Hinterland and Felix Yonger lay down strong Arkle markers
The Arkle Challenge Trophy picture became more muddled at the weekend with sterling performances from both Felix Yonger and Hinterland.
Willie Mullins is already dominating the Arkle betting with 3/1 favourite Champagne Fever however Felix Yonger looks a real contender after his win at the weekend; he is now 10/1 (from 16s).
The Oscar gelding has won all three of his starts over fences and that includes a chase debut beating of Kerry National winner White Star Line.
Since then he has dropped back to two miles and his win at Navan on Saturday was visually very impressive.
Bet on Felix Yonger to win the Arkle at 10/1
The second-home Trifolium was third in the 2012 Supreme Novices’ so is no mug, although it should be pointed out that the runner-up raced too freely throughout and was a spent force before the second-last fence.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh said: “That was some performance. He’s really good. He is very professional but you must remember he has age on his side.
“He was second to Simonsig in the Neptune at Cheltenham so he’ll definitely get 2m4f no problem.”
Those comments from Walsh might lend substance to the argument that the Jewson Novices’ Chase over 2m4f at Cheltenham would suit better.
However the fact that he showed enough pace to go with the free-wheeling Trifolium – before quickening up smartly late on – would suggest that the Arkle is the right race, even if his stablemate also runs.
Bet on Hinterland to win the Arkle at 10/1
Over in England, Hinterland took top billing in a very competitive renewal of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and is now 10/1 (from 25s) for the Arkle.
Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old wasn’t able to win over fences last season but has made hay of late, winning his last two starts.
With time on his side, the son of Poliglote looks to have a bright future ahead of him, especially when getting decent ground as he should do in the spring.
Nicholls explained: “He has bags of speed, he jumps really well and he wants to be held up in a fast-run race like that. Obviously the Arkle is made for him and that’s the race we’ll be aiming at.”
Whilst Nicholls has lauded the horse’s jumping, he did make two errors at the Railway Fences on Saturday and still has some work to do in that area, especially when we consider the tricky second-last fence on Cheltenham’s Old Course.
Bet on Grandouet to win the Arkle at 12/1
Nicky Henderson’s Grandouet eased to 12/1 (from 8s) after going down by just a neck at Sandown.
He is another who appreciates good ground and he travelled smoothly for a long way on Saturday before a mistake at the second-last fence.
That halted his momentum but to his credit he ran on well up the Sandown hill and showed more resolution than has sometimes looked to be the case.
Jockey Barry Geraghty was pleased with his jumping – he had unseated the jockey on his seasonal reappearance – and 12/1 looks too big for a horse of his talent.
Henderson has won the Arkle for the last two seasons and it’s worth remembering that Grandouet was still travelling powerfully before falling at the fourth-last flight in last season’s Champion Hurdle.
He won’t be 12/1 for long.