Matt Tombs / Friday 7th December 2012 / 12:35
1pt Oscars Well to win the Arkle @ 16/1
I love the Arkle as an ante-post betting race. 2m chases are incredibly specialist, because it’s all about jumping at speed, so they’re relatively predictable. Whilst you can’t be sure how well a horse will jump on the day, (I never thought Mulligan would fall nor that Tiutchev would jump well enough to win,) you can evaluate their jumping capabilities based on their previous runs.
What you can do with much more certainty is evaluate whether they are quick enough. It’s a myth that Arkles are won by stayers. They are won by very fast horses, who can jump at that breakneck gallop. Some will stay much further, (especially as they mature,) but unless the ground is really soft or it’s a weak renewal, one of the fast horses is bound to jump well enough. That explains why favourites don't have a great record, but there's never an upset, (no double figure priced winners since the millennium.)
As I've mentioned before, top class hurdlers have a fantastic record if turning up. Many don't jump well enough to get there but if you find one that does, then history suggests he'll be hard to beat. In the last 11 years, 6 renewals have had a horse that recorded a hurdles RPR of over 160 the previous season. Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, My Way De Solzen and Sizing Europe all won and Accordian Etoile was going well when falling. Menorah rather let that stat down last year, but his jumping problems were obvious before the race. I only take notice of stats I can explain, and the great record of top class hurdlers who’ve proved they can jump fences, makes sense.
The other type of winner has been one of the previous season’s novice hurdlers, ie a horse that’s unexposed over hurdles and switches to fences before getting the opportunity to show top class form over timber. Sprinter Sacre, Captain Chris, Forpadydeplasterer, Contraband, Voy Por Ustedes, Well Chief & Tidal Bay all fell into this category.
Simonsig (7/2) is unique as far as I can recall in that he fits into both categories. He was a novice last season but recorded RPRs of 162 in both the Neptune and the Mersey at Aintree. That ought to be a tip in itself and the vibes from Seven Barrows are that he’s held in similar regard to Sprinter Sacre, in which case why not stick with the obvious and take the 7/2?
Whilst he has experience in points, he hasn’t jumped a fence under rules and he was running at around 2½m last season. Connections chose the Neptune not Supreme to give him more time to get organized at his obstacles and you don’t get that luxury in an Arkle. The other concern is that the only time he really needed to battle, against Fingal Bay at Sandown, he didn’t find anything. I wouldn’t read too much into that as I doubt he was wound up that day, but there are too many question marks for me to think 7/2 is too big a price. He looks a cracking prospect though and I wouldn’t put anyone off who wanted to back him.
When you look at Oddschecker’s Arkle market, there are only 6 horses that are quoted by all the bookmakers, which indicates there are currently few credible contenders. Of the next 3 there are 2 I’m looking to oppose at this stage. The first is the wonderful Overturn, (7/1). He’ll be 9 by raceday and horses that old just don’t win the Arkle. It’s usually a National Hunt bred (the last horse off the flat to win was Contraband in 2005) who is improving. Whilst you can’t knock his 2nd in the Champion, (RPR 164,) he shapes like a horse who might be better over further where he can gallop the finishing kick out of the quickeners and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up in the Jewson.
The other is Captain Conan, (8/1). It’s hard to know how good 2m novice chasers are from runs in bad ground and it was very soft when he beat Sire De Grugy at Cheltenham. He jumped pretty well for a debutant but he hasn’t looked a horse with a real turn of foot so far and whilst I doubt he was trained too hard last season, he looks short for a horse who hasn’t shown star quality. Another concern is that he’s in the same stable as Simonsig. Nicky Henderson sees him as a 2 miler and it would depend on how the likes of Broadbackbob progress, but I can see him running in the Jewson, especially if Simonsig gets to the Festival looking bombproof.
I’m much sweeter on Arvika Ligeonniere, (7/1). He was brilliant at Fairyhouse and given the pace he showed, there’s the promise of improvement dropped back to 2m. He jumps well and goes on good ground. He’s a tearaway though and with Overturn likely to employ similar tactics they could cut each other’s throats. He’s also been fragile and there has to be a sizeable risk that he doesn’t make the race. The Jewson is obviously also under consideration and with the potential for Simonsig to make the market, I’m holding back as I think he may be better value in the run up to the race.
I don’t fancy Hinterland (20/1), who didn’t look to appreciate a fast pace when folding tamely behind Theatre Guide (well beaten since) at Exeter. The one I do like is Oscars Well (16/1) who recorded an RPR of 164 both when chasing home Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle and then finishing 8l 6th to Rock on Ruby in the Champion.
He’s shown the toe for this and always looked a chaser in the making, before jumping well on debut and thrashing the decent Darwin’s Fox at Punchestown. He was 8/15 to follow up there but crashed out at the 3rd causing his price to double to 16/1, which looks an overreaction. Yes, the horse had a nasty fall and it’s possible that’ll affect his confidence and he could fall apart over fences because of it. But it’s more likely he’ll bounce back and learn a lot from it. Jessica Harrington has said he was fine after it and the fact she’s willing to run him 3 weeks after that fall indicates that he has schooled well since. Moscow Flyer came down twice as a novice before she produced him to win the Arkle.
There is a school of thought that he might step up in trip, but looking through his form and his races again, I still think what he needs is a fast run race at 2m. If Overturn and Arvika Ligeoniniere line up, it could set the race up ideally for him. If you’re the sort of ante-post punter who wants to make a profit rather than worrying about getting a run for your money, he looks an ideal bet. If he gets the show back on the road tomorrow then his price will shorten a lot and he looks one of the few with the raw ability to win this, so 16/1 is huge. If it all falls apart for him, then we’ve plenty of time to find the winner from those that remain.
Of course the winner might not be quoted at the moment, or just quoted in one or two lists. It’s probably not a good use of energy to try and trawl through every feasible runner and I’ve just looked through the other quoted runners and the official hurdles ratings for those rated over 140. Dynaste (16/1) has looked great at around 2m4f but given he was a 3miler over hurdles I’d be really surprised if he ran in the Arkle. My Way De Solzen did, but that was before the introduction of the Jewson. Sire De Grugy (25/1) couldn’t beat Captain Conan on his favoured testing ground so it’s hard to see him being competitive in the Arkle on the prevailing sound surface. The Real Article (33/1) is potentially interesting – he was a hype horse for the Champion Hurdle at the start of last season after winning a couple of early season Grade 2s. He tipped up on debut at Clonmel yesterday and I want to see him jump a clear round before considering him.
It’s a risky bet given the fall Oscar’s Well took last time, but 16/1 is far too big for the Arkle. I’ll be wishing him well tomorrow as he tries to get his chasing career back on track and I’m going to back him for Arkle glory now.