Cheltenham Festival 2012  

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By Billy Blakeman ValueChecker

Cue Card Best of the Wiki Positives for Arkle

The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy looks right up to standard this year with some really decent novice chasers set to line-up. Looking to the past trends for pointers; the winner is likely to be aged between five and eight, although given this is a top class novice chase, that is hardly surprising and one has to go back to 1988 to find a winner outside of this age bracket. The last ten winners all had no more than five races over fences coming into this; slightly more relevant but perhaps the real interesting trend is that no winner has started greater than 9/1 for the past 10-years.

Cue Card

Cue Card

Cue Card has Cheltenham Festival form in the book which is always a huge pointer to further success at the greatest jumps meeting on the calendar. In 2010, at the tender age of 4, Colin Tizzard's charge slammed his older rivals by upwards of 8-lengths to win the Champion Bumper with Al Ferof second and the Irish challengers nowhere. The following winter, a pair of effortless novice hurdle wins (one at Cheltenham) saw him move to unbeaten in four runs. Menorah halted that dominance when beating Cue Card into second, again at Cheltenham but that did not prevent Cue Card going off as 7/4 favourite for the Supreme Novices' in March. Although he ran to his previous level on the ratings, it was disappointing that he could manage no better than 4th to Al Ferof and although some excuses were put forward in the press, he looked beaten on merit. A 13-length beating at Aintree didn't recover his lofty reputation either but Colin Tizzard was upbeat, citing that the switch to novice chasing would see the horse in a much better light. It hasn’t all gone to plan this season but his latest win was impressive and in that sort of form, he would take some beating.

Menorah won 3 from 4 over hurdles round Cheltenham and was a top-class novice, winning the 2010 Supreme before finishing fifth in the 2011 Champion Hurdle behind Hurricane Fly. That proven liking for Cheltenham and especially the festival form places Menorah high on the list of horses to be interested in come March 2012. There is a worry though in that he has not really been fluent on any of his chasing starts thus far, despite meeting only 2-rivals on no less than three occasions. Now a 7-y-o as well and a little more experienced than his market rivals so there are warning signs posted in the ground near to Menorah and it will be a good effort if he can jump round fluently enough to hold his chance in this.

Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, Sprinter Sacre has won 6-7 including both his novice chasers so far, both times racing keenly and jumping well. Beat Peddlers Cross by 16-lengths in the second so clearly an exciting novice chaser. Ran in the 2011 Supreme Novices' where he was a 5 1/4 length third to Al Ferof and Cue Card. That was a good effort but it was disappointing that he went from travelling supremely well to stopping quickly up the hill. That was on decent ground as well and given he has mostly been kept to easier tracks, there have to be some concerns about his stamina so given his price, there may be better value elsewhere.

Peddlers Cross
© Racehorse Photos

Peddlers Cross
Peddlers Cross has a tremendous win record encompassing a point, a bumper, plenty of hurdles and a couple of chases to boot. Nothing to crab about in his record but he was beaten 17-lengths by Sprinter Sacre at Kempton over Christmas and by his high standards, that has to go down as a poor effort. It may be that his clouting of the first did for his chance as he never got close to his free-running rival but post-race, trainer Donald McCain expressed reservations about 2-miles being far enough and given that the horse won the Neptune Investments Hurdle over 2-miles 5f at the 2011 festival, it is a tangible view to hold. Still has to be a leading contender and stamina is rarely a negative trait to have at the festival. Also entered in both the Champion Hurdle and the Champion Chase (as well as the Jewson) so clearly still held in the very highest regard by connections.

The grey Al Ferof was well-backed to beat his more experienced rivals in the Victor Chandler and having watched him finish third to Somersby, I was initially less than impressed. On reflection though, he was still a novice taking on top class experienced chasers and given the RPR awarded was a career best, my initial judgment was perhaps harsh. Has the all important festival form on his record; a second in the Bumper and a win in the Supreme Novices’ and at 7/1, he may yet prove good value.

In summary, a cracking contest is on the cards and all the leading contenders fall into the stats and trends profile that dominate the Arkle. Sprinter Sacre is currently at the head of the market with Peddlers Cross next but there are slight doubts about both. CUE CARD on the other hand rather silenced his critics last time and I think he is the value at 10/1 to justify his trainer’s faith. Al Ferof appeals next at 7/1 in a race where those near the head of the market historically fare best.

Recommendation: Cue Card at 10/1


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