Cheltenham Festival 2015: JLT Novices’ Chase preview (13:30)
Ptit Zig has done little wrong since going chasing, and looks decent value to turn over the favourite Vautour in the JLT Novices’ Chase (13:30).
The Paul Nicholls trained gelding was a classy hurdler, who went unbeaten in his first four starts over fences.
In the last of those, the six-year-old looked the ideal sort for this test when impressively beating the well-regarded Champagne West at this track.
Ptit Zig only had to be driven clear to score by six lengths after being produced to lead at the last, and the first two home pulled 19 lengths clear of the third in what was a strongly run contest.
Prior to that, Ptit Zig had easily Josses Hill by nine lengths at Ascot, and the runner-up finished a cracking third in the Arkle earlier in the week to give the form a solid look.
Although Ptit Zig comes into the contest following a fall at Ascot last month, he is reported to be in terrific shape and the form of his previous wins suggests he is the one they all have to beat.
Vautour ran out a stunning winner of last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, and looked a natural over the larger obstacles when scoring easily on his chasing debut at Navan by eight lengths.
The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old was sent off the 1/4 favourite for a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown on the back of that success, but after a bad mistake trailed in a distant and disappointing second to Clarcam.
Vautour clearly ran well below his best, and got back on the winning trail at the same venue when strolling to a facile 92 length success in a Grade 2 contest last time out at Leopardstown.
That will have done Vautour’s confidence the world of good, but his form over fences is easy to pick holes in, and for me, doesn’t look anywhere near as strong as Ptit Zig.
Of the others, Splash Of Ginge looks a live outsider judged on his impressive success in a valuable handicap at this venue last time out.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained seven-year-old is a really tough sort who will not go down without a fight, and could represent a bit of each-way value at a track which suits.