Arkle Novices Chase (Grade One)
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
13:55 Cheltenham 16/03
My favourite race on the first day of the festival would have to be this one, not necessarily as a betting prospect but the race itself as it’s always intriguing and there’s something about the excitement of novice chasers that excite me; especially over two miles were jumping is really tested due to the sheer speed they go at. Some excellent horses over hurdles aren’t quite the same over fences, but for some it really brings the best out of them and I can't wait to watch the best face off here.
At the head of the market we have three who all should have a massive chance on form and I wouldn’t put anyone of backing any of them as it would not be a shock for any of them to win here. Shishkin at the head of the market is a worthy favourite with easily the best form on show. The winner of last years Supreme, beating subsequent grade one winner Abracadabras by a head. Those two pulled a long way clear of the third placed horse Chantry House. This year he has been unbeatable winning by huge distances each time winning Grade 2 chases the last twice by a combined 21 lengths. This horse is a real freak of nature and I will be selecting him as one of my bets for this race, I think the nearly evens you can get on him is fair value.
Next we have Energumene who, on any other year, would be odds on himself and clear at the top of the market. The main question here is whether he can beat Shishkin, for me I’m not so sure. When you consider the way he’s had the run of the race in all of his races this year I will happily take him on now. I’ll gladly eat my words if I’m wrong here but with the next in the market, Allmankind, unless he falls early, Energumene will simply not be able to keep up and may end up having to race under a different style which may end up not suiting and can see him emptying out if trying to go with Alllmankind, and not having the turn of foot if he sits off the pace. At 5/2 best price I’m not convinced he will beat Shishkin, but again I may be wrong here!
Now we move on to the enigmatic Allmankind, a horse who must be considering a change of career and trying out as a fence salesmen the amount of them he hits and takes home with him! Describing him as a front runner does not do him justice, this is a horse who goes off like a bullet train, with the jumping ability to match. It would not even slightly surprise me if this horse was to romp home as he may be too far ahead to peg back, that being said I feel he is more likely to fall or at least hinder himself and take himself out the race. When you watch some of his jumping in previous races. His horrific “jump” at the last at Warwick last time out he somehow manage to jump and end up lower than he was before he jumped! I wouldn’t be confident putting my money anywhere near this horse, your heart would be in your throat at every jump.
After this you get into some of the more meaty prices, Captain Guinness a disappointment if we’re being truthful, looked to be coming with Energumene when falling last time and having finished 8 or so lengths behind him before that I’m happy to leave him alone. Darver Star was beaten out of sight by Energumene and 4 plus lengths by Franco De Port who also runs here, I can’t see him getting into the places. Sky Pirate was disappointing against Allmankind the last time and I’m sure they wish they’d kept his handicap rating down to target one of those races now. I think Fusil Raffles will end up running in one of the chases over a bit further at the meeting. Honourable mention for Willie Mullins Blackbow, who I may back each way if there’s any extra place offers.
My final selection here aside from Shishkin would be another Mullins runner in Franco De Port, a horse who ended up second to Energumene last time out. On the bare form can I see him turning it around with him, probably not, but a tiring Energumene who has been off the bridle trying to match strides with Allmankind? I think I can. He had a few of the other horses in this race in behind that day and stayed on in a manner in which I think shows the hill at Cheltenham will suit and can see him plugging on into a place, especially if Allmankind doesn’t finish. A small each way bet here at the 20’s on offer. As a token play in the race, or as an alternative to the favourites.
Shishkin 1pt Win 10/11
Franco De Port 0.5 pts each way 20/1