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The Inside Track on the National Hunt Chase

| 09.03.2014

Punters will spend most of Cheltenham week looking for the fastest horses, but the National Hunt Chase – this year run in memory of the legendary Terry Biddlecombe – is the contest in which one needs to look for the slow horse. Of course, the animal in question still has to run the course faster than its opponents, but this is a pure test of jumping and stamina.

The horse that has been the most highly touted for this race in recent months is the Irish raider, Foxrock. Trainer Ted Walsh has had this race in mind for this son of Flemensfirth for a while now and he will have the services of the excellent Katie Walsh on the day.

Foxrock has been in excellent form this season and recent wins in Grade 2s in Ireland have left the impression that this increased test of stamina will suit. The problem for punters now is the price – and at 9-2 he looks short enough in a race that features horses which arguably have stronger form in the book.

One of those is Emma Lavelle’s Shotgun Paddy, who proved he loves a slog when getting the better of Carruthers in the Betfred Classic Chase. He looks set to be a major player, but if there is a question mark then it could be the ground conditions, with all of Shotgun Paddy’s wins having come on testing going.

Shutthefrontdoor is a horse that needs to leave his latest run well behind him. That was back in December here at Cheltenham, when he finished a well-beaten last of four behind Sam Winner. There is no doubt that he is much better than that implies and recent market support suggests we are likely to see a completely different animal come race day.

Shutthefrontdoor hails from a yard that has an excellent record in this race too and he also has some very solid Festival form to his name (he finished third in the Pertemps Hurdle last season).

Paul Nicholls’ BLACK THUNDER also holds an engagement in the RSA Chase, but if he were to run here then he would be a huge contender. His form in beating Many Clouds and Shotgun Paddy at Lingfield was out of the very top drawer and there was no disgrace at all in a defeat behind the well-ridden Corrin Wood last time. The extra distance would be an unknown for Black Thunder but there is little doubt that he possesses the class for the test.

Of the others at bigger prices, two that catch the eye are the Irish Gigginstown-owned raiders Rogue Angel from the shrewd Mouse Morris operation and Si C’Etait Vrai from Dessie Hughes.

Their bare form to date wouldn’t be good enough, but this increased stamina test could bring about improvement and they are worth considering as each-way alternatives.

Selection: Black Thunder

Alternative: Shutthefrontdoor