The Racing Post Arkle Trophy comes under the spotlight as Matt Brocklebank recommends backing one for the home team at 25/1.
(Available at 14/1 NRNB with Sky Bet)
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It’s not difficult to envisage a scenario in which the Racing Post Arkle is run to suit a horse like AL DANCER and he looks over-priced currently at the 25/1 widely available.
We’ve got to the point where some of the major firms are now offering their non-runner, no bet proviso for Cheltenham and that will be taken into account for certain selections in certain races, but there’s hopefully no need to take the money back guarantee (and mandatory shorter price) in this instance, not in terms of the grey’s Festival target at least.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ seven-year-old has never raced beyond two miles and one furlong from five starts over hurdles (winning four) and three outings over fences, while his next outing is reportedly set to be the Kingmaker at Warwick over a trip fractionally shy of two miles.
The other factor which should keep connections down the Arkle route, rather than chancing a crack at the intermediate trip of the Marsh Novices’ Chase, is that Al Dancer can take a serious grip through his races.
That was in evidence in last year’s Betfair Hurdle but it didn’t prevent him cruising to a comfortable victory and the only really surprising thing was that Twiston-Davies opted not to use the hood – which had served him so well on his two previous starts – in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last year’s Festival.
The trainer was forced to explain the horse’s performance to the local stewards after he ended up well beaten off by Klassical Dream (having been sent off 9/2-joint favourite), and, in the heat of the moment, the low-key effort was put down to a steep rise in grade.
The lack of a hood would strike me as a more viable excuse, though, even more so after he made a winning chasing debut back at Cheltenham with the hood returned in October.
Two subsequent starts without headgear haven’t quite been so hot, unsurprisingly, so expect that to be rectified at Warwick, or the team could hang fire until the Festival itself.
Either way, he'll be reverting to a left-handed circuit when we see him next and that will suit after he edged that way at nearly every fence when fourth in the Grade Two Wayward Lad at Kempton over Christmas.
He wasn't beaten far at all there and didn't run badly at all in the circumstances behind Global Citizen, who got the run of the race and eventually made all to win.
A strongly-run Arkle will clearly play to the strengths of Al Dancer, whose course form at Cheltenham other than that Supreme no-show last March reads 112, and he makes plenty of appeal at the prices.
Irish horses dominate the top of the betting but I’m not fully convinced there’s an absolute standout.
Plenty of them are presumably set to clash in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival, including Notebook, Fakir Doudairies and Bapaume, but the only one I’d really consider backing for Cheltenham before Leopardstown is Melon.
He scores highly when it comes to course form having been second in a Supreme and the last two Champion Hurdles, while his peak rating over timber of 165 would put him out on his own when it comes to this year’s crop of two-mile novice chasers.
But his mark dropped 10lb to 155 come the end of last season and although he’s made a very respectable start to life over the larger obstacles this term, I’m far from sure he’s quite in the same league at Sizing Europe and Moscow Flyer – the only two eight-year-old Arkle winners since Comandante in 1990.
Posted at 1220 GMT 14/01/20