Josses Hill: Yay or Neigh?
Is Josses Hill a legitimate contender for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham following his Peterborough Chase success? Our team have their say.
Josses Hill is now among the leading fancies for the Ryanair Chase
Josses Hill beat all bar Vautour in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2014 and finished third behind Un De Sceaux in the Arkle Challenge Trophy the following season but he hasn't impressed everyone with his chasing and was labelled 'a snooker table with legs' by Lydia Hislop in last year's Road To Cheltenham series.
Nicky Henderson's charge was beaten 22 lengths in the Ryanair Chase when eighth of 15 in March but he is into 14/1 for this season's renewal after two impressive victories this season, latterly in the Grade Two Peterborough Chase on Sunday.
Ben Coley: Having read the race report yesterday, I firmly expected this to be an easy 'neigh' from me. After all, Josses Hill had evidently jumped the first couple slowly having been allowed to set off in front, and the form can easily be pulled apart. However, having watched the replay a couple of times this morning, I'm quite taken by Josses Hill and am tempted to get involved at 14/1, which seems a very fair price. Essentially, I thought he got into a great rhythm after an iffy beginning and the way he accelerated clear having been put under pressure quite early on was really pleasing. He's been third in a high-class Arkle and second in a high-class Supreme so while a flat, right-handed track may be more appropriate, he clearly acts at Cheltenham and I'd be surprised if he didn't run, which alone is a major plus given the ambiguity surrounding most of the major players here. That being said, the Melling Chase at Aintree looks an even better option and it's a shame we can't bet on it now. Although beaten there over fences, Josses Hill was a taking winner of the Grade Two novice hurdle a year earlier and while he's perhaps playing for a place at the Festival, Liverpool could be a different matter. It's a neigh from me for the Ryanair, even though I do believe he'll run and go off at a shorter price so if beating the book is your thing, but watch out for a big run at Aintree – either in the Melling or up to three miles in the Bowl. I do believe this horse will win a Grade One over fences.
VERDICT: NEIGH. Capable of giving a good account but Aintree may suit better.
Ian Ogg: It's always a shame to see a talented horse struggling at the game so it's great to see Josses Hill seemingly enjoying his chasing after looking somewhat less than a natural for much of the last two seasons. Certainly the Peterborough Chase asked a significant question of him but the two and a half mile trip was too short for the second and third while the fourth failed to stay and the fifth didn't run any sort of race. Therefore, it's difficult to get too carried away with the performance even though his jumping was more assured and he quickened away in good style from the last. There are plenty of question marks about those ahead of him in the ante-post betting so on that basis alone you could begin to construct a case for him and his previous Festival form is certainly a tick in the right box. We know he's talented and we now know that he's finally getting his act together over fences but the Ryanair Chase is often run at a furious exacting gallop and I couldn't be at all confident that his jumping would stand up to that examination and I'd want further evidence before parting with my cash.
VERDICT: NEIGH. Talented and getting his act together but more evidence required.