Healy previews the opening race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the JLT Novices’ Chase.

On day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the opening contest is the JLT Novices’ Chase and rates as another competitive event.

With twelve runners going to post for the day’s opening race, we take a runner-by-runner look at the field.

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Captain Ocana

Has shown some reasonable form over hurdles in his native Ireland a couple of years ago, but beaten out of sight behing Oscar Whisky two starts ago, and down the field in a Kempton jumpers’ bumper latest.

A winner of fences at Wexford in July last year, his best form falls a mile short of the best of these and he is well out of his depth here.

Double Ross

Gutsy front-runner who won here three starts ago when seeing off Cantlow in the Stewart Family Gold Cup and followed up next time when landing the Fairlawne Handicap Chase, both over this distance.

Lost little in defeat when second to Wishfull Thinking last time over course and distance, and while this is a tougher assignment now he can go well.

Felix Yonger

Runner up in 2012 Neptune Hurdle behind Simonsig and off for a year after flopping next time at Punchestown, but has quickly developed into a very smart chaser and won his first three starts over the larger obstacles.

Can count the likes of Defy Logic and Trifolium amongst his chasing victims, and not seen at his best in testing ground the last twice at Limerick and Leopardstown.

The drying ground will surely help, and Willie Mullins’ charge can make a bold bid to regain winning ways.

Mozoltov 

Smart Irish raider who has won three of four starts over fences, beating Don Cossack on his chase debut but no match for Trifolium two starts ago.

Returned to winning ways with an easy winner over Folsom Blue at Naas but makes mistakes and could find this a tough assignment. Not without a chance if cutting out the jumping mistakes, but needs to pull out more.

Off The Ground 

Smart hurdler who has quickly surpassed his form over smaller obstacles and was an impressive winner at Doncaster last time, beating Tahiti Pearl.

That was his second successive win, having earlier beaten Woodbank at the same venue but was no match for Annacotty previously when tried over three miles in softer ground and may not have gotten home there.

Much more at home over this trip, and the ground has come right for him so he could go well after a break to freshen him up, but balance of form leaves him something to find.

Oscar Whisky 

Top-class hurdler who found stamina stretched at three miles and pulled up in last year’s World Hurdle.

Has quickly developed into an equally-smart chaser, improving on his chasing debut defeat to Taquin Du Seuil to land three on-the-trot since, including gaining revenge on that rival over course and distance.

He was made to pull out all the stops at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase but conditions were desperate that day so his effort was all the more creditable. There’s certainly more to come from him on this better ground, and with an enviable Cheltenham record, he could take plenty of beating.

Sizing Gold 

Useful hurdler and lightly raced over fences having just the two starts thus far. Won on his debut over the larger obstacles when four lengths too good for Mullaghanoe River, and second last time to the smart Foxrock.

Henry de Bromhead’s runner is open to plenty of improvement, but this is a tough ask for one so relatively inexperienced over fences although no forlorn hope and could land each-way money.

Taquin Du Seuil 

Beaten by Oscar Whisky at Cheltenham two starts ago, but back to winning ways last time in a Haydock Grade Two, beating RSA Chase winner O’Faolain’s Boy who pulled up in that race.

Looks to have more to come and beat Oscar Whisky over course and distance on fast ground previously; well worth considering and shouldn’t be far away although always the potential to miss out a fence.

Uxizandre 

Decent hurdler who has performed well over fences at a lower level, but jumping frailties evident last time when upped in class at Warwick, and headgear is reapplied now. 

Would likely need several of these rival to underperform in order to have any chance and probably safe to ignore.

Wonderful Charm 

Only one defeat over fences to date when second to Oscar Whisky last time, beaten half-a-length, but had previously notched up a hat-trick of wins.

Paul Nicholls’ charge was in receipt of weight that day from Oscar Whisky and could struggle to reverse the form off level weights now. He should go well though, and holds strong prospects of reaching the frame.

Djakadam

Quickly developed into a high-class chaser, surpassing hurdle form and is 2-2 over the larger obstacles, most recently when landing a Grade Two last time Leopardstown.

He beat Bright New Dawn that day, who won well at the weekend past, and looks to have more to come in this sphere, and he should go well with Willie Mullins happy to let him take his chance in the race despite boasting an already strong hand.

Vukovar 
 
Just two starts over fences so far, but plenty to like about the way he goes about his business and made no mistake at the second attempt when running out an easy winner at Newbury.

He had previously shown some useful form in France before arriving at Harry Fry’s yard and is open to any amount of improvement in this sphere, and is respected if building on his good early impressions.

VERDICT : 

A wide-open start to day three of the Cheltenham Festival that can go the way of OSCAR WHISKY who has built on his debut chasing defeat to one of today’s rivals by landing three on the trot, including two at this venue.

Although made to pull out all the stops last time in the Scilly Isles at Sandown, that came on some desperate ground and better is expected back on a faster surface.

Ivan Grozny should figure prominently after getting bogged down in the mud at Leopardstown last season, while the exciting and lightly-raced Vukovar can run into the places.

Brian Healy’s JLT Novices' Chase selections:

OSCAR WHISKY

Vukovar (each-way)


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2014 JLT Novices' Chase tips: Oscar Whisky to land spoils on day three opener at Cheltenham

Brian Healy previews the opening race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the JLT Novices’ Chase.

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