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Antepost Punting: The National Hunt Chase & The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

1pt each-way Threeunderthrufive in the National Hunt Chase at 14/1 (3 Places)

2pt win Allegorie De Vassy in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 7/1

Run Wild Fred looks the obvious horse for the National Hunt Chase at present, while Stattler and last year’s runaway Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier could also be lively contenders. However, Threeunderthrufive may represent the best value at present.

The Paul Nicholls’ trained seven-year-old has progressed with each run over fences and quickly notched-up a hat-trick of victories following a solid runner-up effort on his debut at Chepstow.

Threeunderthrufive avenged that defeat when turning the tables on Does He Know – who is now rated 147 – at Cheltenham in November – a victory that confirmed his ability to act at Cheltenham, which is also supported by his respectable sixth placed finish in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The scopey son of Shantou comfortably accounted for a subsequent scorer when getting off the mark at Exeter and he ran out a good seven-and-a-half-lengths winner of the Grade 2 bet365 December Novices’ Chase a Doncaster with the 140 rated Fantastikas, whom was in receipt of 3lbs, back in second.

His form looks solid and he already boasts a rating of 151, which could rise further if he takes his chance in the Grade 2 Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday – the same race that stablemate Next Destination landed before placing second behind Grade 1 Savills Chase hero Galvin in last season’s National Hunt Chase.

The Grade 1 Festival Novices’ Chase also remains an option and it was interesting to hear that connections were considering giving Threeunderthrufive a Gold Cup entry, which is a clear indication of the regard in which he is held.

However, the Festival Novices’ Chase could be a warm contest this year with Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle scorer – and subsequent Grade 1 winner – Galopin Des Champs set to clash with the hugely exciting Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner Bravemansgame. While Threeunderthrufive has always given the impression that he will be well suited by a thorough test of stamina, and was muted as a potential Welsh National contender prior to Christmas.

Experience can prove valuable in the National Hunt Chase and the Shantou gelding should have five runs under his belt by March, which will certainly stand him in good stead. He is definitely worthy of support at 14/1 given his scope for further improvement both in this sphere and over such a trip.

Allegorie De Vassy failed to score in four attempts in France. However, she opened her account on her Irish debut at Fairyhouse and the manner of that success suggested that she may be very smart indeed.

The imposing daughter of No Risk At All jumped and travelled well on that occasion and effortlessly breezed into the lead on the approach to the penultimate flight of hurdles. Although not necessary, it was nice to see that she possessed a smart turn of foot when Sean O’Keeffe gave her a squeeze, and she coasted clear to defeat previous scorer Monishter Are Mwee.

Allegorie De Vassy was having her first start for Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci, who have enjoyed plenty of success with top class mares in recent years. Comparing her to any of those that have gone before her would be ridiculous at this stage, however, her build is reminiscent of a certain Vroum Vroum Mag and I’m sure connections would be delighted if she proved to be even half as good as the multiple Grade 1 winner.

The Irish Champion trainer landed the first five renewals of this Grade 2 contest – including victories for the Rich Ricci owned Limini and Let’s Dance – and he is responsible for five of the top six mares in the betting at present, which gives a clear indication of his strength in this division.

All look hugely promising and are priced up accordingly. However, Allegorie De Vassy may be best equipped for this challenge given her powerful physique and hurdling experience. While the long, ground devouring stride that she displayed at Fairyhouse should be well suited to the demands of the new course.

A strongly run contest on the more stamina demanding new course should be ideal given that her Fairyhouse success was achieved over 2m2f and she is fully entitled to improve for her Irish debut given that was her first run since April 2021.

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