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2016 JLT Novices' Chase runners - Bristol De Mai targets local Cheltenham Thursday success

Jon Wilde in Thur. 16th March 16 Mar 2016
  • A field of 10 will go to post for the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham
  • Check out the latest news on Thursday's opening race
Daryl Jacob riding Bristol De Mai on their way to winning the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown Park on February 6 2016 (credit: Cheltenhampro.com)

Nigel Twiston-Davies will be hoping to open day three of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival with a local success courtesy of Bristol De Mai in the JLT Novices’ Chase on St Patrick’s Thursday.

This Grade 1 contest, run over a distance just under two-and-a-half miles, has a competitive look to it this year with at least five horses holding serious chances of winning.

Among them is Bristol De Mai, trained at Naunton in Gloucestershire by Twiston-Davies just 12 miles from Cheltenham, and this five-year-old grey will be ridden by Daryl Jacob, the retained jockey of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Bristol De Mai has won four of his six starts over fences, finishing second in the other two, with his latest success a comfortable six-length triumph in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park last month.

Twiston-Davies said:
“He's in great form and we are very hopeful. The ground won't be a problem. He might be better on better ground actually. There are some good horses in the race but I hope he's the best of them.”

Trainer Philip Hobbs believes his decision to step up in trip with Garde La Victoire will be vindicated.

A former winner of the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old has a perfect record of three from three over fences and experience of the Prestbury Park obstacles having landed the Arkle Trophy Trial in November.

For a long time, the Arkle itself looked like being his Festival target but with the brilliant Douvan landing the odds in spectacular fashion in that two-mile contest on Tuesday, Hobbs believes he has made the right call to step up to two-and-a-half miles for the first time in Thursday's opener.

Hobbs said:
“He is versatile regarding ground and trip. You could argue two-and-a-half will be a positive rather than a negative, particularly now the ground is reasonable. 
“I think it makes more sense to run in this race and we've beaten Bristol De Mai twice before.”

Willie Mullins is double-handed as he aims to claim this prize for a third time in six years, with Outlander and Black Hercules tasked with following in the hoofprints of Sir Des Champs (2012) and last year's breathtaking winner Vautour.

The latter was ante-post favourite for the four-mile National Hunt Chase for a long time but Mullins decided to bring him back in distance after he fell at the final fence at Navan last month.

Mullins said:
“Getting the right race for each horse takes a lot of soul-searching and there’s no horse I have thought about more than Black Hercules. 
“Last time out he raced very keenly and if he had run a similar race over four miles he wouldn't have lasted home. 
“Outlander has quietly gone about his business this season, winning all three races in novice chases, stepping up each time. 
“His second run was a victory over Avant Tout, which is good form, and he followed that with a Grade 1 win at Leopardstown.”

Andrew Lynch's Zabana has been well fancied for this race for a while but needs to raise his game after finishing a long way behind Outlander on his latest appearance.

His Thursday jockey Davy Russell said:
“I schooled him over fences last week and he gave me a great feel. The drying ground will be right up his street. 
“We know he needs to improve to be a player in such a competitive race, but he ran a cracker at the meeting last year (second in the Coral Cup) and hopefully can go well again.”

Nicky Henderson's L'Ami Serge is another stepping up in trip after suffering a short-priced defeat in the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick on his latest appearance.

Paul Nicholls-trained As De Mee, Evan Williams' King's Odyssey, Pat Fahy's Mount Gunnery and Three Musketeers from Dan Skelton's yard complete a 10-strong field.


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2016 JLT Novices' Chase runners - Bristol De Mai targets local Cheltenham Thursday success

Nigel Twiston-Davies will be hoping to open day three of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival with a local success courtesy of Bristol De Mai in the JLT Novices’ Chase on St Patrick’s Thursday.

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