The Big Question: Can Arvika Ligeonniere win Champion Chase?
Arvika Ligeonniere represents the formidable Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh combination in the Champion Chase on Wednesday. He was a 28-1 shot when fourth in the Albert Bartlett in 2010 but was pulled up behind Simonsig in the 2013 Arkle.
Punters have not been able to forgive him for that disappointing performance and he has been largely overlooked in the build-up to the Champion Chase. He won his last outing at Punchestown by 14 lengths without coming off the bridle and is clearly in fine form.
Mullins has hinted at the possibility of new tactics for the son of Arvico who has won nine of his sixteen races. With no Sprinter Sacre in the race this year, the opportunity is there to put a new name on the roll of honour.
Arvika Ligeonniere was sent chasing in 2012, winning two Grade 1 events before lining up for the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown. He held a narrow advantage when falling four out with the race going to Benefficient.
Although Simonsig was widely regarded as a good thing for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, Arvika Ligeonniere was sent off at 15-2 third favourite. He raced far too keenly and jumped out to his right, losing valuable ground in the process.
He weakened four from home and was pulled up by Ruby Walsh before two out. He returned to winning ways in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at Punchestown the following month, stretching clear impressively to slam Oscar’s Well by nine and a half lengths.
Mullins then took him to Clonmel where he comfortably landed a Grade 2 Chase before following up at Punchestown in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial. He suffered his only defeat of the season when finishing a close third to Benefficient at Leopardstown in December.
Although beaten favourite, he did have Sizing Europe, Baily Green and Kid Cassidy all well behind him that day. His tendency to jump to his right was again evident in the early stages but he stuck on well enough in the closing stages.
Only two of his wins have come on right-handed tracks and Ruby Walsh may try to keep him on the inside of runners. If he can keep him covered up until late, perhaps we will see the real Arvika Ligeonniere on Wednesday.