Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1)
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Arkle Chase Betting Tips
The Novice version of the Queen Mother Champion Chase takes place on Tuesday 14th March over two miles and 13 fences. Each entrant carries 11 stone 4 pounds, with mares receiving a 7 pound allowance.
Our Arkle Chase betting tips will be selected in the coming weeks. See our Cheltenham Festival tips page for all of our previews and tips.
The Arkle Chase betting trends to take into consideration are as follows:
- 10 of the last 10 winners were 1st or 2nd on their last start before the Cheltenham Festival race
- 10 out of the last 10 winners were aged 6 to 8 (six were aged 7 years old)
- 9 of the last 10 winners recorded a RacingPost Rating of 154+ on their last start before the Arkle Chase
- 9 of the last 10 winners were in the top 5 of the betting market based on Starting Prices
- 9 of the last 10 winners had at least placed in a Graded Hurdle race earlier in their career
- Of the last 10 winners, 8 ran in either January or February
- 7 of the previous 10 winners had won a Graded Chase already
- 5 of the last 10 winners were Irish bred, with 4 others French bred
- Only 4 favourites have won in the last 10 years – all were odds-on and all within the last 5 years
- There has only been one double figure priced winner in the last 10 years – Western Warhorse at 33/1 in 2014
The Arkle has been a wide open race for trainers, with eight different winners in the last ten years. Nicky Henderson has won it twice with Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Barry Geraghty has ridden three winners in the last ten years (the two Henderson horses and Forpadydeplasterer for Tom Cooper) and is actually the all-time leading jockey with four wins in total (Moscow Flyer in 2002 is the other). A win for Nicky Henderson would see him claim the top Arkle Chase trainer title for himself – a sixth win would take him one clear of Tom Dreaper.
Trends Analysis: Plenty of classic novice trends are prominent, including typical ages and class over hurdles, as well as a run for fitness in January or February. The lack of big price winners suggests one of two things to us: either the market naturally leans towards better jumpers, or horses are slightly more exposed than, for exampple, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and thus there are less shocks. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Nicky Henderson should be given plenty of respect, as should Willie Mullins.
The Arkle is a novices’ chase and has been won in the past by horses such as Moscow Flyer, Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre and, most recently, Douvan.
The leading trainer is Nicky Henderson who has won the race five times in the past and has the short priced favourite Altior as his leading chance this year. The impressive winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last year, he has taken well to fences with three victories thus far, including a Grade 1 and Grade 2. Improving with every run, his latest victory in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase was perhaps his best yet and he could not have won with more ease. He is yet to come off the bridle with any conviction over fences and it will be intriguing to see what he will find; if his runs over hurdles are anything to go by, it should be frightening. Ground versatile with no problem if it is Good or Soft, he is suited well to Cheltenham and is certain to stay, winning at 2m 2f in the past on soft ground. Whether a best priced 5/4 is correct, considering he has not yet had a challenge over fences, is up for debate, but there is no doubting he is a very smart horse who may well be too good.
Brushed aside with ease in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, it was quite a surprise how the well regarded Min could not live with Altior on their previous meeting. He has already proven himself to be just as smart over fences when winning on debut at Navan and went on to Leopardstown on Boxing Day to record another impressive performance in a Grade 1. Although his main rival was pulled up almost immediately, he still did as required and it was a taking performance nonetheless. A horse who prefers to lead, the six-year-old is unlikely to get that luxury due to other probable entrants, which is a concern. Either way, he is due a lot of respect as a horse who connections usually do very well with and it would certainly be foolish to dismiss his chances, with a turnaround with Altior not out of the question. He still has more work to do in the lead-up to the Festival, but Mullins was more than impressed with his latest performance, alluding to him settling much better and also performing much classier over fences than hurdles: “I’m very happy with that performance. He jumped from fence to fence and put his rivals under pressure by doing so. He treats fences with a lot more respect than he showed for hurdles last season, when he was inclined to race too freely”. Judging by those comments, it is likely he will get much closer to Altior this time around, and the clash is certainly one of the main talking points about the Festival so far.
Willie Mullins is never short of talent, and Yorkhill further boosts his chances in the race, with the 2016 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner also entered. On his first chasing run his inexperience did show, jumping left at times, but he got the job done with ease as expected. Perhaps not as impressively as the two aforementioned horses however, with his jumping suspect at this stage. He does have the most to prove at present as he certainly will not win an Arkle jumping the way he did at Fairyhouse, and he will need to jump with more finesse on his final preparation run to be considered a creditable threat. In all likelihood, as a Mullins trained horse his jumping will be up to standard. If that is the case, he has to be considered a danger as his win in the Neptune came with the scalp of Yanworth who now goes to the Champion Hurdle. With wins on heavy and good ground, he will not have much worry in that respect come March, although a pure test that brought stamina into the question would certainly suit him better than his rivals, with his wins at further distances.
Changing ownership to the powerful J P McManus after winning a Grade 1 at Aintree last year, Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air is another interesting runner for Seven Barrows. No match for his stablemate Altior in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – running on well to finish close up behind Min – he ran well on his chasing debut at Haydock with a smooth success in December. Reappearing two weeks later, his win at Warwick was not perfect as he was hampered on the bend and really had to dig deep in workmanlike fashion to take victory. A dour stayer at the two mile trip, he does seem to have quite a bit to find on his previous chase starts, not yet fully convincing in same the way as Altior and Min that he is fully comfortable over fences. At a best priced 12/1, he is certainly a good Each Way chance and it is seemingly unlikely that he can overhaul the market principles, but he does stay on well and is likely to be running on towards the finish in a bid to snatch third place. Following his Warwick success, Henderson cited possible fitness issues with the six-year-old and that he can indeed build upon his efforts posted thus far: “He didn’t have a hard race the time before at Haydock, but he probably put a fair bit into this one. Therefore he may have needed it fitness-wise. He’s absolutely fine and we’ll probably look at the Grade One Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown on 4th February to try him over two and a half miles and see how he gets on“.
Pace setting his way to fifth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last season, Charbel has shown good promise over fences thus far and won on chasing debut with some useful types behind him. Although no match for Altior at Sandown in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in December, there was no disgrace in defeat and a bad jump at the last certainly did not help his cause. That is not to say that he would have won that day – as that is unlikely – but it was a good performance nonetheless. At a best priced 33/1 for the race, that is a very good Each Way price and, as the likely pace setter, he would almost certainly give a good account of himself. A number of factors will obviously be needed for him to have a leading chance, with good ground being the first and, perhaps, the most crucial. Neither is assured, but are probable with ground likely to be drying out towards March. With runners likely to thin out in fear of those such as Altior, he could well be the only pace angle left in the race. 33/1 really could underestimate his ability and he is worth paying close attention to in the lead-up to the Festival.
Yet to be truly tested over fences, Listen Dear has still achieved what was expected of her, winning all three of her starts with ease at odds of 5/6, 1/12 and 4/7. Her latest win at Cork in December was a fluid success, with her jumping at top standard and her first foray into graded company, passing the test with flying colours. Against the top few in the market, she does have something to find and it would be nice to see her compete in a Grade 1 before she reaches Cheltenham so that we can get a better gauge of her current ability. She is, however, ground versatile and is a sure stayer at this trip. Therefore, she is likely to be in their pitching as they round the turn, as she also has the advantage of the mares allowance.
Seven-year-olds have a standout record in the Arkle, with horses of this vintage having secured the race seven times in the past 14 years. Between 2007 and 2009 there were three consecutive victors aged seven; My Way de Solzen, Tidal Bay and Forpadydeplasterer.
The horse that bucked this trend was eight-year-old Sizing Europe for Henry De Bromhead and Andrew Lynch, who raced handily in fourth for much of the early stages. The De Bromhead mount put in a spectacular jump at the ninth to have himself on level terms with long-time leader Mad Max before pouncing on a jumping error at the penultimate fence to lead the runners home. The winner just fended off an improving Somersby who had the advantage of the rail late on.
Captain Chris restored the stronghold of the seven-year-olds over the race. Like his predecessor, the horse raced in fourth position for much of the uphill racing. Despite making much of jumping the ninth, Captain Chris responded well to the urgings of Richard Johnson and took the rail, the backside of front-running Finian’s Rainbow in his sights. The leader seemed to empty all at once, allowing the eventual winner to close up the three length gap at the second last. Jumping the last together, Captain Chris continued to stay on, fighting out a two-and-three-quarter length victory.
2012 was the year of Sprinter Sacre, the first of a successive double for Henderson and Geraghty. The odds-on favourite showed his hand at the water jump, having been held up in third early on. He capitalised on a mistake from Al Ferof to take the lead at the fourth last and improved incrementally without encouragement from his rider. The horse kept on again to finish a full seven lengths clear of second placed Cue Card on the line. The second of the Henderson, Geraghty double in the race came in the shape of seven-year-old Simonsig who, like his stablemate, was an odds-on market leader for the pair in 2013. Simonsig refused to settle throughout the opening stages of the race, not content with the pace set by the front-running Overturn. The grey eventually calmed and was raced handily behind Donald McCain’s leader and Arvika Legionnaire. He was forced to recover from hitting the eighth hard, but stayed between the pair, with a superb jump at the next. Overturn smashed through the top of the second last which allowed the favourite to go clear from the improving Bailey Green, doing just enough following the last to see off the Mouse Morris outsider by just under three lengths.
Hat-trick seeking Henderson and Geraghty teamed up with Grandouet in 2014, but failed to make an impression on the race won by Western Warhorse. A 33/1 shot from the stable of David Pipe, Western Warhorse raced settled in third, just off the pace set by the eventual runner-up Champagne Fever. The horse looked beaten when falling through the field following the jumping of the tenth, but closed up and put in a good jump at the next to put himself in contention. Champagne Fever was leading over the last and was robbed of victory on the line by the seven-year-old.
2015 was no doubt the year of Willie Mullins, and Un De Sceaux was part of the infamous Day 1 four fold which was let down by Annie Power’s last fence fall in the Mares Hurdle. Sent off just 4/6, he made most and shot up the hill to pull away from God’s Own and score by an impressive six lengths.
The imperious Douvan maintained his long winning streak by comfortably landing the 2016 renewal of the race for Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins. In fact, he did not just win, he made an absolute mockery of the race and the manner of his victory was breathtaking. He was sent off a 1/4 favourite and fully justified his price tag.
Arkle was more than just a horse, he was a legend. Owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, Timeform rate him as the best ever steeplechaser with a rating of 212. In comparison, the mighty Sprinter Sacre, unbeaten in ten chase starts and winner of the Arkle Challenge Trophy by seven lengths (before winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase by a full 19 lengths without coming off the bridle) has been given a rating of a mere 192. Arkle could give Sprinter Sacre 15lb and still beat him by five lengths. It is a struggle to think about just how good Arkle was.
Indeed, he was so good that the whole handicap system had to be revised to cope with him. If Arkle was entered into a handicap, two sets of weights would be have to be published, one including Arkle and one without Arkle. He started 22 of his 26 chase starts at odds-on and he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1964, 1965 and 1966, winning 27 of his 35 races overall.
Possibly Arkle’s greatest win was when he beat his main rival Mill House in 1965 in the Gallacher Gold Cup. Despite giving the second favourite 16lb in weight allowance, and six out was a good five lengths behind, he showed an amazing turn of speed (while still on the bridle!) to win by 20 lengths. Even more impressively, with a weight of 12st 7lb and remaining on the bridle, he smashed the course record by a huge 17 seconds. It is well worth watching the YouTube video with the incredible original footage.
Interestingly, the second highest rated chaser ever – Flyingbolt, rated 210 – was Arkle’s stablemate. The two never met in racing, but it would have been some race if he had! Injured in the 1966 King George VI Chase, a return never materialised, but his memory lives on.
There are currently 33 entries for the Arkle Novices’ Trophy:
- A Hare Breath
- American Tom
- Ball D’Arc
- Bleu Et Rouge
- Buveur D’Air
- Cloudy Dream
- Flying Angel
- Forest Bihan
- Gino Trail
- Identity Thief
- Le Prezien
- Mick Thonic
- Ordinary World
- Royal Caviar
- Some Plan
- Three Stars
- Top Notch
- Tully East
- Waiting Patiently
- War Singer
- Winner Massagot
- Benie Des Dieux
- Listen Dear