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2017 Arkle Chase tips - Runner-by-runner guide to the day one Cheltenham Festival highlight

Charbel (far side) looks solid each-way value against Altior in the Arkle Chase.

Runner-by-runner guide to the day one Cheltenham Festival novices' chase highlight as Brian Healy assesses the big-race field.


Following hard on the heels of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Grade One Arkle Challenge Trophy is the second race on the day one racecard at the Cheltenham Festival.

The top two-mile contest can throw up future Champion Chase clues, and the nine-runner field for this contest will be competing for a near-£100,000 first prize.

The race has been won in the past by the likes of Douvan, Sprinter Sacre, Sizing Europe and Master Minded in recent years, and those illustrious names will be joined by the next in a long line of top-class two mile chasers.

The race centres around Nicky Henderson’s Altior (2/7, Paddy Power) who is impossible to oppose as the likeliest winner of this contest, and the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has been hugely impressive in winning all four chase starts to date, which include the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, and the more recent Grade Two Game Spirit Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s High Chaparral gelding is as close to being banker material as one can get; but that fact is reflected in his price, and at long odds-on he makes zero appeal as a betting proposition.


While he will most likely win this contest, and he is open to further improvement, the race for the places is much more open and CHARBEL (12/1, Bet365) could be the one to side with to bag the forecast spot.

Kim Bailey’s charge was no match for Altior when the pair clashed at Sandown in the Henry VIII Chase; but that run came at a time when the yard’s runners were quiet, and they are in much better form now, so the Iffraaj gelding could do better now although he is unlikely to present a strong challenge to Altior’s dominance in this contest.

However, he created a very favourable impression of his own when beating Le Prezien and Top Notch on his chase debut at Uttoxeter back in October. That form has been significantly franked by the subseqeunt exploits of both those horses, with the latter especially racking up a four-timer which includes a Grade One success.

Also fifth to Altior in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle twelve months ago, there appears no reason why he should beat that rival; but he will handle the ground, and he goes well fresh so the fact he hasn’t raced since that Sandown defeat is no real negative to his chances.

With the Kim Bailey yard in much better fettle now, he looks the main danger to Altior in this contest. 


Kim Bailey's Charbel looks solid each-way value in Tuesday's Arkle Chase.

Ordinary World (50/1, Bet365) has plenty on his plate in this company, having been readily brushed aside by Min and Identity Thief in back-to-back starts in Ireland.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge had won at Fairyhouse on his chase debut, but he will need significantly more to trouble these rivals having been beaten nine lengths by Willie Mullins’ star in the Racing Post Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown when last seen.

Royal Caviar (20/1, Bet365) might well have beaten Some Plan to win the Irish Aarkle had he not fallen at the last when looking the likeliest winner.

Willie Mullins’ charge was a very smart hurdler last term, scoring at Thurles prior to rattling off a series of silver medal finishes behind Ball D’arc and Sutton Place; but he was impressive on his chase debut at Thurles, beating Keppols Queen, and he looked to have the measure of Some Plan in an eventful Irish Arkle when falling.

Assuming that fall hasn’t left a mark, he can resume his progress.

Some Plan (25/1, BetVictor) meanwhile is unbeaten in his completed starts over fences, and he looked the likeliest winner here in November when falling in the November Novices’ Chase where he held a narrow lead until falling two from home.

Arguably travelling the best of the field, he would likely have won had he stayed up; but he was coming off worst last time at Leopardstown, and he was a fortuitous winner. He isn’t certain to uphold that win over Willie Mullins’ charge if the latter puts in a clear round; but both face an altogether different class of rival in Nicky Henderson’s star.

A Hare Breath (40/1, William Hill) showed useful form over hurdles last term, winning twice; and having looked as if in need of the run on his return over hurdles here in November when beaten just two lengths behind North Hill Harvey, he won next time up at Bangor.

However, Ben Pauling’s charge had no answer to the smart Brian Ellison-trained Forest Bihan at Doncaster when contesting the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase, and with that rival in attendance again here he faces a stiff task to overturn that form given he meets that rival on level terms this time around, having received 4lbs from Brian Ellison’s charge at Doncaster.


A Hare Breath has more on his plate taking on these top-class rivals.

Cloudy Dream (25/1, Bet365) finished one place ahead of him at Doncaster, although he had no answer to Brian Ellison’s runner late on, having taken up the running three out. Beaten just under two lengths, he was conceding 3lbs to Forest Bihan (25/1, William Hill), but that rival may have won a shade more comfortably had he not clouted the third-last before running on late to grab the spoils.

There shouldn’t be much between the pair this time around meeting off level weights, and both should give good accounts. However, narrow preference of that duo is for Brian Ellison’s runner whose only defeat over fences came at the hands of the high-class Waiting Patiently, and he arrives on a hat-trick of wins having also scored at Newcastle from Chidswell, who has won twice since.

There is more to come from both northern raiders, but they’ll need Altior to significantly underperform if either is to collect the top prize; however, a place in the frame is certainly not outwith the scope of either.

Three Stars (80/1, William Hill) completes the field and the Westerner gelding is a second runner in the race for Henry de Bromhead.

A Grade Three winner at Punchestown back in October, beating Ball D’arc, he has come up short in his three subsequent starts which include here behind Le Prezien in the November Novices’ Chase.

Also beaten behind Attribution at Navan, and Min at Leopardstown, it is hard to see him being good enough to trouble these rivals and he’s likely to struggle to get competitive in this contest.

VERDICT


Altior is impossible to oppose, and a clear round will surely see Nicky Henderson’s charge land this top-class prize. But at long odds-on he is of no interest as a betting proposition and CHARBEL (12/1, Bet365, each-way) is offered as a sporting alternative for each-way backers and those looking to bet without Altior in the field.

Kim Bailey’s charge has already locked horns twice with Altior, coming off worst on both occasions; but the yard were quiet on their latest meeting, and the Iffraaj gelding could prove solid value against the hot favourite to make the frame.

He’s already beaten both Le Prezien and Top Notch this term, taking the scalp of both when making a winning chase debut at Uttoxeter; that form has been significantly boosted, and while he makes his first start since finishing runner-up to Altior at Sandown in December, he goes well fresh and has won all three starts back following a break.

While likely to find Altior too strong again, he has little to fear from the rest of this field and he boasts solid claims of getting in the frame.

2017 ARKLE CHASE SELECTION – CHARBEL (12/1, Bet365, each-way)



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2017 Arkle Chase tips - Runner-by-runner guide to the day one Cheltenham Festival highlight

Runner-by-runner guide to the day one Cheltenham Festival novices' chase highlight as Brian Healy assesses the big-race field.

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