The Inside Track on the Arkle Chase
A horse that wins the Arkle Trophy has the jumping world at its hooves.
2m around Cheltenham over fences is the ultimate test of both speed and stamina and a quick glance at the Arkle roll of honour is ample proof of the quality that it delivers year in year out.
The brilliant Sprinter Sacre won the race two years ago, and Azertyuiop, Moscow Flyer and Well Chief are other greats to have won the race this century. Even the likes of Captain Chris, Sizing Europe and Voy Por Ustedes hardly turned out too shabby.
Is there a horse of this potential lining up in the race this year? If there is, then I suspect that it will be CHAMPAGNE FEVER.
This horse comes alive at Cheltenham in March, having put up his two best performances at the last two Festivals, winning the Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year.
Things didn’t go to plan last time out but back at his favourite racecourse on fresh, better ground I expect him to make it three from three at Prestbury Park. There is no better man than Ruby Walsh to have on your side when backing a favourite over fences at the Cheltenham Festival and he has immense confidence in this horse. I think he will win.
That said it won’t be easy. In Rock On Ruby, Dodging Bullets, Grandouet and Valdez he meets a home team of undoubted quality. He also has his old rival, Trifolium, and Ted Veale to contend with from Ireland.
You can make cases for all of them but the horse I fear most is Trifolium. He ran a blinder behind Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme two years ago and impressed last time with a devastating defeat of the talented Felix Yonger.
He finished ahead of Champagne Fever on his penultimate start, and may well be the one to give Champagne Fever most to do. I know I’m supposed to tip an outsider in the race, but I truly believe the market will prove the best guide in this top-class renewal, and I expect Champagne Fever to beat Trifolium, in a one-two for Ireland.
Selection: Champagne Fever