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Tuesday 3 January 2023

Altcar Novices' Chase

 The Altcar Novices' Chase is a Grade 2 steeplechase run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 203 yards at Haydock Park in January. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses, aged five years and upwards, who start the current season without a win over regulation fences.

The Altcar Novices' Chase began life, as a lowly Class D affair, in 1996, but was elevated to Class B status the following year and again, to Grade 2 status, in 2007. In 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005 – the 2001 was abandoned due to frost – the race was run 2 miles and 6 furlongs, before reverting to its original distance in 2006.

The 2023 renewal of the Altcar Novices' Chase is scheduled for Saturday, January 21, when it is one of four Grade 2 races on the Haydock Park card, including the feature race, the Peter Marsh Chase. Cholmondeley trainer Donald McCain is currently the most successful handler in the history of the race, having saddled Will Be Done (2009), Our Mick (2012), Testify (2018) and Minella Drama (2022) to victory.

Since the demise of the famous drop fences at Haydock Park, which were replaced by more forgiving, portable versions in 2007, the course present a less severe test of jumping than was once the case. Nevertheless, novices tackle seventeen obstacles during the Altcar Novices' Chase, so sound jumping is a pre-requisite, especially if the going is on the soft side.

That said, course form, even winning course form, is not, with none of the last ten winners having previously won at Haydock Park and only three having any experience of the Newton-le-Willows track. For the record, nine of the last ten winners of the Altcar Novices' Chase came from the first three in the starting price betting market.


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