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Arkle Challenge Trophy betting tips: 10/3 shot to claim emotional win on day one

    A view of the runners in the Racing Post Arkle. (credit:Credit by bettingpro)

    Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade One Novices’ Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his tips.

    Held on day one of the meeting, the first Grade One for chasers at the Cheltenham Festival is the Arkle Challenge Trophy, . Named after the greatest horse National Hunt racing has ever seen, many of the sports’ modern greats have ended their first season over fences with a victory in the Arkle, with the names of Moscow Flyer, Sizing Europe and Sprinter Sacre standing out on the honours board.

    At the beginning of February, this year’s Arkle was shaping up to be one of the races of the season. Often this Grade One showcases the talents of one overwhelming favourite, but it seemed punters would have been in for a fascinatingly open contest this time round, with as many as six novices travelling to Cheltenham with leading chances.

    Sadly, injuries have accounted for Paul Nicholls’ Dynamite Dollars, Willie Mullins’ Cilaos Emery and my original fancy for the Arkle, Le Richebourg. Despite the field being significantly depleted, viewers can still expect a strong renewal of the Arkle in 2019 and Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor (10/3 Betfair) looks the one to beat.

    The emotional scenes after Lalor scooped the Grade One top novice prize at Aintree last spring will live long in the memory of any National Hunt racing fan and team Woollacott were confident their stable star would make up into an even better chaser. Early signs suggested they were right, as Lalor sauntered to a superb Grade Two victory here at Cheltenham on his first start over fences but, after getting bogged down in the mud at Sandown over Christmas, Woollacott has been forced to keep her seven-year-old on ice.

    Rated a mere 114 at the start of the season, I doubt even Mick Channon could have predicted the progress Glen Forsa (9/2 Betfair) has made since moving up to chasing. Three successive wins – including a blistering defeat of Kalashnikov (12/1 William Hill) in the Kingmaker last time out – have helped the seven-year-old reach a staggering mark of 150 and he has to be considered a leading contender for the title.

    Kalashnikov began the season as the favourite for the Arkle and everything went according to plan on his chasing debut, with Amy Murphy’s stable star securing a simple victory at Warwick. A second routine triumph at Plumpton followed, but Kalashnikov has twice finished second in Grade Two company since and, after that 20-length loss to Glen Forsa, his Cheltenham Festival odds have drifted significantly.

    Ever since Le Richebourg was ruled out, rumours have been circulating that Defi Du Seuil (5/1 William Hill) could be rerouted from his intended target, the JLT. While some think a stiff two miles would suit the former Triumph winner best, Defi Du Seuil has taken extremely well to the extended trip, he really struggled behind Lalor around two miles here earlier in the season and the Arkle is hardly a race JP McManus has targeted. I think he’ll stay put and go for the JLT.

    The highest placed Irish entrant in the betting is currently Duc Des Genievres (8/1 Betfair), who has bounced back after a disappointing end to last season with some good performances over fences. Willie Mullins’ identified the Arkle as the target for his six-year-old after a classy, 16-length maiden victory on his third start of the season and he could be tough to pass at the front if he finds his jumping rhythm.

    Paloma Blue (10/1 Coral) was beaten as the odds-on favourite on his first crack at chasing at Navan in the autumn. Henry De Bromhead’s charge bounced back to claim an important win at Leopardstown over Christmas, but he was fairly fortunate to get the victory that day and I doubt his jumping will stand up the scrutiny.

    De Bromhead’s best chance in this year’s Arkle could lie with Ornua (12/1 William Hill), who acquitted himself extremely well on his first start in Grade One company in the Henry VIII. Dylan Robinson’s mount set a fast gallop on heavy ground that day and only Dynamite Dollars was good enough to pass Ornua, with Lalor trailing home a well-beaten third. Whether he can reproduce that run on good ground, around a tricky left-handed track like Cheltenham is yet to be seen, but Ornua is certainly in with an each-way shout.

    As is Gordon Elliott’s Hardline (16/1 Coral), who upset Getabird to win a Grade One over Christmas, when every facet of that race was seemingly in the favourite’s favour. Despite rallying late on to claim third in the Flogas last time out, Elliott has decided to drop Hardline down in trip at Cheltenham and he could be one to watch at a big each-way price.

    Knocknanuss (14/1 Betfair) may have fallen early on his Grade One debut at Leopardstown, but Gary Moore’s charge has shown enough in previous starts to suggest he is of this sort of standard, especially when making all to win at Newbury back in November. The Arkle is usually run at a furious pace and this speedy front-runner should be well suited by the conditions.

    Both Hardline and Knocknanuss offer each-way value at their current prices, but I think the best outside bet in the race could turn out to be Kalashnikov. Yes, last year’s Supreme runner-up has had his colour’s lowered the last twice, but those defeats came on flat, right-handed tracks. All of Kalashnikov’s victories have come on tracks going in the opposite direction and Amy Murphy’s will fancy her charge’s chances much more now he’s returning to Cheltenham.

    At 12/1, Kalashnikov holds plenty of appeal. Yet, the image of LALOR surging clear on his reappearance in the November Novices’ Chase is one I cannot shift from the forefront of my mind and another course-and-distance victory beckons in the Arkle for this talented sort.

    You could tell from the get-go that heavy ground at Sandown wasn’t Lalor’s cup of tea in the Henry VIII. Richard Johnson’s mount found no rhythm what-so-ever and it was only guts and determination that saw him complete the race back in third.

    Claimantakinforgan and Dynamite Dollars went off at a strong gallop here in November. Johnson’s mount was travelling powerfully behind the pacesetters throughout the race, hitting the front at the final flight before cruising clear without overexerting himself. This will be a tougher race, run at a quicker pace, but I think Lalor will have the class, quality and composure to cope. 11/4 remains an appealing price.

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    Arkle Challenge Trophy betting tips: 10/3 shot to claim emotional win on day one

    Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade One Novices’ Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his tips on Tuesday 12th March.

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