Cheltenham '11 – Arkle Chase

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The second race on the opening day, and my personal festival favourite, is the Arkle.

Won last year by Sizing Europe, it’s open to five year old and above novice chasers, run over two miles, on the Cheltenham Old Course, with a total of twelve fences to clear.

10 Year Trends:
10/10 – returned at odds of 9/1 or below
10/10 – had raced no more than five times over fences
9/10 – never finished outside the first two over fences
9/10 – were rated 142 or higher over hurdles
8/10 – came first or second on their last run

Medermit – A King
7yo grey gelding
Medaaly (UK) – Miss D’hermite (FR) (Solicitor (FR))
Talented hurdler who came within fractions of winning a Supreme. Made light work of two opponents on chase debut at Aintree but somewhat infamously refused the 6th fence at Huntingdon next time round, in a race full of drama. Back on track a month later and finished a narrow second in the Dipper, pulling well clear with his victor on the day, Hell’s Bay. Travelled strongly and jumped imperiously when landing the Grade 1 Scilly Isles, probably idling in front. Trainer recently put him up as his most likely winner and has all the credentials to fulfil that prophecy.

Finian’s Rainbow – N Henderson
8yo bay gelding
Tiraaz (USA) – Trinity Gale (IRE) (Strong Gale (UK))
More than useful hurdler who came an excellent fifth in last year’s Neptune. Effortlessly accounted for Hell’s Bay in a three runner event at Newbury despite a couple of novicey mistakes and the second has franked the form since. Faced just two opponents again, back at Newbury when a wide margin winner, in part due to the fall of a well held rival three out. Not overly impressive when making it three in a row in the Kingmaker, this time against three opponents. A mixture of good and bad jumping had him looking briefly under threat and had Kilmurry not broken down, the result could have been different. Given limited opposition, hard to get a handle on his true ability but one thing is for certain, will not get away with a repeat performance on the jumping front in this race. Additionally, only two horses have won this aged eight or above since 1960.

[frame_right src=”http://www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Ghizao-150×150.jpg” href=”#”]Ghizao[/frame_right]

Ghizao – P Nicholls
7yo bay gelding
Tiger Hill (IRE) – Glorosia (FR) (Bering (GER))
Not the worst hurdler in the world but always the type to make up into a nice chaser and is exactly that. Bumped into the ill-fated Kilmurry on chasing debut but reversed that form with aplomb when winning the Grade 2 November Novices’ Chase here in, oddly enough, November. Travelled and jumped impeccably and put in a similar performance at Newbury towards the end of the year. Form ties with Medermit through Captain Chris could prove questionable due to the Hobbs runner undergoing a wind operation but a repeat of his penultimate performance in particular, would see him prove tough to beat.

Realt Dubh – N Meade
7yo bay gelding
Beneficial (UK) – Suez Canal (FR) (Exit To Nowhere (USA))
Raced more than most in the field, both in general and over fences. Pretty comfortable winner of a beginners chase at Navan before hitting the deck next time out in a Grade 3 contest. Foot perfect the following race when a comfortable winner of the Craddockstown and ran a solid enough race also in the Drinmore, ultimately finishing second thanks to a final flight mishap for Mikael D’Haguenet. Beneficiary of another final flight fall in the Bord Na Mora, giving him his first Grade 1 success, but every chance he would have been victorious anyway. Second Grade 1 followed when narrowly denying Noble Prince to win the Irish Arkle. The fourth that day has run well since, and the fifth won recently so the form of that race is beginning to work out and the time was very strong. That said, Irish Arkle winners have a poor record in this and four of the five recent trends listed above, oppose him.

Others of note:
Captain Chris has filled the runners up spot on all four starts this season, three of which were against two of his possible opponents here. It’s not unthinkable he could reverse form with both those horses, but don’t see that happening in this race and the Jewson has been touted as his more likely destination. Starluck was a hugely talented hurdler and made a highly promising chase debut yesterday afternoon. However, the Arkle, for now anyway, is far from certain as a destination and given his preference for sharp flat tracks as a hurdler, there are still too many questions without answers to contemplate his current price. Noble Prince is all but Jewson bound if recent comments are to be believed, Mikael D’Haguenet has flopped over fences and it’s not easy making any sort of case for the remainder.

Verdict:
First things first, this is a bitterly disappointing renewal by any standards and as a result, I’m struggle to nail a selection down. Finian’s Rainbow is virtually unbackable at the odds so I’m tempted by Realt Dubh who is probably the value angle at the current time, being a double figure price. That said, I can’t help but feel, he’ll find either Medermit or Ghizao too good on the day. I don’t think there is a lot between the two, but on the basis that Ghizao’s best performance came over course and distance, while Medermit is yet to win at Prestbury Park from five attempts, I’ll have to, with no great confidence, side with the Nicholls charge.

[notification_box]1pt win Ghizao @ 9/2 with SportingBet, William Hill, Boylesports. [/notification_box]

 

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!!

9 Comments

  1. Can’t see past Medermit here, has form in the book and looks to need the drop back to two miles. Alan King bang in form after a quiet year or two and has always held this horse in high regard. I think Ghizao is a hype horse and the biggest danger will most probably come in the shape of Starluck should he run.

  2. Noticed last night that Noble Prince isn’t a great price on the exchanges, which might suggest that he will take his chance in the Arkle. My fancy if he does, Medermit if he doesn’t!

  3. I think Finian’s Rainbow is actually the hype horse in this field. Ghizao has the form and performances in the book that make him the one to beat and I expect him to prove too good for the likes of Medermit and Realt Dubh.

    Starluck is the interesting one. Winning an Arkle on just your second chasing start has been done before and I think connections will run him in this despite the inconclusive after-race comments. Given how good he was over hurdles, he could be the one we are all overlooking.

  4. You speak plenty of sense Connor, and if Well Chief did it (he wasn’t anywhere nearly as good a hurdler either) then I’m sure Starluck could do it too, he’s overpriced on his hurdles form and wouldn’t be a forlorn hope. I think they’ll definitely send him, because what else is there for him this side of the pond?

    I quite liked the look of Realt Dubh and Medermit, probably in that order but fully aware the danger that Ghizao possesses and all looks geared up for an exciting race hopefully.

  5. Can’t see past Finians Rainbow in this. Warwick is a pretty hard course to fence round for novices and he did it fairly enough last time and would have beaten Kilmurry (RIP) anyway if asked for his effort.

    He looks to be the one who can go furthest in this race to me and he’ll be ridden more attackingly at The Festival which has to be a good thing.

    MG

  6. I agree with Monets Garden – it has to be Finian’s Rainbow. I’m not much of a punter but I did back him befire he had jumped a fence in public and on form he has the beating of Medermit through Hells Bay and I don’t think his jumping is an issue: in all three races over fences his jumping has got considerably better in the latter stages and that will stand him in good stead come the Arkle.

  7. Agree with the two posters about me, Finian’s Rainbow is the class act in this race and has been overlooked by a few in favour of Medermit and Ghizao but Finian’s Rainbow will blow them away come race day. This is the next generation of the two mile Champion Chase division.

    Monksfield

  8. Whilst the prices are decent, already put CAPTAIN CHRIS into my first days bet, and its possible that he hasnt had hard races to put him spot on for this. Again a nice ew feel to it.

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