Cheltenham '10: The Arkle

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The Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase is the second race on the opening day of the Festival and is considered the Champion Chase for novices. Generally fields for the Arkle are smaller than most Festival races but that doesn’t stop it from being a very real test for novices, who must run, travel and jump faster than they ever have before. Unsurprisingly, with such an examination offered, the race has a good record of producing future stars, with the likes of Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Well Chief and Voy Por Ustedes all tasting success. Open to 5yo’s and upwards, run over a two mile trip and worth £150,000, let’s take a look through the main contenders of this years field.

Firstly, I am not a person who takes much interest in trends but even the most naïve of gamblers must know you can’t preview the Cheltenham Festival without outlining the key trends associated with each race. With that in mind:

French bred horses have won 7 out of the last 15 races, yet have represented less than 25% of the competitors.

Only 1 favourite has won since 1992, yet since Waterloo Boy won in 1989 at 20/1, the biggest winning SP has been 11/1.

Again since Waterloo Boy’s victory aged 8, only one other horse above 7 has emerged victorious, Moscow Flyer in 2002.

21 of the last 22 winners had finished first or second in a all completed chase starts.

An interesting field look set to line up this year, including a Supreme Novices’ winner, last years fast finishing Supreme Novices’ third and a former Champion Hurdle favourite.

Captain Cee Bee
9-y-o Gelding
Germany (USA) – Elea Victoria (IRE) (Sharp Victor (USA)
Edward Harty
Notes: Looked a class act when making it three form three over hurdles by beating Binocular to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but pulled up a month later at Aintree after picking up an injury that saw him sidelined through out the following season. Showed his talent still remained despite a switch to chasing when returning to win a beginners chase and then traveling all over Sizing Europe with Osana well beaten in behind when tipping up over the final fence at Leopardstown. Confidence recovered with an easy victory since, though a mistake at the final fence again might have put doubts into the heads of a few followers. Heavy support recently makes him clear favourite and without doubt the one to beat.

Sizing Europe
8-y-o Gelding
Pistolet Bleu (IRE) – Jennie Dun (IRE) (Mandalus (UK)
Henry De Bromhead
Notes: A one time Champion Hurdle favourite, his inability to stay two miles was exposed at the highest level, but after defeat to Solwhit in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, his attentions have switched to chasing. Back at Punchestown he made a bloodless debut over the bigger obstacles and returned in October to rout Harchibald and others in a Grade 3. Similar story in November upped in Grade again but may well have had to settle for the runners up position had Captain Cee Bee not fallen at the final fence in the Grade 1 Bord Na Mona. Like his hurdling career, he will no doubt have a host of followers but I’m not one of them and there are a couple of other entrants I prefer.

6-y-o Gelding
Second Empire (IRE) – Back To Roost (IRE) (Presenting (UK)
Henrietta Knight
Notes: A lightly raced horse with 4 wins from 8 starts in all sphere’s, he has only once finished unplaced, when a sh-hd fourth on hurdling debut. Third at big odds in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle he has now turned to chasing and opened with an easy success in a Warwick novice chase. He only beat four rivals that day who haven’t done much since but he did jump and travel very well. He went on to record a second success in early December, winning the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase where again he jumped impeccably, beating Crack Away Jack and Tchico Polos. Plans to head straight to the festival from there have been upheld, Sizing Europe similar, and although you have to go back a fair few years to find an Arkle winner without a prep race in the same year, he clearly runs well fresh and fitness shouldn’t be an issue. Somersby deserves his place towards the top of the market and has big claims.

Long Run
5-y-o Gelding
Cadoudal (FR) – Libertina (FR) (Balsamo (FR)
Nicky Henderson
Notes: Looked a likely runner in the RSA but runs over two miles on Saturday and if running well, could have his target switched to the Arkle. Can’t argue with his French form, and an impressive winner at Kempton in December. He jumped really well that day but a drop from three miles to two, to run against some of the horses likely to line up in this field, must be seen as a negative. Clearly talented but despite what he does at the weekend and how he does it, I would prefer his chances in the RSA Chase than in here.

Riverside Theatre
6-y-o Gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Disallowed (IRE) (Distinctly North (USA)
Nicky Henderson
Notes: Decent enough hurdler but a touch shy of the top level. Has won both a beginners and a novices’ chase with relative ease while jumping well, but nothing much to the opposition of either race. Possible place claims but hard to see him beat some of the classier horses above and not of interest at current odds.

Sports Line
7-y-o Gelding
Norwich (IRE) – Hot Line (IRE) (Riverhead (USA)
Willie Mullins
Notes: Lightly raced horse with just 7 runs which have yielded 4 wins. Never highly tried over hurdles before switched to chasing, when winning his debut at Navan cosily. Strongly fancied for the Arkle at Leopardstown but beaten by An Cathaoir Mor, who’s expected to re-oppose, but he’s surely De Bromhead’s second string and hard to fancy Sports Line with that in mind.

6-y-o Gelding
Sassanian (USA) – Rosa Carola (FR) (Rose Laurel (IRE)
Paul Nicholls
Notes: Lightly raced over hurdles but gave the impression he was more than useful. Destroyed a small field at Exeter on chase debut and a comfortable success followed at Cheltenham in November. Shock defeat since in a three runner race at long odds on, where he jumped right and more importantly, jumped badly. That is a serious worry, as he will not have such an easy time up in front in this, and so he’s hard to fancy.

In my opinion Sizing Europe would have been beaten by Captain Cee Bee and it’s hard to ignore just how well he was going at the time of his fall. In fact, it is hard to oppose him at all, but the price has continued to drop from around the 25/1’s some people snaffled up to around 7/2 currently and although I think he is the one to beat, I prefer the profile of SOMERSBY. I think he is the better jumper, is clearly talented and looks a real top chaser in the making. For me he is the one to be on but a cheeky reverse forecast bet might also be worthwhile.

2pt win – Somersby @ 7/1 with Ladbrokes, William Hill or PaddyPower.
0.5pt RFC – Captain Cee Bee and Somersby

Racing and breeding enthusiast, racehorse owner, semi-professional gambler and an opiniated, verbose, pain in the arse, now trying to make his way in the murky world of law. To be honest, I'm far more interested in flat racing, particularly the Juddmonte Farms operation and the juvenile division; As such, the race that most interests me at the Cheltenham Festival would have to be the Champion Bumper. You 'could' follow me on twitter and facebook, but it really wouldn't be worth your while!!


  1. i think somersby is probably the best of the english horses although,long run is a bit of an unknown quantity. captain cee bee is favourite on merit and like you i think he would have beaten sizing europe to. captain cee bee is a far better horse on good ground and has proven championship form at cheltenham,which means he can handle the hurly burly of the race plus all the preliminaries,personally i think he will win with somersby and long run his biggest threats

  2. Have to agree with everything that has been written by DB and by our commenter Kevin, Somersby looks about the best of the English challenge for this race, but Captain Cee Bee holds the aces for me if he brushes up his jumping between now and The Festival.

    Looks sure to be a fascinating race whichever way you look at it, and one in which if I hadn’t of already backed Captain Cee Bee at 8/1, I’d play late.

  3. I’ll be siding with Sizing Europe. I wasn’t a big fan of his during his hurdling career. He jumped the hurdles high, and lost momentum most time. He always looked like a real chaser. I was at Punchestown pre-Christmas to see him dispatch an ordinary field, it what could only be described as a work ride canter. What impressed me the most is, his jumping was clean and effortless, and he’s clearly learned alot about the racing game.

  4. Agree totally with above, cant see any other winner apart from Captain Cee Bee and Somersby, and l think this weeekend will see Somersbys chances enhanced even further, Like me if you fancy him would take price sooner rather than later as good performance can see price tumble

  5. Though Somersby has looked a smart sort, Captain Cee Bee looked a real star in the making before injury ended his hurdling career and looks every bit as good over fences. Definitely had the beating of Sizing Europe and took 12/1 fairly early which is looking good right now.

  6. From what I have seen of Somersby this season makes me believe he’s still improving and has been kept fresh. His jumping has been superb which is something which cant be said of Captain Cee Bee and the way he runs suggests he’ll relish the Arkle test.

    Somersby for me.


  7. Agree with the tipster, Somersby has been mighty impressive this season and looks as though still progressing. This race should work out ideal for him and he will be very hard to beat at a good price.

  8. I’m in the Sizing Europe camp. The game is all about jumping so the if’s and but’s about Captain Cee Bee don’t interest me, Sizing Europe won and may have still won even if Captain Cee Bee stayed on his feet.
    He always looked a chaser and has done absolutely nothing wrong this season though Somersby is a big worry.

  9. Just not sure Sizing Europe will be good enough up against CCB and Somersby. CCB looks the one to beat I have to agree with you DB, Somersby’s profile suggests he is the better bet at the odds.

  10. Somersby has absolutely no chance, not good enough on form, looks too slow, hurdles rating isn’t high enough and the Sandown race fell apart with PN saying Tchico Polos would struggle to win a handicap never mind a grade 1 at the festival!

  11. Somersby is a biblical place lay on the basis of what exactly Mark?

    As for Pigeon Island, he can’t jump the bigger fences and his price of 100/1 just about reflects his chances in the race.

  12. The joy of our sport is it’s all about taking an opinion so although I can’t agree with yours in any way shape or form Mark, fair enough!

    BB – Somersby has only raced against 4 and 3 rivals so the form is never going to be outstanding. Neither Sizing Europe nor Captain Cee Bee have beaten a great deal either and it’s more a case of judging the performance put up, than what was in behind. He certainly hasn’t looked to slow to me and I fail to see the relevance of his hurdles ratings, when he has only raced four times in that sphere before being sent chasing.

    Anyhow, good luck to both of you with your selections.

  13. I think it’s a worry for anyone placing a bet on the Arkle if they don’t understand the key significance of hurdle ratings! A rating of 143 would see him perhaps make the frame in an average Arkle – Forpady and Kalahari would have beaten him I feel – but in this renewal you have some high class hurdlers competing, who have looked the real deal over fences.

    He will struggle manfully to be competitive imo.

  14. I take your point Big Buck’s, but I think you haven’t fully understood mine. I’m not saying ignore hurdle ratings and the significance of them, because the horse is now going chasing; Anything but.
    I’m saying I would not pin too much emphasis on the hurdle rating of a horse who wasn’t campaigned over hurdles, with a hurdling career in mine. The horse was lightly raced over hurdles with the idea that whatever he did in that sphere, would be a bonus, and that his main NH achievements would come when switched to fences.
    Or at least that is my reading of the situation.

    You understand that because he is my selection, I will defend my choice. That’s not to say I don’t take your points on board or in any way intend to rubbish them. What this site is looking for is healthy debate between members and hopefully we have that, and in an attempt to continue that, who is your idea of the winner?

  15. Fair enough. Sizing Europe for me. High hurdles rating and rightly so, almost flawless over fences thus far. Danger is CCB who although 9 has a sprinkling of stardust. Hard to envisage what gets near them, good luck!

  16. Captain Cee Bee has the best form in the book I think by some way. However, I have heard some rumours that Venetia is especially keen on Somersby with a view to being the “new Best Mate”

  17. Fair play to Sizing Europe, a very good winner and Osana ran a very big race to. Somersby jumped well and finished a valiant second but probably just got outpaced three from home. He is certainly destined for better things next season, along with the winner, though Captain Cee Bee was a huge disappointment. Bad jumping aside, he did not look too happy and Riverside Theatre’s never near fifth was probably a touch disappointing to.

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