The Alan King-trained Bless The Wings catches the eye in an as ever wide-open renewal of the race formerly known as the Jewson. Due to the introduction of the Jewson Novices Chase on the Thursday, this event, a handicap, is now the Centenary Novices handicap Chase.
That’s the name sorted out, but what about the likely winner? It appears that connections of Bless The Wings could not wait to send him over fences, the gelding having had just four outings over timber before embarking on a chasing career.
The son of Winged Love has absolutely thrived since, winning twice and finishing runner-up on the other two occasions. Those looking for Cheltenham festival tips will have been paying him close attention.
Having finished second at Kempton on Boxing Day, Bless The Wings duly went one better next time on his first visit to Cheltenham, staying on well up the hill to prevail, giving weight to his nearest rivals in the process. That was a very satisfactory run, and at the likely odds, the seven-year-old represents much better value than the ante-post favourite Micheal Flips when it comes to Cheltenham racing.
Andy Turnell’s charge has been a regular visitor to Prestbury Park in March in the past, taking part in various events over hurdles, but has not really impressed yet over the bigger obstacles. He was caught on the run-in by another potential rival here, For Non Stop at Newbury in mid-February, and his front-running style means he is likely to be a sitting duck as they storm up the hill.
Also, watch out for anything entered by Ferdy Murphy. He has won this event twice in the recent past, with L’Antartique in 2007 and Divers last year. Ferdy likes to lay one out for Cheltenham, so don’t worry if the stable has had a quiet time of it. Commiserations to Murphy’s stable jockey Graham Lee though-he’ll have to watch proceedings on television, having broken his hip in a recent fall.