Arkle Challenge Trophy Tipsters Preview

The Arkle Challenge Trophy, currently sponsored by the Racing Post, is currently scheduled as the second race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and, as such, is the first Grade 1 steeplechase of the week. The race is run over a distance of about 2 miles on the Old Course and is open to novice chasers – that is, horses that have not won a steeplechase before the start of the current season – aged five years and upwards. Let’s take a look at the best wagers ahead of the trophy.

 

Recent trends suggest that what we’re looking for, ideally, in a likely winner is a horse that has won, or been placed, at a previous Cheltenham Festival and has run since the turn of the year, finishing first or second in its preparatory race. The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown have proved key trials for the Arkle Challenge Trophy in recent years, so the winners of those races seem as good a starting point as any at this early stage.

 

The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase – the first Grade 1 of the season for novice chasers in Britain – was run on December 5, on good to soft going, and won, in impressive fashion, by Sceau Royal. The winner, trained by Alan King and ridden by Daryl Jacob, reversed earlier Cheltenham form with the runner-up, North Hill Harvey, to the tune of 11¼ lengths on just 5lb better terms, in the style of an improving horse. The 6-year-old has finished unplaced in the Triumph Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle on two previous visits to the Festival, but is entered for the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster this Saturday, for which he is likely to start a hot favourite. The Doctor Dino gelding is currently top-priced at 6/1 for the Arkle.

 

The Racing Post Novice Chase was run, on yielding going, and won, in equally impressive fashion, by Footpad, who is now a top-priced 7/4 favourite for the Arkle. Interestingly, Willie Mullins’ 6-year-old also ran in the same races as Sceau Royal on his two previous visits to the Festival, but finished third in the Triumph Hurdle, 17¾ lengths ahead of his old rival, and fourth in the Champion Hurdle, 2¾ lengths ahead of Alan King’s charge. The Creachadoir gelding has only run twice over fences, but jumps well for a novice and – while thirteen stiff fences will, undoubtedly, play their part come March 13 – he looks a worthy favourite at this stage.

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