he Future Champion Novices’ Chase is a Grade 2 novices’ steeplechase run over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 110 yards at Ayr in April. Open to horses aged five years and upwards who, prior to the start of the season, have yet to win over regulation fences, the race is currently scheduled for day two of the Scottish Grand National Festival.Inaugurated, over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 112 yards, in 1968, the Future Champion Novices’ Chase assumed its current title in 1988. The race was increased to its current yardage in 1991, at which point it was promoted to Grade 1 status, only to be demoted again four years later.
Reigning champion trainer Paul or, at least, the horses in his charge appear to have enjoyed the 800 mile-plus journey from Ditcheat, Somerset to the southwest coast of Scotland. Nicholls is the leading trainer in the history of the Future Champion Novices’ Chase with seven wins, courtesy of See More Indians (1994), Valley Henry (2002), Val Solitaire (2003), Natal (2007), Pacha du Polder (2012), Le Mercurey (2016) and Secret Investor (2019). Other notable winners down the years include Night Nurse (1979) who, in 1981, came as close as any horse, before Dawn Run, to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double, and Monet’s Garden (2006), who went on to win the Old Roan Chase at Aintree three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
In recent years, the Future Champion Novices’ Chase has rarely attracted more than a handful of runners. The last three favourites have been successful, but it is worth noting that, in the previous seven runnings, just one market leader prevailed. Recent trends suggest that likely winners will be aged six or seven years, rated 141 or higher and possess recent, although not necessarily winning, form.