Marsh Novices’ Chase
Won by Defi De Seuil in 2019, this near 2m4f chase is a relative newcomer to the Cheltenham Festival having first been staged in 2011. Viewed as a race for novices which have not yet built up the stamina resources to compete effectively at three miles or more at Prestbury Park, horses will still be challenging for Grade 1 prize.
Among the favourites for the 2020 edition is likely to be Itchy Feet from the Olly Murphy stable and currently offered at 9/2. The 6-year-old gelding has won both of his races this season over this distance with his latest victory arriving in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown. The manner in which he lengthened his stride up the final hill on the Esher track suggests he is more than capable of being a leading player in this contest.
A possible opponent could be Easy Game from the Willie Mullins yard who has another option with the RSA Chase. The 6-year-old gelding won his first start of fences when narrowly beating stable companion Allaho but then faced Faugheen on the same track just over one month later.
His defeat by less than one length was no disgrace but on his only other visit to Cheltenham, he could only finish a well-beaten sixth in the 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and he has questions to answer on this course.
Another option for this race could be Reserve Tank from the Colin Tizzard stable. This horse may be more suited by Spring weather and ground, but he won over this distance at Wincanton back in November before failing to beat Danny Whizzbang over nearly three miles. The winner was receiving 5lb in weight on that occasion.
Reserve Tank rarely runs a bad race and he was a useful novice hurdler last season when winning all four races from February onwards. His trainer bypassed Cheltenham with this 6-year-old but he later won over the flatter Aintree track.
One of the current outsiders in the betting worth considering is Melon from the Willie Mullins yard. He seems to thrive at Cheltenham where he has finished second in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Festivals, contesting the Champion Hurdle in the latter two years. Now campaigned over fences, he has won just one of his three contests over the 2m1f trip, but this longer distance on a favoured track may be more suitable. His price of 14/1 may be generous.
There is also Mister Fisher from the Nicky Henderson stable who will also prefer good to soft conditions rather than the heavy ground of recent weeks. The 6-year-old has won his last two races including a 2m4f contest at Cheltenham.