Marsh Novices’ Chase preview: Faugheen fancied for third Cheltenham Festival success

Published on: March 10, 2020
Author: David Metcalf
2020 Marsh Novices' Chase preview from Cheltenham includes Faugheen

Given that he is the highest rated in the line-up and a dual Cheltenham Festival winner, Faugheen looks value at 6/1 with Paddy Power to land the 2m 4f Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase on day three of this year’s meeting on Thursday (13:30).

This Willie Mullins trained 12-year-old landed the Ballymore in 2014 before capturing the Champion Hurdle a year later in spectacular fashion.

He has been plagued with a number of injuries since, but still managed to land two further Grade 1 successes over hurdles.

Faugheen is unbeaten in three starts over fences this season, winning at Punchestown in November before going in at the highest level at Limerick over the Christmas period when slamming Samcro by 10 lengths.

The pair pulled 22 lengths clear of the third home and Glamorgan Duke, who was beaten a total of 47 lengths into fifth, has since landed a valuable 24-runner handicap at Leopardstown.

That gives the form a solid look. The Rich and Susannah Ricci owned son of Flemensfirth has since shown tremendous battling qualities to beat stable companion Easy Game by half-a-length in the Grade 1 Flogas over 2m 5f at Leopardstown.

If he is successful in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, it will be a remarkable training achievement by Mullins as Faugheen faces some highly-talented individuals who have youth on their side and are open to plenty of progression.

However, the fire still clearly bruns strong in the hugely popular gelding. He will raise the roof if landing a third Cheltenham Festival success.

At the odds on offer, Faugheen looks well worth a wager to do just that.

Itchy Feet the pick of home team in Marsh Novices’ Chase

Having scored in terrific style last time out, Itchy Feet looks the pick of the home team and is thus feared most.

This Olly Murphy trained six-year-old developed into a top class novice hurdler last season when winning three times.

He went on to run the race of his life at this meeting when finishing third of 16 to Klassical Dream in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

After getting outpaced two from home, the son of Cima De triomphe rallied strongly and – despite making a mistake at the last – stuck to the task really well to be beaten five lengths.

Itchy Feet then relished the step up to the 2m 4f trip of this when running out an impressive wide-margin winner on chasing debut at Leicester.

He jumped like a stag at the head of affairs and made all to win in a canter by 26 lengths from Leskinfere.

Although that was a weak class 3 three-runner affair, Itchy Feet has since taken the step up into Grade 1 company in his stride when landing the Scilly Isles at Sandown last month.

After being held-up off the pace, he pecked baldy two out when making stealthy headway.

Itchy Feet quickly recovered and then stayed on strongly after the last to win going away by just under four lengths from Midnight Shadow.

It was a most taking performance which suggested there was even better to come.

Itchy Feet looks sure to make a bold bid to follow-up over a trip and ground which are ideal, so he is 7/2 with 888sport here.

Samcro interesting following a wind-op

Leading owners Gigginstown House Stud have won the Marsh Novices’ Chase twice before courtesy of Sir Des Champs (2012) and Shattered Love (2018).

Their famous maroon and white colours are set to be carried by the aforementioned Samcro.

The Gordon Elliott trained eight-year-old looked to have the world at his feet landing the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle here.

However, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion the following season when connections decided to keep the strapping gelding over hurdles and he failed to win any of his three starts.

Samcro then impressively won by 17 lengths on his belated chase debut fences at Down Royal at the start of this campaign.

He was then alongside eventual winner Fakir D’oudairies – who finished a fine second in the Arkle here on the opening day – when falling in the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse when going well.

Samcro has work to do to turn around the form when runner-up to Faugheen at Limerick, but it is very interesting that he has undergone wind surgery since last being seen in action.

If he’s had a breathing issue, then he could still have more to offer if that operation does the trick.

Samcro is also a dour stayer who handles testing ground, so – at 6/1 with Unibet – looks well worth considering each-way.

The Nicky Hendnerson trained Mister Fisher, who won here back in December before going on to land a Grade 1 at Doncaster in good style, is another that commands plenty of respect.

The key to him is the ground as he won’t want it too testing. A weather watch is therefore advised before getting involved at odds of 6/1 with Betfair.

Reserve Tank also holds each-way Marsh Novices’ Chase claims

Reserve Tank failed to live up to expectations when runner-up last time out but, now dropped back in trip following a break, is another that looks worth considering each-way at 12/1 with BetVictor who are paying four places.

This Colin Tizzard trained six-year-old has won five of his nine starts under Rules and developed into a top class hurdler last season when winning Grade 1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown in fine style.

Those successes marked Reserve Tank as a hugely exciting prospect, especially as he is a strapping sort and built to come into his own over fences.

It was therefore somewhat disappointing that he got turned over on his chase debut at
Chepstow in October when sent off odds-on and beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Jarveys Plate.

He then duly showed the benefit of that experience next time up when running out an impressive 3 3/4 lengths winner of a Grade 2 contest over this trip at Wincanton.

Reserve Tank then made mistakes and ran flat when a four-length second of five to Danny Whizzbang in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase over 2m 7f at Newbury when last seen in action back in November.

He was clearly not himself that day, so it looks a shrewd more by connections to give him a spell on the sidelines to freshen-up.

Dropping back to 2m 4f is also a big plus as he is unbeaten in three starts over it.