Festival Novices' Chase Preview with Ryan Hatch

With Cheltenham just 40 days away, let’s see who those closest to the action think will win at the country’s biggest National Hunt festival.

I spoke to Ryan Hatch, former Cheltenham winning jockey and now a member of the Nigel Twiston-Davies team, about this year’s Festival Novices’ Chase.


After winning the RSA in 2016 on Blaklion, you know how to be successful in this race. What sort of horse do you need to win the Festival Novices’ Chase (RSA)?

“It’s important to stay the trip and to be a good jumper, obviously. Going three miles around Cheltenham, experience is going to help. Course form is always a good thing as well because a lot of these novices won’t have run at Cheltenham before. It is quite a unique track so the more familiar they are with the track itself the better.”

Who do you think wins this year’s race?

“It’s a bit of a boring answer but MONKFISH looks like a proper horse. He won the Albert Bartlett last year over hurdles, his jumping has been exceptional over fences since he has gone chasing this season. He’s got a lot of class. He’s a big, strong individual and a really likeable horse with great connections, with Willie Mullins training him and Mrs Ricci owning him.

“The other one I’m not sure on is ROYAL PAGAILLE. That looks like a proper horse but I’m not sure whether they will run them against each other (both owned by Mrs Ricci) in this race or whether they will go for the four-miler or even tilt towards the Gold Cup. The pair of them look like proper animals.”

Are there any horses that you do not fancy at the prices?

“THE BIG BREAKAWAY. His jumping just wasn’t good enough at Kempton in his last race. I know he’s only 16s so he isn’t really a short price but other than Monkfish there aren’t many short prices in the race. When he misses a fence it takes him so long to get back into a rhythm again. I just felt that at Kempton it wasn’t good enough to race in another Grade 1 at Cheltenham. He is going to have to be a lot slicker to stay with the field.”

Who do you think has the best each-way chance in the race?

“I like CHATHAM STREET LAD who won the December Gold Cup there (Cheltenham). He is a horse who has had plenty of runs and has plenty of experience. His last run was a bit disappointing but they did drop him back to two miles which probably wouldn’t have suited. If he comes back to the form of his handicap win in December I think he has a great chance. He seems quite versatile and has plenty of experience. I think he’s quite a big price and could run a big race.

“The other horse I like which isn’t that big a price, only 10/1, is NEXT DESTINATION. He won at Warwick the other day and he jumped really well. He has had his problems and was off the track for a while but he was a decent hurdler and I liked the way he looked like a proper stayer. He could run into a place for Paul Nicholls. I liked the way he went through his race, always behind the bridle and it looked like he was going to get done for speed but then he just pulled it out some more which is always going to help at Cheltenham with the stiff finish.”

How do you see the race panning out? Latest Exhibition has been beaten by Monkfish a few times now, do you think we will see a change of tactics with him where he could really serve it up to Monkfish?

“I think he has to. Latest Exhibition looks like the further he goes, the better. He’s not going to beat Monkfish doing what they’ve been doing with their previous tactics so they’re going to have to try something different. I imagine The Big Breakaway will want to be up there too as he can’t afford to lose ground.”

Assuming Monkfish does win the race, where do you think is next for him? Is he a Gold Cup horse?

“Definitely. The Gold Cup division is so wide open at the minute and he could progress into a Gold Cup horse and give Paul Townend a real headache this time next year. He seems so straightforward and his jumping has been brilliant, he’s put in some really decent performances and beaten some really good horses.”


Monkfish is best priced at 2/1 with Bet365

Next Destination is best priced at 10/1 with Bet365

Chatham Street Lad is best priced at 33/1 with Sky Bet

by Charlie Parker-Turner