The two mile grade one chase for novices named after one of the all time greats, Arkle, is run over the old course. Often a springboard for greater things recent winners include: Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Un De Sceaux, Altior and Shishkin to name a few. Last year I described this as my favourite race from the first day of the festival; and though I do still love the race, it does seem a bit flat in comparison as early Ante Post favourite and last years' Supreme hero Appreciate It, suffered a set back and is staying over hurdles.
This time last year it looked like we would see an epic clash between two brilliant horses, Shishkin and Energumene, and it was touted as being the race of the festival. However, as it transpired Energumene missed the race and we have only just finally got that clash in the Clarence House this January. It was worth the wait and I personally can't wait for round two.
This year, we don't have any real standouts and we‘ve so far lost two heavy ante post favourites, Appreciate It and Ferny Hollow. As a result it now looks like an open contest.
Blue Lord is now 11/4 favourite, and made a brilliant chasing debut before backing it up beating previous winner Lifetime Ambition with consummate ease. He has back class too, having looked set to chase home the aforementioned Appreciate It in last years Supreme, before an untidy fall at the last. I like Haut En Couleurs, who was thrust straight into the Triumph on debut for Mullins and placed in both that, and the Punchestown equivalent. He made his chase debut in December winning by five and a half lengths from another couple of Mullins debutants. Mullins clearly rates him highly as he has ran only three times for him, twice coming in grade ones; as he is only five year old, there could be lots of improvement to come still. At 7/1 I think he could be a good each way bet. He also has Saint Sam who made a good debut and at 8/1 could be a live chance, but for me he is more of a longer term project.
The British have Edwardstone as 3/1 second favourite, though there are serious question marks over his form and the general standard of the British two mile novice chasers. That being said he did beat the highly regarded Third Time Lucki and is a grade one novice winner this term. It does, however, seem more likely that another of Willie Mullins' novices will fill the places. Which one appears to be the question we need to answer.
Other prominent horses in the betting that we need to mention, Concertista,another Mullins runner, and Riviere D'etel for Gordon Elliott have also had excellent starts to their respective chasing careers, though both looked more likely to run in the mares chase. Riviere D'etel may now opt to head to the Arkle after all as she ran a very good second to Ferny Hollow at Christmas, and could look to make the most of her mares allowance. Third Time Lucki looked the likely best chance for the British trained horses for a while but was beaten convincingly by Edward Stone, though recently won a grade two and could reverse that form.
The Irish Arkle is tomorrow and we should hopefully learn a lot, a brilliant looking race, I may end up adding another bet to the portfolio off the back of it.
I have so far put up three selections Ante Post, and though one of them has disappointed, and one isn’t chasing, the third selection hurts the most. Stepney Causeway hasn't got anywhere near the level required; and though Saint Roi has run well this season, unfortunately he didn't end up going chasing.
Stepney Causeway 33/1 0.5pts each way (24/05/2021)
Saint Roi 33/1 0.5pts each way (09/08/2021)
These are the dangers when betting Ante Post on we also backed Ferny Hollow at 10/1 back in October and he was the general 5/4 favourite before unfortunately getting injured.
Ferny Hollow 10/1 2pt win (26/10/2021)
I will give an honourable mention to Haut En Couleurs each way as I think that could be a decent bet. But my final each way play on the race will be For Pleasure at 50/1. A novice grade two winning hurdler, he was also third in last years Supreme. He is a game front runner that can be hard to peg back and takes horses out of their comfort zone. On chasing debut he was 2 lengths clear before falling 4 out, also bringing down Edwardstone; that wasn't his first unconvincing jump and on second start he again made mistakes, being beaten 15 lengths by Edwardstone. His style of running means that if he doesn't jump well he loses momentum at each flight and is easier to peg back for horse's in behind. He finally got his head in front next time out beating a previous grade two winner by some 37 lengths. He was receiving 4lbs in weight that day, but in truth could have carried 40lbs more and still won. Making all, he put in his best round of jumping and relentlessly galloped all over his rivals. He was recently running a cracking race alongside Third Time Lucki and had an unlucky fall close home, rather than a poor jump. He would have been close with Third Time Lucki and there is a ridiculous price disparity. He's probably not quite at the level of some of the others, but you'll get a run for your money and could cling onto a place at a huge price, considering a fair few that are shorter in the betting look likely to run elsewhere.
For Pleasure 50/1 0.5pts each way