December Novices’ Chase
As the title implies, the December Novices’ Chase is a Grade 2 novices’ steeplechase run over 2 miles, 7 furlongs and 214 yards at Doncaster in December. Open to horses aged four years and upwards, the race is slightly unusual insofar as it was inaugurated, at Lingfield Park, in 1988 before being transferred to Doncaster as recently as 2014.
In its original incarnation, the December Novices’ Chase achieved Grade 2 status in 1998, making it the only National Hunt race to be staged at the Surrey venue to do so. In 2012 and 2013, the race was run as the RSA Novices’ Trial Chase, although no winner before, during or since has won the Broadway Novices’ Chase, a.k.a. the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and, formerly, the RSA Chase, at the Cheltenham Festival.
Reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddled the winner of the final running at Lingfield, Black Thunder (2013), and the winner of the first running at Doncaster, Virak (2014), together with Present Man (2016) and Threeunderthrufive (2021). Nicholls’ total of four winners makes him the most successful trainer in the history of the December Novices’ Chase.
At the time of writing, the 2022 renewal of the December Novices’ Chase, scheduled for Christmas Jumper Raceday, on Saturday, December 10, is less than a month away. Ante-post prices are not yet available but, if recent trends are to be believed, punters might do well to concentrate on horses aged six or seven years, who are officially rated 138, or higher, and have run at least twice during the current season. Paul Nicholls, who has 39% strike rate with his steeplechasers, so far, in the 2022/23 season, is reportedly ‘really strong’ in the novice chaser division, so anything he sends to Doncaster is worth close inspection.