Arkle Novices' Chase Betting Tips, Preview & Trainer Quotes
Arkle Novices' Chase Tips
Arkle Novices’ Chase Preview
This is one of the most anticipated races of the whole Cheltenham Festival this year with Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins aiming to make it a combined eight wins in the previous ten renewals of the race. Both Shishkin and Energumene are leading fancies to follow in the footsteps of Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre, Douvan and Altior from recent years and it looks set to be a fascinating contest.
When & Where To Watch The Arkle Novices’ Chase
13.55 Tuesday, March 16 - LIVE ON: ITV Racing, RTE Racing, Racing TV
The UK Contenders
Shishkin has only tasted defeat once in his career under rules so far with that defeat coming when falling at the second hurdle on his reappearance last season at Newbury. He returned to the venue to win a maiden hurdle before taking an unconventional route to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by winning the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon over 2m3f on his next start.
He overcame a rough passage to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the festival last season showing pace, power and determination to stay on past Abacadabras who in turn finished a further eleven lengths clear of the third Chantry House. He immediately went antepost favourite for this race after he crossed the line and his price has gradually got shorter all season.
He put in a “ten out of ten” performance according to Nicky Henderson on his chasing debut at Kempton before returning to the same venue to win the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase on his next start. He showed his capability to put himself right at fences that day and justified his short price by winning the race in a quicker time than Desert Orchid Chase winner Nube Negra despite carrying 2lb more.
Shiskin bids to become the first winner of the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster to follow up in the Arkle but his easy victory over Grand Annual bound Eldorado Allen should put him spot on for this. Comparisons have been made to stablemate Altior and his run style is similar with his strongest furlong being the last in the race and he looks set to devour the hill once again this year.
Allmankind - a very exciting prospect— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 5, 2020
🏇 Two runs over fences
🥇 Two wins
🏆 Grade One Henry VIII Novices' Chase
A spectacular jumping performance from Allmankind to plunder Grade One honours & remain unbeaten over fences for @harryskelton89 & @DSkeltonRacing at @Sandownpark pic.twitter.com/fO5GyKKLDW
This season could have looked very different for Allmankind if he had won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle on his reappearance but following a disappointing 3rd place finish he was sent over the larger obstacles by trainer Dan Skelton. His jumping was impressive on his chasing debut at Warwick before defeating fellow youngsters Hitman (Aintree bound) and Ga Law in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown on his next start.
The Dan Skelton trained gelding then returned from a 72 day break to get a “freebie” in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick where he defeated Sky Pirate by 17 lengths in an impressive performance. The last five-year-old winner of the Arkle Novices’ Chase was Voy Por Ustedes in 2006 but it isn’t as damning statistic as it may seem.
Only seven runners have tried since with both Kruguyrova (2008) and Fakir D’Oudaries (2020) finishing second and His Excellency (2013) finishing 3rd. Whether Allmankind gets an easy lead with Energumene in the line-up is up for question and he also has to bounce back from two recent disappointing efforts at the track so he appeals as more of a place chance than winner in my eyes.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained Sky Pirate will have taken an unusual route to the Arkle Challenge Trophy if allowed to take his chance given that he contested the Kim Muir Handicap Chase two years ago over 3m2f. He has proved a revelation this season having been dropped to the minimum trip with handicap victories at Cheltenham and Warwick off marks of 134 and 145 respectively. He finished well beaten in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick last time by Allmankind though and I suspect a return to handicaps may await this eight-year-old.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race six times and he looks to hold a strong hand if allowing either Allart or Fusil Raffles to join Shishkin in the race. Allart ran a brilliant race to finish 5th in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season for such an inexperienced horse and made an impressive winning debut over fences at Ascot in Grade 2 company when conceding both race fitness and chasing experience to Fiddlerontheroof. He fell early last time at Haydock and would bid to become only the third horse this century to win having fallen during the season before contesting the Arkle.
He also holds an entry for the Marsh Novices’ Chase over further and he looks more likely to take up that engagement. Fusil Raffles could also join his stablemate Allart in the Marsh Novices’ Chase but would have the speed to be competitive in an Arkle over the minimum trip. He could only finish midfield in the Champion Hurdle last season but made it two from two over fences with a victory over this course and distance in October on good ground.
He disappointed in November but bounced back to form over 2m4f beating subsequent winner Lieutenant Rocco and stablemate Chantry House by over 3 lengths. He hasn’t been seen since but should appreciate the better ground in March and would have a place chance if running over the minimum distance.
The Irish Contenders
Despite being available at odds of 40/1 for this race at the start of the season, Energumene has emerged as the leading Irish hope. Victorious in his only hurdle race last season, connections wasted no time in sending this seven-year-old over fences this season. He made a winning chasing debut over 2m4f at Gowran Park before beating Grade 2 runner-up Captain Guinness by 8 ½ lengths over the minimum trip at Naas on his next start.
This former UK point winner then made all impressively in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival beating stablemates Franco De Port and Blackbow by over ten lengths. He jumped slightly right handed that day at Leopardstown which would be a concern going to Cheltenham as would the statistic that 13 of the last 14 winners all had previous course experience prior to the race (with the exception being Un De Sceaux).
Despite Paul Townend stating that he feels Energumene doesn’t have to make the running in his races; the presence of Allmankind in the race would dampen my enthusiasm about his chances and there is a risk that both will set it up for the strong finishing effort of Shishkin.
Franco De Port won the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas when defeating the better fancied Darver Star and Felix Desjy. He was ridden with restraint off the frenetic pace that day and was probably flattered by the 4 ½ length winning distance at the finish. It is hard to see him reversing form with Energumene at Cheltenham and despite him having place claims this year it is a concern that he finished pulled up in the Coral Cup at the festival last year despite only going off 10/1.
Felix Desjy won a Grade 2 on his second start over fences when defeating Darver Star but has lost his way since and both himself and the Champion Hurdle 3rd of last year need to put disappointing 7th and 8th placed finishes behind them if they are to be at all competitive in the Arkle Chase this year.
The last horse to mention is the Henry De Bromhead trained Captain Guinness who was brought down in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year when still holding every chance 2 out. He won at Punchestown before finishing 2nd behind the easy winner Energumene at Naas on his next start. The six-year-old was still in touch with his old foe in the Irish Arkle last time when falling 3 out but looks reliant on others underperforming in order to hit the frame this year.
Arkle Novices' Chase Verdict
The Supreme-Arkle double has been completed twice in the last five years by Douvan and Altior and Shishkin looks to hold a strong chance of joining an illustrious club. The presence of both Allmankind and Energumene in the race should ensure a strong gallop which will bring into play the proven stamina of the Nicky Henderson trained runner. Six of the last nine favourites have won the race with all six starting at an odds on price and I expect Shishkin to do the same and take the opening Grade 1 Chase at festival.
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