The Arkle Chase is the second race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. Over the years we have been treated to some real superstars over this trip including Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer, Big Zeb and Master Minded in recent years.
It would appear we once again have a horse within reach of adding his name amongst that illustrious roll of honour in the shape of the exciting Un De Sceaux. Prices have long gone about this free-wheeling Mullins machine but from what I’ve seen so far this campaign he is going to be virtually unstoppable with a clear round, but there has to be something else at the prices surely?
A few key stats to keep in mind when evaluating the race;
13/14 – returned at odds of 9/1 or below.
14/14 – had run no more than five times over the larger obstacles.
13/14– finished in the first two in all completed chase starts.
12/14 – were rated above 142 over hurdles prior to going chasing.
UN DE SCEAUX
Denham Red (FR) — Hotesse De Sceaux (FR) (April Night (FR) (9.9f))
Notes: Didn’t start off on a great note when falling on his chasing debut, but righted those wrongs with two comprehensive victories in his last two starts. An easy winner of a beginners chase at Fairyhouse mid-way through December, he followed that up by slaughtering his opposition in the Irish Arkle towards the end of January, giving Clarcam 10lb and a 15 length beating. The clear class horse in the field and with his previous high-class form over hurdles also in the book looks virtually impossible to beat here with a clear round.
Voix Du Nord (FR) — La Tosca Valtat (FR) (Dom Alco (FR))
Notes: A fair hurdler last season for Paul Nicholls he has come on leaps and bounds since switched to the larger obstacles. He would be unbeaten over fences but for a bizarre ride from Sam Twiston-Davies at Cheltenham when giving weight to Dunraven Storm saw him home in second place, but has made up for it in style since with a Grade 1 victory and two Grade 2 victories. The clear danger to the favourite Un De Sceaux and the race should be run to suit him perfectly. If for whatever reason Un De Sceaux either fails to complete, or goes off too quickly in-front then Vibrato Valtat is most likely to pick up the pieces.
Winged Love (IRE) (13.7f) — Credora Storm (IRE) (Glacial Storm (USA) (13.0f))
Notes: Was my idea of the winner of this race before heading into the 2014/15 NH season, and subsequently saw me placing various antepost multiples with him included in them. Whilst he has a massive engine he hasn’t really taken to fences as I’d of hoped and the way he has fenced to date, suggests he is going to struggle to remain competitive in a race such as the Arkle around Cheltenham and for that reason I couldn’t possibly be getting involved now.
Califet (FR) — Rose Beryl (FR) (Lost World (IRE) (7.9f))
Notes: Has improved with experience over fences and has already claimed the scalp of Vautour on his CV. However he was no match for Un De Sceaux in the Irish Arkle last time out and you’d struggle to see any sort of reversal there, especially worse off at the weights. He is likely to run his usual solid race but is under-priced in the market based on the figures I hold.
Imperial Dancer (9.3f) — Lakaam (Danzero (AUS) (8.0f))
Notes: Just the one run over fences and given a somewhat unusual preparation for the Arkle, he won with abundance in hand when landing a run of the mill chase at Uttoxeter at the start of the season. No match for Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but has since bolted up in a maiden on the flat at Lingfield showing he remains in really good health according to my all-weather speed figures. Has any amount of improvement in the locker, but will need to improve to trouble the principles on what they’ve shown so far but is very much an interesting contender at the prices.
Street Cry (IRE) (9.6f) — Chan Tong (BRZ) (Hampstead (URU))
Notes: Rated 140 over hurdles last season, he has shown himself to be a very fair performer over fences this campaign, finishing in the first two on all four occasions, winning three of those. An impressive winner of his beginners chase at Leicester beating Thomas Crapper, Deep Trouble and Generous Ransom (who has won two races since, highest off 128). A comfortable winner on his next start he went down 0.5L to Vibrato Valtat at Kempton Park off level weights (10L back to Gods Own in third). Three Kingdoms followed that second up with a gallant victory at Doncaster when giving 3lb to Solar Impulse and a narrow beating. Solar Impulse has shown himself to be a fair 148ish horse and took Josses Hill plenty of time to wear down (getting 2lb) at Doncaster the time previous.
Vautour would be of obvious interest if dropped back for this but with the yard having hot favourite Un De Sceaux in the race, means Vautour most likely heads for the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Gods Own would be capable of playing a major hand in this if recapturing his early season form which saw him a run-away winner of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. His jumping went astray in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, and went off far too quickly at Kempton on his next outing. The break will have done him the world of good and looks overpriced at 40/1 if he can recapture his form – is certainly better going right-handed though.
Dunraven Storm has run with credit all season and bar a below-par effort at Ascot when last seen when thumped by Ptit Zig he has been a solid type. He is held by Vibrato Valtat on all known form but he is a really likeable type and although likely to be outclassed will run his usual race.
Gilgamboa was made to look very one-paced by Rawnaq when beaten at short-odds on his latest outing, and previously looked in need to a step up in trip the time before that also. Likely to head for the JLT Novices’ Chase you would think as opposed to this.
The return to potentially better ground is likely to see Court Minstrel to better effect than when he signed off at Sandown when well beaten. He has it to find on the figures though but will run his race to around the low-150’s if he lines up which wouldn’t be good enough.
Top Gamble has shown a liking for softer ground in his career and has improved markedly for the switch to Richard Lee this campaign. He is held by Vibrato Valtat when getting weight and a beating at Warwick when these pair met in February, and is unlikely to reverse those placing’s on what we’ve seen so far.
A race which should really go to the favourite Un De Sceaux on everything we have seen so far. He looks the next big thing over fences and won in breath-taking style when last seen at Leopardstown. Although unlikely there is a slight possibility he could be susceptible to a race-ending mistake and at the current price of 4/7, really doesn’t enthuse getting involved in.
Should the unthinkable happen, Vibrato Valtat will be best placed to pick up the pieces. Winner of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Sandown this term, and a brace of Grade 2’s he has shown himself a very potent weapon over fences and is clear best of the remainder.
Although this is a race which historically has favoured those towards the fore of the market, I’m going to chance my arm with one at a price in the shape of THREE KINGDOMS. A consistent sort who has run with real credit on every start over fences so far this season, and the return to quicker underfoot ground could squeeze out a few pounds of improvement making the best sense at the prices, with 3 place cover.