The Arkle Trophy, Cheltenham Festival
Arguably the highlight of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Racing Post Arkle Chase where the potentially outstanding Sprinter Sacre faces his biggest challenge yet as Paddy Power offer the horse odds on for victory and will offer refunds if it wins.
Nicky Henderson’s star is 3-3 over fences which included a highly impressive win over high-class hurdler Peddlers Cross at Kempton at Christmas and a visually stunning beating of French Opera at Newbury in the Game Spirit.
A sign of highly regarded the horse is lies in the fact that only nine rivals remain at the five-day declaration stage – which would be smallest field in the past 10 years.
Not everyone is convinced by Sprinter Sacre though as Paddy Power is willing to refund all losing bets on the Arkle Trophy if the imperious Henderson runner, who is now odds-on across the board, wins the Grade One showpiece.
They say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity and Paddy Power’s offer is likely to fall into that category.
There are plenty of people along with Paddy Power who are against the favourite as well and they will be hoping Al Ferof, who beat Sprinter Sacre last year in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, can repeat the trick this time around.
Paul Nicholls’ star has been solid in the betting behind Sprinter Sacre and because of Peddlers Cross’ switch to the Jewson Chase, is now as short as 5/2 across the board.
Cue Card (7/1) is next in the betting and he will be as popular as ever with punters, who will be looking to win some of the money back they lost on him in the Supreme last season. He finished a well beaten fourth that day but a switch to fences was always going to improve him and he certainly has the talent, it’s just a case whether he puts his best foot forward come the day.
In a field that probably will dwindle again at the final declaration stage, only Menorah (8/1) and Blackstairmountain (16/1) are likely to be good enough to tackle the favourite.
The race is one of the highlights of Day One at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and with plenty of intrigue and rumour regarding Sprinter Sacre, this year’s Arkle Trophy should be a classic.