Arkle Challenge Trophy
(Class 1) (Grade 1) (1m 7f 199y)
Tuesday 12th March 2019
Next up in my series of previews for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Preview is my Arkle Preview. I’ll be taking a look at the Grade 1 affair which is contested over a distance just shy of two miles and it’s seen as the most prestigious of the novice chases in the National Hunt calendar. The race is named after one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time ‘Arkle’ who was a three time Chetenham Gold Cup winner in the 60’s. A whole host of recent winners have since gone on to lofty heights and some of these include the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Un De Sceaux, Douvan and Altior, horses that need no introduction.
This year’s renewal saw another potential star withdrawn due to a setback and that was the former favourite for the race in Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg. A horse that looked immensely impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival who’s presence will be sorely missed. On the back of his absence the race is now headed by the Kayley Woollacott trained Lalor (3/1) who arrives here fresh having not been seen for several months. On his last outing he finished a disappointing third when odds on at Sandown however it was his penultimate start which has propelled him to the top of the market here and that came when bolting up around here in an trial race for this in November. Connections will be hoping for a repeat of that level of performance here and he’s a general 3/1 chance to do that.
This is a race that’s likely going to cut up quite a bit so i’m going to try and focus on those who are most likely to run. Two of these come in the form of Glen Forsa (4/1) and Kalashnikov (12/1). This duo met on their last outing at Sandown where the Mick Channon charge Glen Forsa came out on top in very impressive style, that performance has since propelled him to a prominent position in the betting here and it’s likely he’ll be battling it out for favourtism. Kalashnikov finished a very close second in the Supreme last year and has won two out of his four starts over fences this term, a return to Cheltenham will likely suit him and the Amy Murphy charge will still be a popular selection with punters. Money has come for Defi Du Seil (10/3) in recent days, he’s also entered in the JLT but now finds himself as short as 10/3 for this particular affair. The 2017 Triumph Hurdle winner would be a massive player should he line up here. Gary Moore’s Knocknanuss (12/1) looks another strong contender for the home challenge, he fell the last time at Leopardstown but before that has very solid form when finishing second to Master Dino and bolting up at Newbury on seasonal reappearance.
The Irish challenge here is a fairly strong one with several in the line up holding viable chances, the Willie Mullins trained Duc Des Genievres (13/2) currently sits at the most prominent position in the betting at a best priced of 13/2. He’s a smart horse that ran big races in many big hurdle races last term, he finally got his head in front last time out over fences and did it in impressive style. Willie also has Voix Du Reve (20/1), Camelia De Cotte (20/1) and Real Steel (25/1) in here at the moment and it remains to be seen if any of those take their places in the line up. Gordon Elliott currently has Hardline (12/1), Mengli Khan (25/1) and Duca De Thaix (33/1) down to go here. Hardline looks his best chance should he take his place here, he’s already a Grade 1 winner having taking advantage of Getabird’s late error on Boxing Day. Another two Irish raiders come in the form of Paloma Blue (8/1) and Ornua (12/1) for Henry de Bromhead, both of these would have a chance coming into this and that’s reflected in their prices.
The Arkle really is wide open this year having had many short priced favourites in recent times. Lalor if repeating that run from November when bolting up here would be a big player, and back on decent ground should go well. If Defi Du Seil runs he should be bang there but it’s very much up in the air with his current placing at the minute. I like Glen Forsa though here, he’s progressing very nicely with each effort and that run last time was mightily impressive. If turning up in the same form he’ll be very tough to beat.
1st: GLEN FORSA (4/1)
2nd: LALOR (3/1)
3rd: DUC DES GENIEVRES (13/2)
WIN: GLEN FORSA (4/1)
(A horse that’s gone from strength to strength this season winning three on the bounce culminating in a 19 length demolition of Kalashnikov in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Chase last time. It’s hard to see that form being reversed and hard to see him being out of the frame should he turn up in that kind of form again and continue his rapid progression.)