Edmunds, Meade, Coward. There have been some cracking Noels over the years, however none were as good as last year’s winner Politologue who blew his rivals away in the Ascot contest of the same name and has since developed into a leading candidate for the Champion Chase.
This year’s renewal, due off at 2.30pm, is a real David Silva in terms of numbers: small, but full of quality. Politologue’s win was a third in a row for his trainer Paul Nicholls and he is represented this year by the talented Dolos.
He was left with little to beat on his chasing debut last month, but couldn’t have won much more convincingly than he did, and there’s every chance he will be a fair bit better in this sphere than he was as a hurdler.
However, his two rivals are classier than Nigella Lawson’s kitchen. Benatar won here in November and followed up at Plumpton just over two weeks later, a win which makes him eligible for a bonus should he go on to score at Cheltenham.
He’s respected, but may struggle to keep tabs on Finian’s Oscar when it matters. Colin Tizzard’s ace beat Benatar over hurdles last season and has made a bright start over fences, merely unable to cope with the drop back to 2m last time. This longer trip will make him hard to beat.
The Noel is preceded by the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (1.55pm). L’Ami Serge and Yanworth have won this race in recent years and this renewal looks a cracker. The Champion Bumper third Claimantakinforgan travelled powerfully and jumped impeccably when winning on his hurdling debut and he’s more exciting than a trip to Lapland.
All five of his rivals boast positive profiles, though, particularly Slate House, although he was possibly helped by having several hurdles omitted due to low sun at Cheltenham last time.
There are more Timeform ‘p’s in the opening maiden hurdle (12.45pm) than the last company trip to the local swimming baths. If Good Man Pat wins then surely Benatar will follow up in the Noel, however our preference is for Robin Waters, a point-to-point winner who was very green when third at Newbury earlier this month.
Divine Spear impressed last time and gets the nod ahead of Darebin in the novices’ handicap chase at 1.20pm, while Eaton Hill didn’t get the rub of the green on his handicap debut last time and should fare much better at 3.05pm.
The closing bumper at 3.40pm looks a belter, with Didtheyleaveuoutto getting the nod. He is from the family of Denman, but showed a lot more speed when romping home at Lingfield on debut.
Posh Trish won well at Cheltenham last time, beating a well-fancied runner in the process, while Gallahers Cross cost £260,000 after winning a bumper for Peter Fahey – that’s 21,684 Lidl Christmas puddings, recently voted the best by Which?
Sounds like a challenge…