Timeform: The top 5 novice chasers to keep onside for Cheltenham 2017

Timeform: The top 5 novice chasers to keep onside for Cheltenham 2017

Racing's boffins give us the skinny on who is top of the pops ahead of the greatest show on Turf.

Now, as Aidan O’Brien might say, “listen”. This list is actually topped by Thistlecrack (175), however Colin Tizzard’s ace has been ruled out for the season due to injury, a comment that also applies to Min (156P), while Buveur d’Air (150p) isn’t included because a) he’s off to the Champion Hurdle and b) he wasn’t in the top 5 anyway.

Let’s start with a Top of the Pops-esque countdown.

New at five…

No tight white John Travolta trousers in sight for Noel Meade but his recent Leopardstown winner DISKO has a Timeform rating of 154, putting him above the likes of Our Duke (153p) and Politologue (153p). Meade’s charge is the youngest of the top five listed here and has entries in the JLT and RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

I was delighted with him and on that run the JLT would look the obvious race for him, said Meade after Leopardstown. I spoke to Michael (O’Leary) this morning and he’s favouring that race, although Eddie (O’Leary) would rather go for the other race.

Mixed messages from the Gigginstown duo, though they’re in agreement that they both hate handicapper Phil Smith.

Gallop over to all the latest Cheltenham betting on PP.com

In at four…

CONEY ISLAND (155p) won the Drinmore Novices’ Chase in December and ran at least as well when second to Our Duke at Leopardstown later that month. His trainer Eddie Harty has described Coney Island as “currently very full of himself” and there’s little doubt that the Piers Morgan of horse racing is another big player in either the JLT or RSA.

At three…

Nicky Henderson’s MIGHT BITE has a Timeform rating of 156p, awarded for his run at Kempton on Boxing Day when he was miles clear of everything when taking a crashing fall at the last under Daryl Jacob. He’s since had a confidence booster under regular pilot Nico de Boinville at Doncaster and, again, has JLT and RSA entries. Might Bite is owned by the Knot Again Partnership and runs in the colours of syndicate leader Simon Philip’s old school, Wellington College; light blue and yellow chequers, orange and black hooped sleeves and cap. Keeping it real.

Jump over to all the latest odds on PP.com

At two, for the second week running…

YORKHILL is clearly the best of the Willie Mullins-trained “hills” (sorry Bellshill and Briar Hill, but it’s true) and will take plenty of beating in the JLT assuming that’s where he heads. He won the Neptune at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and is unbeaten in two starts over fences this term. He hasn’t been foot-perfect but it’s been the equivalent of Phil Taylor going back onto the BDO darts circuit, and the expectation is that he will be at his best next month. He has an entry in the Arkle but he’s likely to swerve a clash with…

…Our number one (this week, and for a long time to come)…

The 168p-rated ALTIOR. Nicky Henderson has been lucky to have some great horses over the years and it’s amazing that he already has a ready-made successor to Sprinter Sacre who was retired after winning all of his four races last season, including the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

An epic clash with Douvan in that race looks likely to be put on the back-burner for another 12 months, however the Game Spirit winner Altior is miles clear on ratings for the Arkle on the opening day of this year’s Festival. What can beat him? Probably only the bowling ball of injury which is toppling the Cheltenham Festival skittles (all of the winners of last year’s Championship races will be absent next month).