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2017 Arkle Challenge Trophy betting tips - Min seeks revenge and Festival glory at Cheltenham

Min will be merciless in his quest for revenge over Altior.

Douvan was the convincing Arkle winner last year, but the 2017 renewal of this fantastic race looks much more competitive. Our expert casts his eye over the field and offers a couple of expert tips.

The first day of the Cheltenham Festival starts with a showcase of top quality novice action. After the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runners have strutted their stuff, first season chasers take centre-stage in the Arkle Challenge Trophy – a race named after one of the greatest racehorses ever to have trod the Prestbury Park turf. 

Champion horse of the Irish people, Arkle won three successive Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966. Clocking a peak rating of 212, he’s the highest rated horse ever to have scaled a fence. If any of the brilliant novice chasers in this year’s renewal of his namesake event, could even achieve a portion of what he did during his glittering career, their trainers would be very, very happy indeed.

Altior (5/4 William Hill) got the 2016 Festival off to a flying start, when the 4/1 shot upset the firm favourite, displaying incredible speed and jumping fluency to land his first Cheltenham title. Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has proved just as effective over fences as he was over hurdles. In three seasonal starts over the larger obstacles, the heavy odds-on favourite has barely put a foot wrong - cruising to easy victories in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton just after Christmas.

Willie Mullins’ Min (3/1 Ladbrokes) was touted as the best novice around in the build-up to last year’s Festival. The youngster put in a decent showing in the Supreme, but when Altior turned on the afterburners, the French born gelding had no response. He too has won all his starts over fences to date, including a Grade 1 victory at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival and Mullins will be confident he can put in a better showing this year at Cheltenham.

Min (left) and Altior will renew their thrilling rivalry at the Festival in March.

There has been a rumour persisting throughout the season that Yorkhill (10/1 SkyBet) – last year’s Neptune winner and current favourite for the JLT Novices’ Chase – could actually be on course for an appearance in the Arkle instead. The seven-year-old opened his chasing account with an impressive victory over two miles, but he was immediately stepped up to a longer trip on his next appearance. Another win followed, in which he traveled comfortably over that extended trip, but he laboured slightly down the home straight and his eventual margin of victory was a lot tighter than it should have been, considering his opposition that day. If any hiccups were to occur in any two-and-a-half mile appearances between now and the Festival, then he could make the expected two horse battle for the Arkle title a little more interesting.

Identity Thief (16/1 William Hill) has proven on several occasions he is a two miler not to be underestimated. He came within two lengths of upsetting Vroum Vroum Mag at the Punchestown Festival in the spring and kicked off his debut campaign over fences with two victories around the same course, including a comfortable win in a Grade 2 at the end of November. Henry De Bromhead will have been disappointed at the weak run he put in behind Min on his last appearance. He will be hopeful that was just a one-off and his charge can be a lot more competitive at the Festival.

De Bromhead won this title with Sizing Europe back in 2010 and he plays a strong hand in an attempt to reclaim the Arkle title. Some Plan (25/1 bet365) was looking good to challenge for the November Novices’ crown here at Cheltenham, but a poor jump at the second last saw that Grade 2 title slide out of his grasp. That fall is sandwiched between two solid wins on his seasonal form card, but his Cheltenham record doesn’t look particularly encouraging. 

Cloudy Dream (25/1 William Hill) was backed into favouritism ahead of the talented Buveur D’Air (14/1 SkyBet) at Haydock a week before Christmas, but he couldn’t stay with the winner as the leading duo sprinted to the line. He was the convincing winner of two chases before that runner-up finish and, if his close second to Ch’tibello in the Scottish Champion Hurdle is anything to go by, Malcolm Jefferson might fancy his charges chances of a successful spring showing.

Kim Bailey's Charbel looks like an inviting each-way bet.

Charbel (33/1 SkyBet) opened his account this season with an excellent victory over Le Prezien (25/1 SkyBet) and another potential Arkle entrant, Top Notch (25/1 William Hill) in a good race at Uttoxeter in October. He came home just six lengths behind Altior at Sandown, so Kim Bailey’s talented two-miler may be worth an each-way punt at his current price. 

Another Willie Mullins chaser to look out for could be Listen Dear (33/1 SkyBet), who is yet to taste defeat in any of her last six outings. The young mare could potentially battle her own sex over hurdles, but considering the chasing aptitude she has shown this season, an outing in the JLT or here in the Arkle seem like her best options. If she hits the tape in this race, she’s a definite danger to the places.

The mouth-watering prospect of last year’s best novice hurdlers doing battle once again in the Arkle, is bound to make compelling viewing. The style in which Altior claimed the Supreme crown at last year’s Festival will give Nicky Henderson plenty of hope and his charge is certainly capable of emulating Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig, by bringing the Arkle Challenge Trophy back to Seven Barrows. However, MIN has been even more impressive over fences than his market rival and he looks to be the best bet in this contest.

Willie Mullins has openly spoken about Min’s fresh approach to racing this season. He took too many chances over hurdles and ran a little too freely, but he give’s fences much more respect and approaches them in a more mature, confident fashion. Many would argue that Mullins has just trying to talk up his charge's Festival chances, but judging by his performances this season, he looks every inch a potential Champion Chaser.

Altior has shown the same imperious form he displayed over hurdles and he will be difficult to beat, but the progression Min has made since switching to chasing has been very apparent. He looks well on course to turn the tables on Altior and ensure Willie Mullins keeps his greedy hands on the Arkle Challenge Trophy.

14/2/2017 2:10pm Cheltenham selection – MIN (3/1 Ladbrokes)

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2017 Arkle Challenge Trophy betting tips - Min seeks revenge and Festival glory at Cheltenham

Douvan was the convincing Arkle winner last year, but the 2017 renewal of this fantastic race looks much more competitive. Our expert casts his eye over the field and offers a couple of expert tips.

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