THE ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY INFO
Date: Tuesday (13:10), March 16, 2021
Type: Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase
Distance: 2 miles, 13 fences
During the two-mile trip the novice chase field, all aged five or over, must take thirteen fences of the Old Course in this Grade 1 contest with the winner almost immediately being installed as one of the favourites for the following year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase over the same course and distance.
The Arkle Challenge Trophy 2022 is run on Tuesday March 16th at 1.10PM, just the second race of the Cheltenham Festival’s day 1, and will be worth a huge £182,000 in total. Despite this being a novice event, it is almost guaranteed that all of the top five or so trainers from both Britain and Ireland will attempt to have runners in this contest.
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While official entries are not yet open for the Cheltenham Arkle Challenge Trophy in March, ante post betting is very much alive and has been for a while as the top two-mile novice chasers are already making themselves known on both sides of the Irish Sea, all the top trainers having sent out contenders of sorts.
New candidates may yet show themselves to be capable over the Christmas period, but on all known evidence we can already begin to whittle down the field a little to give ourselves a chance of landing a value ante post bet.
Previews and tips – Coming soon.
The first one to take into consideration is Nicky Henderson’s Angels Breath, though it must be said his most likely destination will probably be the two-and-a-half mile JLT Novices’ Chase on Thursday.
An easy winner at Ascot on his chase debut, Angels Breath stayed on very well that day which bodes well for running at Cheltenham however it would appear he wants a little further ideally, not that he wouldn’t enter calculations even more should the ground be very testing in March, a situation that would lead to his stamina coming in handy.
Fellow grey Al Dancer, a 151-rated hurdler in the past, has made a good start to chasing but he havs also been beaten over the Arkle course and distance already, fair and square it must be said. Regardless of his undoubted potential it would be difficult to envisage him climbing the ranks quite enough at this stage to take an Arkle but it is not out of the question just yet either.
The aforementioned Laurina, the mare trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland, already has an encouraging Cheltenham Festival record having won the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2018 before returning to finish fourth in last season’s Champion Hurdle, albeit some way off the pace at just 5/2.
She was rated 159 officially over hurdles and the level to which she ran when winning on her chase debut at Gowran Park suggests she is arguably already that good over the bigger obstacles, meaning with natural improvement and with the mares’ allowance taken into consideration she is very much a genuine favourite at this stage.
Having been turned over in a championship race before against the boys however and with there being doubts over whether or not two miles will be too short for her now, she doesn’t represent terrific early value just at the moment.
Two contenders for this race along with the JLT Novices’, Fakir D’oudairies and Samcro, had a battle of their own recently in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse and the result there has split opinion. With Fakir going off favourite and jumping very well he looked set to score, only for Samcro to loom large in the closing stages full of running.
Samcro then crashed out at the penultimate fence leading many to speculate that he would have won if it were not for his fall, leading to his price rather strangely contracting for the JLT, if not for this race.
For what it’s worth, our opinion is that Fakir D’oudairies would have found more had they entered a battle up the straight given that he’d conserved so much energy via his superior jumping and given how inexperienced he is overall, he is bound to improve plenty between now and March.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge was fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the last festival as just a four-year-old, and it is easy to see him peaking to become a genuine top-class chaser come this year’s event and it’s felt that he may well prove to be the class act in the pack.
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As you’ll see from our results table, the Arkle trends are sadly obvious but it is to be expected as in most years an outstanding candidate comes forward in this division who, if anything, could probably be competitive in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Every single one of the last ten winners of this race has won last time out, even including 33/1 shock winner Western Warhorse. Eight of the 10 winners have run no more than three times that season too with one of the exceptions being the tough and unbeaten Altior, so there does seem to be enough evidence to suggest that those having a hard season may not be allowed to reach their peak when it counts here.
True, we’re going for what will be a five-year-old who could be exceptional this year, but all of the last ten Arkle winners have been aged 6+, and nine out of 10 have been aged 6 or 7. This can generally be explained away by the fact that those with a little more experience can handle this occasion better, but ultimately this is a novice race that will be won by the best horse on show if all is fair, regardless of their age.
We’ve seen some superstars win this race in recent times and therefore we’ve had to put up with some very restrictive SP’s. Although this race was taken by the market leader six years out of 7, that figure remains at six even when looking at all of the last 10 winners so the favourite isn’t necessarily to be seen as a good thing in this race.
With the exception of Western Warhorse, no winner in the last ten year has gone off at an SP bigger than 6/1, so that has to be the area to concentrate on especially if they are a last time out winner. The most successful jockey in the Arkle is a title shared by Ruby Walsh, now retired, and Barry Geraghty who could be back for more on March 10th. Each rider has won this race four times.
Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer with six victories and that is very much something to keep in mind. He is an expert with these two-mile types and he has a string of horses every bit as powerful as at any time in his training career, so whatever he chooses to run will surely go well.
Known to most simply as The Arkle, a race named after the great three-time Gold Cup winner, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is the top novice chase for two-milers of the whole season and takes place on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham Festival offers will be plentiful and enticing come March, especially where the top two-mile novice chase of the season is concerned, but in taking a look at last year’s deals there is much speculation as to what we will be given.
In 2020 Ladbrokes’ Bet £5 Get £20 Cheltenham Special was very popular on all four days, as was the Double Your Winnings on the First Race Everyday at Cheltenham which was put up by their sister company Coral. A range of 888sport Cheltenham offers delivered some great value too.
Betfred are paying 7 places on Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Wednesday, 14:50).
+4 places on Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (Wednesday, 14:10)
+5 places on Glenfarclas Chase (Wednesday, 16:10)
+6 places on Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Wednesday, 16:50)
+4 places on Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Wednesday, 17:30)
Odds 1/5, Full t&c apply.
Ultima Handicap Chase - 6 places
Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - 5 places
Coral Cup - 6 places
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase - 4 places
Grand Annual Challenge Cup - 5 places
Champion Bumper - 5 places
Pertemps Network Final - 6 places
Plate Handicap Chase - 5 places
Mares' Novices' Hurdle - 5 places
Kim Muir Handicap Chase - 5 places
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14:10, The Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase - 4 places at 1/5
14:50, The Coral Cup - 6 places at 1/5
16:10, The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase - 4 places at 1/5
16:50, Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase - 5 places at 1/5
17:30, The Weatherbys Champion Bumper - 4 places at 1/5
Final declarations for this race will be made by trainers on Sunday March 8th and at that point we can come up with much more accurate Arkle Challenge Trophy tips.
Our early selection Fakir D’oudairies has attracted around 21% of all ante post bets so far, while around 16% are backing Laurina at this stage and 8% are on 25/1 outsider Getaway Trump. This will fluctuate plenty over the coming months but if you are going to bet early, make sure you claim a price with a ‘non-runner, no bet’ caveat to protect yourself should your selection ultimately not be entered into this race.
When the final field is known, live betting options will be plentiful not only in the straight win market, but also markets ‘without the favourite’ and with odds boosts no doubt available with most major online firms.
Here are the last ten winners to have taken the Arkle:
Winner: Put The Kettle On
Previous course and distance winner Put The Kettle On followed-up on her Grade 2 Arkle Trial victory in November by winning the actual Arkle Challenge Trophy for novice chasers on day one of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. Sent off at an unfancied 16/1 for trainer Henry De Bromhead, this mare had clearly been laid out by her connections for a tilt at this with no run since. That brave strategy really paid off.
Racing prominently throughout under jockey Aidan Coleman, Put The Kettle On was shaken up when pressed two out and found plenty for pressure when challenged by 3/1 second-favourite Fakir D’Oudairies to hold him by 1 1/2 lengths at the line. They pulled 18 lengths clear of Rouge Vif in third in an open renewal of the Arkle that saw three horses fall, another unseat their rider and one pull up.
Put The Kettle On was very much the second string for the De Bromhead stable with 5/2 favourite Notebook losing out by bolting during a false start. That exuberance cost him Arkle glory as he trailed in last of six to finish from the 11-runner field. It didn’t matter to connections of Put The Kettle On with jubilant owners the One For Luck Racing Syndicate sparking celebrations in the Cheltenham winners’ enclosure.
Victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy made it five wins in six chase starts for Put The Kettle On. She is the first mare in 40 years to win the race, so that illustrates what a rare feat that De Bromhead has achieved with her.
Gordon Elliott’s Hardline ultimately went off the 10/3 favourite with Mick Channon’s Glen Forsa next in at 9/2, Willie Mullins’ Duc De Genievres at 5/1 and the well-fancied Kalashnikov at 6/1.
It was a hugely eventful race in the end, Glen Forsa unseating his rider early on and with that still being communicated by race commentators, Kalashnikov was interfered with two fences later and also crashed out.
With Hardline never really going as well as expected and the other two main rivals having fallen out of contention early in the race, the way was paved clear for Duc De Genievres to go clear which he did, winning the race in impressive fashion visually by a full 13 lengths.