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.
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.