The JLT Novices’ Chase opens Day Three at the Cheltenham Festival, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Thursday. It is the newest race of the Festival after being added in 2011 in order to have a middle distance chase for novices.
In terms of distance it sits almost precisely between the Arkle Challenge at 2 miles and the RSA Chase at 3 miles. Run over the New Course, the JLT Novices’ Chase has a distance of 4,023 metres which is approximately 2 miles and 4 furlongs.
The officially registered name of this race is the Golden Miller Chase, named for the most successful Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning horse of all time. Golden Miller took the cup for five consecutive years (1932-1936), and is also the only horse to ever win the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season (1934).
Original sponsors Jewson came on board for the first race in 2011, having previously sponsored the Novice Handicap (which then became the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase) for many years. When the Novices’ Chase was upgraded to a Grade 1 status in 2014, sponsorship was taken over by JLT.
The JLT Novices’ Chase includes 17 fences over the 2.5-mile distance and is open to horses aged five or above. Weights are 11st 3lb for five-year-olds and 11st 4lb for those aged six and above, with the 7lb allowance for mares and fillies taken into account.
The prize purse is £130,000 in total, with the prize for the winner standing at £68,340.
Trainer Willie Mullins can also boast two victories, with the 2012 winner Sir Des Champs and the 2015 winner Vautour, ridden by Ruby Walsh – leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival for nine of the last 12 years.
Being such a new race there are no real trends that can be determined as yet for the JLT Novices’ Chase. If it follows a similar path to the RSA Chase and the Arkle, the Cheltenham Festival’s other novice chases, then bettors may want to take a punt on the younger horses who tend to perform well.
Another trend we can determine from the RSA and the Arkle is that horses who have previous good form as hurdlers have a tendency to do well over these larger, more challenging fences.
As the most recent addition to the Cheltenham Festival schedule, there is plenty of opportunity for novice horses to make a name for themselves in this race, and for history to be made in the years to come.