Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase

The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase takes place at 4.50pm on Day 1 (Tuesday) of the Cheltenham Festival and will be broadcast by Racing TV (RTV).

The race has been won by the likes of Hunt Ball, Irish Cavalier and Mister Whitaker in recent years.

Length of race – The race is run over 2m4f.
Where to watch – RTV.
When to watch – Tuesday, March 12 at 4.50pm.
Prize money – Last year’s race was worth £65,000.
Course – The race is run on the Old course at Cheltenham.
Race type – The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase is a handicap open to runners rated from 0-145.
Weights – As the race is a handicap, horses carry weights in relation to their rating. The weights are published several weeks in advance, so horses may carry a penalty for a victory after the weights are announced.
Ages – Horses aged five or over can compete in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Sponsor – Close Brothers Group has sponsored the race since 2016.


Past ten winners:


Year Horse Previous form Age Price Trainer Jockey
2018 Mister Whitaker 3-3121 6 13-2 Mick Channon Brian Hughes
2017 Tully East 64-162 7 8-1 Alan Fleming Denis O’Regan
2016 Ballyalton 2/U62F 9 12-1 Ian Williams Brian Hughes
2015 Irish Cavalier 17-323 6 11-1 Rebecca Curtis Paul Townend
2014 Present View 32121 6 8-1 Jamie Snowden Brendan Powell
2013 Rajdhani Express P-2F17 6 16-1 Nicky Henderson Sam Waley-Cohen
2012 Hunt Ball 12111 7 13-2F Keiran Burke Nick Scholfield
2011 Divers 31591 7 10-1 Ferdy Murphy Graham Lee
2010 Copper Bleu 21-321 8 12-1 Philip Hobbs Richard Johnson
2009 Chapoturgeon 19-F21 5 8-1 Paul Nicholls Timmy Murphy


Race stats

  • Officially rated 132-142, 10/10
  • Top-three finish on last completed start, 9/10
  • Won over at least 2m2f, 8/10
  • Carried no more than 11st 8lb, 8/10
  • Aged six or seven, 7/10
  • Finished in the first four in all completed starts over fences, 6/10

Other factors

  • Three winners had fallen at least once over fences
  • Three winners ran over hurdles at a previous festival
  • Two winners had hurdle RPRs of at least 140, three in the 130s and three in the 120s
  • Only one winner started bigger than 12-1
  • Brian Hughes and Graham Lee are the leading jockeys in the history of the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase with two wins each. Hughes’s wins came on Ballyalton (2016) and Mister Whitaker (2018), while Lee’s wins came on L’Antartique (2007) and Divers (2011).
  • Ferdy Murphy is the leading trainer in the race with two wins. Murphy’s victories came with L’Antartique (2007) and Divers (2011).

Key trials

The novice handicap chase on trials day at Cheltenham has proved a key race with last year’s winner Mister Whitaker warming up with a victory in the January contest. Ten of the last 14 winners failed to win either of their first two chase starts. The trends suggest recent form is key, rather than early-season form.

What happened last year?

Mister Whitaker collared Rather Be in a closing stages to get up for a head victory. View the 2018 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase results and replay here.

Where can I get Cheltenham Festival tickets?

Cheltenham Festival tickets can be purchased from the official festival website here.

Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase Tip

The step back up in trip to 2m4f should suit Mind’s Eye, who kept on for a creditable fifth on his handicap chase debut over 2m1f at Leopardstown in February. The Henry de Bromhead-trained seven-year-old has the class to play a big part, having been fourth in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last April. There should be more to come over fences from Lough Derg Spirit, while the 2m4f trip should bring out the best in Huntsman Son.
(Ben Hutton)

1. Mind’s Eye, 2. Lough Derg Spirit, 3. Huntsman Son

View the racecard and place your bets here.