What's the best bet for the Arkle Trophy?
14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase, 2m
Last year’s 1-2-3: Un De Sceaux (4/6f), God’s Own, Josses Hill – 11 ran.
If the current betting can be believed, Douvan has only got to jump round to collect with the rest are running for place money. Willie Mullins’ charge has pretty much been favourite since he crossed the line in last season’s Supreme Novices’ (landing some hefty bets in the process) as he struck many as a chaser in the making and, having gone unbeaten in three starts over the bigger obstacles this term, running his rivals ragged and jumping with real precision on each occasion, he’s done nothing to disprove that. The Arkle is his to lose. Top price: 2/5 Paddy Power.
Who else is fancied?
Well, the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux is the only other horse quoted at a single-figure price – 6/1 best with Paddy Power currently – and he seems certain to run after beating Arzal (no mug himself) in his prep at Doncaster at the end of January. He lacks the class of the favourite and his jumping left a bit to be desired last time but he ran out a convincing winner nonetheless and hailing from a yard that has won this contest twice in the last four years, he is sure to have done plenty of work at Seven Barrows in preparation. Good ground is important to him, though, and it’s hard to imagine the ground being any faster than ‘good to soft’ on the Tuesday.
And the rest?
It’s 16/1 bar Vaniteux and that takes in his stablemate L’Ami Serge, who ran too bad to be true in his prep at Warwick when long odds-on, and Henry De Bromhead’s Sizing John, who has been unfortunate to run into Douvan three times already in his short career, including over fences at Leopardstown in December when 18 lengths adrift.
Philip Hobbs’ Garde La Victoire is 3-3 over fences (including a race here at the Paddy Power meeting) and could take his chance here if the ground is suitable – he’ll be rerouted to longer JLT if it were to come up soft. Gordon Elliott’s The Game Changer is another who will appreciate better ground and, indeed, his participation hinges on it. He’s not been seen since landing a hat-trick of chase wins at Grade 3 level at Punchestown in October but won’t lack for fitness. Ruby Walsh has described his fencing as ‘deadly’.
If there is a dark one in the field it is Henry de Bromhead’s Alisier d’Irlande, an impressive winner of his last two chases and expected to improve for ‘nicer ground’. His owner Roger Brookhouse won this contest a couple of years ago with outsider Western Warhorse (33/1).
Jockey quote: “He’s a bit flat over his fences and doesn’t arch his back. Master Minded used to do that, too – flat but effective over his fences. Not arching his back means he’s fast away and that’s a huge plus for a two-miler chaser.” – Ruby Walsh after Douvan’s Leopardstown win in January.
Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on horses that finish second in all the Cheltenham Festival races as a free bet up to £25. A couple of firms – bet365 and Sky Bet -are NRNB (non-runner no-bet) and Best Odds Guaranteed.
What’s the verdict?
We are often told never to be afraid of one horse but what if that horse is Douvan? Providing he jumps round,it is extremely difficult to envisage anything getting near him and, consequently, the only way to approach the race from a betting perspective is to find one at an each-way price who might make the frame or dabble in the ‘w/o Douvan’ market. I put up THE GAME CHANGER ante post at 20/1 a couple of weeks back for the reasons given here and I’m encouraged to stick with him by a favourable weather forecast (goods to soft would be okay for him). Any worries over his participation are taken care of by the NRNB proviso. Should he not line up, I’d have no hesitation in switching to Garde La Victoire as he’s a consistent sort who has a fine record at the track (won three and a close second in five starts).
SELECTION: The Game Changer w/o Douvan @ 7/1 bet365 NRNB