A Look Ahead To The Most Competitive Grade One: The Arkle - Six Weeks To Go

A Look Ahead To The Most Competitive Grade One: The Arkle - Six Weeks To Go

In recent years, the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy has certainly proved an easier race to call than others at the Cheltenham Festival.

The likes of Altior, Douvan, Un De Sceaux, and most recently Footpad, have all come through this two-mile novice contest unscathed and in fact, with sheer ease.

This year's renewal looks to be a rare exception and although the field appear to be lower in quality with no standout contender, there certainly is not much to split the leading market principles.

It looks one of the most competitive races of the upcoming festival, with from a betting perspective, it is starting to take a minefield shape.

As many as six horses are currently in touch for the title of favouritism for the race, so let's look at the headline names:

Kayley Woollacott's 7yo just edges it with several firms, after his impressive display of jumping in the trial for this contest at Prestbury Park back in November.

However, he was beaten by another bright light Dynamite Dollars in the Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown on Tingle Creek day on soft ground.

Dollars - trained by Paul Nicholls then went onto beat another top novice - Amy Murphy's Kalashnikov over Christmas in the Wayward Lad, and was victorious again in a Grade Two amongst weak opposition in the weekend just gone.

The 6yo ended last year's Supreme runner-up Kalashnikov's unbeaten start to life over fences, yet he is still priced amongst his inferiors.

You get the sense that both Lalor and Kalashnikov were both below par in their defeats, but also that if Dynamite Dollars was trained by Gordon Elliott or Willie Mullins, he would be a 3/1 favourite.

Paul Nicholls - a top trainer himself, has found it hard at Cheltenham in recent years, but clearly has the horse who holds the best form in the book with the Festival approaching fast.

Lalor and Kalashnikov are top novices who will be looking to respond - and are capable of doing so, meaning they cannot be ruled out of a turn-up.

Ireland have won three of the last four renewals and have some exciting contenders themselves.

Joseph O'Brien tasted his first Cheltenham success at the weekend just gone in the Triumph trial, a horse (Fakir Doudairies) who has jumped to the summit of that market, but he could be well represented in the Arkle as well with Le Richebourg.

Also with the option to step-up for the JLT on the Thursday, Le Richebourg has scored three times out of four since making the transition to fences.

His one and only defeat came when only half-a-length down to leading RSA fancy Delta Work, but he returned to winning ways on Boxing Day stylishly in the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown - beating fellow Irish candidate Mengli Khan from Gordon Elliott's yard.

Willie Mullins has 2017 Champion Novice Hurdle winner Ciloas Emery, who took his time to make his first appearance over the larger obstacles. That came last week at Gowran Park where he looked impressive, and has been cut for the Arkle as a result.

The Irish Champion Trainer could also have Camelia De Cotte, with Winter Escape, Paloma Blue and Hardline all representing our friends across the pond.

The UK also have Gary Moore's Knocknanuss and Philip Hobbs' Defi Du Seuil, who may be another heading for the JLT.

The Racing Post Arkle of 2019 looks wide open, so take your pick.