Trainer Paul Nicholls trained the winner of the Arkle Chase back in 2003 but since then his 12 runners have produced no winners and just two places, as Paddy Power offer the favourite Sprinter Sacre at short odds.
That damming statistic could be about to change as Al Ferof looks the prime candidate to take advantage of some serious weakness in the price of favourite Sprinter Sacre.
There is no doubting the effortless brilliance shown so far in is chase career by Sprinter Sacre – the way he saw off Peddlers Cross at Kempton over Christmas was nothing short of spectacular, however, it seems as though Donald McCain’s horse isn’t the same as when finishing second in the Champion Hurdle and maybe that form should be treated with caution.
Sprinter Sacre also has a very flamboyant way of jumping his fences which could work against him around Prestbury Park – a place he is yet to be tested over the sticks as yet.
It’s likely Nicky Henderson’s star will pull or jump his way to the front at some point in the race and it is well known that out and out speedsters can be caught out at Cheltenham with its murderously long run in. Twice he has had to battle in his career and twice he has been beaten and it’s the horse that beat him in the Supreme Novices last season, Al Ferof, which should do the same to him again 12 months on.
They don’t come more battle hardened that the Nicholls’ runner and although not as visually impressive as his rival over fences, he still has jumped excellently in his two chase wins this season, including at Cheltenham in November.
He was surprisingly stepped up to all aged company on his last start in the Victor Chandler but still ran with plenty of gusto against his elders, only finishing five lengths off the 166 rated Somersby.
That for me is the best novice chase form on offer in the race and Al Ferof should be backed accordingly with Paddy Power, who will refund your stake up to £100 if Sprinter Sacre wins. They have racked up quite a liability on Al Ferof, with over £4m set to be paid out if the Nicholls runner lands the odds.