Cheltenham ante-post tips: Arkle Trophy wide open after Ferny Hollow injury blow
How the Arkle Picture Looks Ahead of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival
The Willie Mullins-trained Ferny Hollow, 6-4 ante-post favourite for the Arkle Trophy, will miss the rest of the season due to a suspensory ligament injury. The news led to a reshuffle in the betting with stable companion Blue Lord and Alan King’s Edwardstone now vying for favouritism at around 3-1. With Sky Bet announcing that they now offer “non-runner – no bet” on all Cheltenham Festival races, we have taken a closer look at the revamped Arkle betting.
Edwardstone could start favourite for Arkle
Alan King trained back-to-back Arkle winners in 2006-2007 with Voy Por Ustedes and My Way de Solzen. The race has largely been dominated by Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson in more recent years but King has a leading chance this season with Edwardstone. He was a high class hurdler with a rating of 149 and has transferred that talent to the larger obstacles with three successive victories.
A 16 lengths victory in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown was followed by an equally impressive win in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton. King plans to run the gelding in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick prior to Cheltenham. He is 5-2 (with a run) with Sky Bet and 3-1 without the concession.
Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki looked a lively contender at the start of the season after winning here in November. He was put firmly in his place by Edwardstone at Sandown where his jumping let him down but it is difficult to see him reversing the Henry VIII form.
Venetia Williams is more renowned for her staying chasers but has a talented two-miler in Brave Seasca. He won a class 4 Handicap Chase off a rating of 121 in December and has followed up at Ascot (128) and Warwick (137). Williams suggested that the Grand Annual would be his Cheltenham objective for which he is 12-1 with Sky Bet (NRNB) but the handicapper will undoubtedly push him up again considerably. He is now 12-1 for the Arkle with Sky Bet (NRNB) and 20-1 generally.
Irish Arkle likely to dictate Mullins’ Cheltenham plans
Willie Mullins would almost certainly have nominated Appreciate it as his main Arkle hope at the start of the campaign. That horse has been re-assigned to the Champion Hurdle while Ferny Hollow has now also fallen by the wayside. Mullins has such strength in depth in his stable that he still has one of the market leaders in Blue Lord, an easy winner at Fairyhouse and Naas this season. He is one of several Arkle entries who could line up in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown on February 5th.
Mullins has four possible runners at Leopardstown; Blue Lord, Jungle Boogie, Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam. The latter was second in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle last year and made all to win by 9 lengths on his chasing bow. Haut En Couleurs was third in the Triumph Hurdle and is another exciting chasing recruit. Of the four Mullins Cheltenham entries, he makes most appeal at the current odds of 8-1 generally or 5-1 with Sky Bet (NRNB).
Gordon Elliott’s only Arkle entry is Riviere D’etel, also bound for Leopardstown after chasing home Ferny Hollow last time. The grey mare had won her previous three races by an aggregate of 44 lengths.