Almost half of 26 National Hunt Chase entries made by Irish trainers in the revamped Grade 2 for amateur riders and racehorses that are novices over fences at the Cheltenham Festival come from the Emerald Isle’s top two jumps stables.
Father-son combination Patrick and Willie Mullins know a thing or two about this race.
Both have won it twice before as jockeys and have teamed up in recent years to land the spoils with Back In Focus and Rathvinden.
Carefully Selected is the leading fancy from their Closutton stables this season with bookmakers putting him in as a warm favourite.
A smart bumper performer after placing in Grade 1s the season before last, he has since won both his chase starts this term.
Provided Carefully Selected meets the new qualifying criteria as part of the National Hunt Chase changes made by Cheltenham to the race between now and the Festival, he sets a clear standard.
While Mullins has five others engaged including popular veteran Faugheen, Gordon Elliott matches him and can call upon fellow previous winners at this prestigious meeting.
Champagne Classic landed the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for conditional jockeys in 2017, yet was then sidelined for almost two years.
It has taken tender handling to get him back from County Meath trainer Elliott, but he’s another prominent in the betting.
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Champagne Classic has won two of his five chase outings.
He was a length runner-up to owner-stable companion Battleoverdoyen in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas.
In the event his stablemate takes up a more likely assignment of the 3m RSA Chase, Champagne Classic could be Gigginstown’s main runner in a race they last won in 2017 with dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll.
Sam Brown and Danny Whizzbang among possible home hopes
There are 61 National Hunt Chase entries in total this year, meaning 35 British based horses are included.
Anthony Honeyball is having a fine season and faces a decision over which trip to race Sam Brown.
Winner of the Grade 2 Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock last time out, his trainer has hinted he may be even better over further than the 3m RSA Chase distance.
The National Hunt Chase certainly has an even greater emphasis on stamina.
Danny Whizzbang, meanwhile, is one of three entered in the race for UK champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls.
Such was the Ditcheat handler’s confidence in this horse that he was pitched straight into Grade 2 company and won the John Francome Novices’ Chase.
He was then hampered in the Kauto Star at Kempton which ended all chance of following-up, but stayed on into third behind Slate House and Black Op.
The other Nicholls inmates with National Hunt Chase entries are Mercy Mercy Me and Truckers Lodge.
Two For Gold landed his hat-trick over fences with Grade 2 success in the Hampton Novices’ Chase over the stiff fences of Warwick last time out.
That race has been a stepping stone for National Hunt Chase hopefuls in the past and it is reflected in the odds available on this Kim Bailey trained horse.
To briefly summarise the National Hunt Chase changes: firstly, the race distance has been altered and is now over 3m 6f instead of 4m.
Horses must have a minimum BHA rating of 120, had a run in the current season and raced in at least two chases placing in the first four of an event over 2m 7.5f or further.
Jockeys must have ridden 20 times and had five winners over fences under Rules.
Full 2020 National Hunt Chase entries
- Allaho (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Anteros (Sophie Leech)
- Ardlethen (Dan Skelton)
- At The Acorn (Tony Martin, IRE)
- Aye Aye Charlie (Fergal O’Brien)
- Battleoverdoyen (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Carefully Selected (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Champagne Classic (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Chavi Artist (Thomas Mullins, IRE)
- Christmas In April (Colin Tizzard)
- Cle En Main (Tony Martin, IRE)
- Clondaw Cian (Sophie Leech)
- Copperhead (Colin Tizzard)
- Court Master (Michael Scudamore)
- Dallas Des Pictons (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Danny Whizzbang (Paul Nicholls)
- Dominateur (Oliver Sherwood)
- Equus Secretus (Ben Pauling)
- Eurobot (Noel Meade, IRE)
- Faugheen (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Financial Outcome (Rebecca Curtis)
- First Approach (Noel Meade, IRE)
- Follow The Bear (Nicky Henderson)
- Forza Milan (James Nash, IRE)
- Galvin (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Garo De Juilley (Sophie Leech)
- Glamorgan Duke (Paul John Gilligan, IRE)
- Glenloe (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Hugo ‘N Taz (David Pipe)
- Jammy George (Harry Whittington)
- Just Your Type (Charlie Longdson)
- Know The Score (David Pipe)
- Lamanver Pippin (Colin Tizzard)
- Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis)
- Lord Du Mesnil (Richard Hobson)
- Mercy Mercy Me (Paul Nicholls)
- Midnight Tune (Anthony Honeyball)
- Minella Fair (Noel Meade, IRE)
- Nestor Park (Ben Pauling)
- Newtide (Kim Bailey)
- Ocean Cove (Fergal O’Brien)
- Plan Of Attack (Henry De Bromhead, IRE)
- Pont Aven (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Prime Venture (Evan Williams)
- Ravenhill (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Redzor (Dan Skelton)
- Ronald Pump (Matthew Smith, IRE)
- Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams)
- Sam Brown (Anthony Honeyball)
- School Boy Hours (Noel Meade, IRE)
- Small Farm (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Smoking Gun (Joseph O’Brien, IRE)
- Some Can Dance (Sam Drinkwater)
- Speak Easy (Joseph O’Brien, IRE)
- Springfield Fox (Tom George)
- Spyglass Hill (Henry De Bromhead, IRE)
- The Conditional (David Bridgwater)
- The Hollow Ginge (Nigel Twiston-Davies)
- Tower Bridge (Joseph O’Brien, IRE)
- Truckers Lodge (Paul Nicholls)
- Two For Gold (Kim Bailey)