Present Arkle betting favourite Lalor would be a very emotional winner of the 2019 Arkle Chase for the Kayley Woollacott stable.
It might just be a simple case of how forgiving a punter you are - do we tip Lalor here believing that his poor run at Sandown last time out was merely a case of not handling the conditions, or that he was found out on the day?
Beforehand at Cheltenham Lalor was mesmerizing when putting a very strong field to bed at his ease. That effort is arguably the standout performance in this decimated Arkle field.
Lalor is also already a Grade 1 winner when bolting up in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Aintree Festival. That form has been franked this season with Vision Des Flos (2nd), Bedrock (3rd), Global Citizen (6th) and Midnight Shadow (7th) all winning at a high level thereafter.
Lalor does face a plethora of competition however, with the likes of Glen Forsa (4/1 Coral), Duc Des Genievres (13/2 Betfair) and Hardline (8/1 William Hill) all with big shouts of winning the 2019 renewal of the Arkle Novices’ Chase.
The Arkle Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 open to horses aged five years or older. It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over a distance of about 2 miles. A young chaser's jumping is put to the ultimate test over a frenetic speed, whilst jumping 13 fences. The 2019 renewal is sponsored by the Racing Post and winning connections take home a cool £98,473.
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Lalor has some strong trends to overcome, with each of the last 10 Arkle Novices' Chase winners being victorious, or only being beaten no more than 3 lengths, last time out. Another strong trend Lalor will have to overcome is that 9 of the last 10 winners run between three and five times in that season. Lalor fails on both of these.
However, this has been an unusual year with a whole host of horses unable to meet targets due to the unseasonably firm ground, and Lalor’s class might just get him through.
Glen Forsa (4/1 Coral) has been a rapid improver this season for trainer Mick Channon, graduating from winning a handicap off 114 in November to now being rated 150 after beating the re-opposing Kalashnikov at Sandown last time out.
Duc Des Genievres (13/2 Betfair) was brilliant at Gowran Park last time out but is yet to win over 2 miles in any discipline.
Defi Du Seuil, already a Cheltenham Festival winner, would be very interesting here if rerouted to the Arkle instead of the JLT Novices' Chase after owner JP McManus’ other chance, Le Richebourg, was sadly ruled out of the contest. It is yet to be seen whether connections will move Defi Du Seuil, watch this space!
At his Cheltenham Stable Tour, Gordon Elliott talked up the chances of Hardline, who is 8/1 with William Hill right now, while Us And Them, who has valiantly chased home Le Richebourg the last twice also looks a good each-bet at 20/1 with William Hill in the Arkle Novices’ Chase odds.
"If you go back through Hardline’s form he beat Us And Them in a novice chase at Navan last December, and he’s chased the Arkle favourite Le Richebourg home the last twice.
"I thought he ran a good race over 2m5f last time out at Leopardstown. He jumped on top of a fence going away from the stands, and was slow at the next, and Jack Kennedy sort of just hunted him around after that."
It would be one of the stories of the week were Lalor able to win for trainer Kayley Woollacott, just over 12 months after she took over the yard, following the passing of her husband Richard.
Lalor was caught out by the very soft conditions in December at Sandown but boasts some of the classiest form on show in the race, importantly here at Cheltenham in November. He is one whoever who would prefer if the rain was kept to a minimum over the coming days.
Glen Forsa has been on a crest of a wave since November when winning a Novices' Limited Handicap at chepstow off 114. He stepped up thereafter when jumping his field into submission in yet another Novices' Limited Handicap off nine pounds higher at Kempton over Christmas.
He defied the odds on his last run, in the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices' Chase when comfortably holding the long odds on Kalashnikov. Can he keep improving? We’ve only a few days to find out!
Duc Des Genievres was brilliant at Gowran Park last time out but as mentioned, he is crucially yet to win over 2 miles in any discipline.
Before this he was well beaten by Cilaos Emery (injury doubt for the Arkle) over 2 miles at the same venue. He travels very well and the drop in trip might just bring out the best in him.
If Defi Du Seuil was moved to the Arkle on Tuesday, instead of the JLT, he would be much shorter than the 7/1 on offer with William Hill.
He would tick a lot of the Gambling.com trends having run 4 times this season, winning twice. He also boasts crucial Cheltenham Festival winning form having won over this very trip, over hurdles, in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle.
He would however have 25 lengths to find with Lalor based on the run in November at Cheltenham. Will they roll the dice? Interestingly Defi Du Seuil was left in the latest confirmation stage.
Gordon Elliott, a trainer who has found the back of the net on countless occasions at the Cheltenham Festival, fancies Hardline’s chances. Who am I to question him?
Fences have definitely brought about improvement also, with 5 runs this season yielding 3 wins on a variety of ground conditions.
The longer trip seemed to stretch him last time when a good 3rd behind La Bague Au Roi at the Dublin Racing Festival, so dropping back to two miles will definitely suit. Hardline is already a Grade One winner this season, having seen off the much vaunted Getabird at Limerick over Christmas under Keith Donoghue.
A mark of 150 leaves him in the reckoning for Arkle glory.
The up-and-coming Joseph O’Brien stable was dealt a cruel blow when very strongly fancied Arkle contender, Le Richebourg, was ruled out of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Us And Them has chased him home the last twice and might just fill the gap here for the stable. He has improved since being beaten by Hardline at Navan in December, handles most ground conditions and will be staying on dourly up the Cheltenham Hill.
20/1 might be value with William Hill each-way in a weak looking renewal of the Arkle.
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