Vibrato Valtat could bustle up hot favourite Un De Sceaux
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, 2m Old Course (due off 2.05pm)
This race houses one of the shortest-priced favourite of the entire festival in Un De Sceaux, who is one of five first-day favourites all trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins – the others being Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power (similarly priced) and Don Poli. Bookmakers are fearing the worst and Un De Sceaux is certain to be the ‘banker’ in many a treble and accumulator. Why? He’s looked an absolute machine in landing his last two chase starts by an aggregate of 27 lengths, making all on each occasion.
That’s his trademark style (he was the same when going 7-7 over hurdles) and the sight of Ruby Walsh attacking the Cheltenham fences on him will be a joy to behold. If he does have an Achilles heel, it’s his jumping as he did fall on his debut at Thurles, although it has to be said he’s learned from that and has been pretty much foot-perfect since. But this is his first look at Cheltenham and not all horses take to it. Top price: 8/13 Coral.
Who else is fancied?
Un De Sceaux has frightened off a fair few off but Vibrato Valtat has stood his ground and he’s a worthy second favourite based on what he’s shown on the track this season. He was a weak finisher over hurdles and had the reputation of being a bridle horse who didn’t find a great deal for pressure. However, his trainer Paul Nicholls has transformed him this season and he’s gone 4-5 over fences – his one defeat here in November can be put down to jockey error as Sam Twiston-Davies held on to him for far too long. A strong traveller with a potent turn of foot, he will be suited by the end-to-gallop gallop of this race.
Any decent outsiders?
Western Warhorse stunned us all when mugging Champagne Fever in the dying strides at 33/1 last year, so it’s worth paying more than a cursory glance further down the betting list. You quickly stop at Josses Hill at around the 10/1 mark, although Nicky Henderson’s charge needs to improve on what he’s shown so far over fences: one win at 4/11, sandwiched by a couple of odds-on defeats. He’s looked far from a natural but his rider Barry Geraghty is adamant the speed of this race will help him a lot in the jumping department. We’ll see!
Sgt Reckless looked good when winning on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter in October and has been lightly-raced since (one run over hurdles and a spin on the all-weather) in order to avoid soft ground. Three Kingdoms has won three of his four chases and ran a cracker in defeat when going down by half a length to Vibrato Valtat at Kempton over Christmas. The fact he stays further than 2m is in his favour.
Trainer quote: “He jumps, travels and is improving. He runs in the Arkle and if Un de Sceaux wasn’t there he would have an outstanding chance. They will go a good gallop which will be different to some of these prep races, which won’t do him any harm. He can be ridden more positively now.” – Paul Nicholls on Vibrato Valtat.
Best bookie offer
Paddy Power will refund all losing single stakes on the Arkle Trophy as a free bet (up to £50) if Un De Sceaux wins.
Un De Sceaux surely wins if he stands up but he’s no betting proposition at the current odds and backing VIBRATO VALTAT in the ‘w/o the favourite’ market is the value alternative – the bet cops if he wins or comes second to the Irish hot-pot. Alternatively, a win only bet with Paddy Power, who are 6/1, is risk-free given their offer. Each-way backers could do worse than Three Kingdoms at 20/1, again with Paddy Power.
Vibrato Valtat ‘w/o Un De Sceaux’ @ 11/4 BetVictor