The Arkle Chase is the second race on the opening day of the 2016 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 and most recently Un De Sceaux who is looking to follow up a win in this race last year, with victory in the Champion Chase on Wednesday.
Once again Willie Mullins appears to hold the key to this race with the magnificent beast that is Douvan, who has looked so far ahead of his competition so far both over hurdles and fences that it is hard to see defeat for this gelded son of Walk In The Park.
A few key stats to keep in mind when evaluating the race;
- 14/15 – returned at odds of 9/1 or below.
- 15/15 – had run no more than five times over the larger obstacles.
- 14/15– finished in the first two in all completed chase starts.
- 13/15 – were rated above 142 over hurdles prior to going chasing.
Cheltenham 2016 – Arkle Chase Contenders
Walk In The Park (IRE) — Star Face (FR) (Saint Des Saints (FR))
Notes: Winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2015 for connections, he has made a seamless transition to fences stretching his unbeaten run to 8 races. His three runs over fences so far have yielded winning margins of 9.5 lengths, 18 lengths and 15 lengths all very much on the snaff. He looks the real deal and it is very likely he’ll win this and the Champion Chase next year, he is going to be a real tough one to beat.
Voix Du Nord (FR) — Expoville (FR) (Video Rock (FR) (12.1f))
Notes: The best of the UK representation and has won two from three over fences so far. He was a good hurdler a couple of seasons ago and looks to have improved for the switch to fences on the evidence we’ve seen so far. He looks some way below the ability of the Mullins favourite though (as do all rivals) but looks sure to be thereabouts for the placings.
The Game Changer
Arcadio (GER) — Gilt Ridden (IRE) (Heron Island (IRE) (12.0f))
Notes: A winner of six of his eight starts over fences, and was last seen in October when landing a Grade 3 novices’ chase. Needs decent ground to be seen to his best but again rates some way below Douvan, and is another who will be fighting things out for the places.
Midnight Legend (13.3f) — La Perrotine (FR) (Northern Crystal (6.8f))
Notes: No match for Douvan when the pair met at Leopardstown on Boxing Day but had previously won two from two over fences. He looks sure to be fighting it out for the places with Vaniteux and The Game Changer amongst a few others but again it’s hard to see him being able to make up almost 20 lengths on Douvan, should that one clear round.
Aso has been running well over fences this winter, often without winning and generally looks not up to this level.
Baltimore Rock a win and place from two starts over fences, a fair hurdler but again another who will struggle in this grade.
Shaneshill looks to be heading elsewhere, as does Outlander and Garde La Victoire and also L’Ami Serge.
A race clearly at the mercy of Douvan, who has looked in a different stratosphere to his rivals so far this chasing campaign. He hasn’t put a foot wrong in his three chase starts and providing he turns up, and puts in a similar effort he’ll wallop these!
Of the remainder it looks to be between Vaniteux and Sizing John who look best of the rest, with The Game Changer slightly behind those in a field made up mostly of handicappers at this stage.
Whilst I’m at loathe to advise anything against Douvan, for the interests of this article I’m going to side with SIZING JOHN each-way in the hope he gets round and picks up the place money, he looks a worthwhile alternative.