2020 Arkle tips – Ireland in charge on day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Runners and riders in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2019.

2020 Arkle Tips

We take a look through the betting for the 2020 Arkle Chase and pick out our best bets in the latest of our Cheltenham tips articles.

The first Grade One for novice chasers comes on Cheltenham Festival Day one of the Cheltenham Festival, as a strong field battle it out for the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Many legends of the sports have scored in the Arkle during their first season over fences, with the list of previous winners featuring greats like Flyingbolt, Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre and Altior.

As part of my Cheltenham day one tips, I’ve taken a look at each of the most likely runners in this Grade One and come up with my top 2020 Arkle tips.

Arkle Tips – The Home Challenge

Brewin’upastorm

Such is the stranglehold Ireland have in this year’s Arkle, the first British runner sits sixth in the current market. Brewin’upastorm (12/1 William Hill) reached a rating of 148 over hurdles, thanks to placed efforts at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. Olly Murphy’s charge is unbeaten in two starts over fences, and the form of both races has been boosted since. He’s yet to be tested at Graded level over the larger obstacles, but looks to have enough about him to be there at the business end of things. Whether he has the class of some of the Irish entrants, I’m not so sure.

Global Citizen

Ben Pauling’s charge finished fourth behind Brewin’Upastorm as the pair made their chasing debut at Carlisle. Global Citizen (16/1 Paddy Power) then claimed victory from the front in the Wayward Lad at Kempton, holding on to deny Rouge Vif and Grand Sancy. On the face of it, that looked a weak Grade Two and I’ve never been confident that Cheltenham would suit this talented sort. He won’t feature in my final 2020 Arkle tips.

Espirit Du Large

It’s quite surprising to see a Grade One winner sitting so far down the betting. Maybe that’s a reflection of the quality of Espirit Du Large’s (20/1 Betfred) Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, where Evan Williams’ charge defeated Nube Negra and Torpillo. Williams’ six-year-old has shaped well over fences and looks to have more improvement to come. He will have to build on that career-best effort to get involved though.

Notebook and Rachael Blackmore leap the last at Leopardstown.

Arkle Tips – The Raiding Party

Notebook

Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old has improved massively since switching to fences. Rated just 130 over hurdles, Notebook (3/1 Paddy Power) has jumped like a stag on all four of his starts, winning a Grade Two at Punchestown before heading to Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. All eyes were on Laurina and Fakir D’Oudairies that day. Yet, Notebook upstaged them both with an excellent performance to win the Racing Post Novice Chase. Rachael Blackmore’s mount got the job done again at the Dublin Racing Festival, edging out Cash Back in the Arkle Trial, and Notebook will feature on many punter’s list of Cheltenham Day One tips.

Fakir D’Oudairies

Joseph O’Brien’s youngster went into Leopardstown as one of the fancied runners for that Grade One, having bolted up in the Drinmore over 20-furlongs at Fairyhouse. Mark Walsh was caught napping a little at the start, as Djingle set the early pace. At a crucial stage rounding the bend, Walsh bumped into a rival and lost his irons. Although he recovered them quickly, Fakir D’Oudairies (6/1 Paddy Power) didn’t jump the last two obstacles well enough to make inroads into Notebook’s lead and O’Brien’s five-year-old had to settle for second. Good ground forced Fakir D’Oudairies out of a rematch with Notebook at the Dublin Racing Festival. But that could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Cash Back

Cash Back (12/1 William Hill) looks to be Willie Mullins’ leading contender in this year’s Arkle. The eight-year-old ran out a convincing seven-length winner on his chasing debut, before seeing off a capable rival in Zero Ten in dominant fashion at Naas. Mullins charge then gave Notebook a real fright in the Arkle Trial, staying on gamely to finish just half-a-length behind the market leader. The former French star has looked a natural over fences and Cash Back poses the market leaders a significant danger.

Arkle Tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Al Dancer

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has slipped down the betting in recent months, having suffered three defeats since that win over Getaway Trump on debut. Al Dancer (25/1 William Hill) was beaten by Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, and could only finish fourth in the Wayward Lad. Marsh Novices’ Chase contender, Mister Fisher was a little too classy last time out, but Al Dancer has maintained a high-level of form during that losing run and he’s shown a real liking for Cheltenham.

Maire Banrigh

Another who’s progressed beyond belief this term. Dan Skelton’s mare started out over fences rated just 122, but a run of four-straight victories has propelled Maire Banrigh (20/1 Betfred) right up to a mark of 148. While her performances this season have been admirable and she’ll have her mares’ allowance, I’d be surprised if she had the class of some of the horses ahead of her in the market and has no form in Graded races to build from.

Put The Kettle On

Made the most of her weight-for-sex allowance to beat Al Dancer in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham’s November meeting. That was Put The Kettle On’s (25/1 Unibet) third victory from four starts over fences, with her only defeat coming at the hands of Robin De Carlow. Course form is always valuable at Cheltenham. Whether she’s good enough to end up as one of my 2020 Arkle tips, I highly doubt.

Samcro

Gordon Elliott currently doesn’t have a strong challenger for the Arkle, and the way Samcro (20/1 Unibet) finished over two-and-a-half-miles at Limerick suggested a drop back to two miles could be in the offing. On all three of his starts over fences, Samcro has travelled like the most likely winner. However, just like over hurdles, the weakest part of his races have been in the final couple of furlongs. It’s an outside punt, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Samcro thrown into the Arkle. He could pose a massive threat to the leading fancies.

Bapaume

Considering he proved a strong stayer over hurdles, I’m quite surprised to see that Bapaume (25/1 Unibet) has been pointed at the Arkle tips. Yet, Mullins’ charge – who could only finish seventh on his first start over fences – responded really well to a drop in trip to secure victory at Naas before Christmas. Things didn’t go to plan at the Dublin Racing Festival, but Bapaume is a lovely jumper of a fence and boasts some useful Cheltenham Festival form. The only question is whether he has the pace to win a two-mile chase of this stature?

Arkle Tips – Look At Those Odds

Fanion D’Estruval

Looked a real star in the making when bolting up at Newbury, winning what should have been a competitive handicap by a streak. Fanion D’Estruval (33/1 Betfred) never looked comfortable in the Wayward Lad, jumping poorly at the back for much of that Grade Two, before crossing the line fifth. I think there’s a chance Venetia Williams could step her French recruit up in trip. If he does enter the Arkle, though, then he’s an outsider who’s certainly worth watching.

Itchy Feet

A surprise placer in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, making strong late progress to claim third. Won as easily as you’d expect a 1/5 favourite to win by on his chasing debut at Leicester. Itchy Feet (20/1 Paddy Power) then handed Olly Murphy his first Grade One winner, bolting up in the Scilly Isles at Sandown. Connections may favour a run in the Marsh Novices’ Chase on the back of that though, and stablemate Rouge Vif looks more of a two-miler anyway.

Rouge Vif

Powered home in eye-catching fashion to beat a couple of subsequent winners on his first start over fences. Then finished last of the four in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham, but ran much better in the Wayward Lad, crossing the line less than two lengths behind Global Citizen in second. Rouge Vif (33/1 Unibet) will have to step up on those runs significantly if he wants to get involved here. Yet, he remains open to improvement and could run a big race off 33/1.

Precious Cargo

Fell to a surprise defeat on his most recent run at Newbury, where he just failed to concede a penalty to Moonlighter. I’m still keen to follow Precious Cargo (33/1 Paddy Power) though. I believe he could be a Grade One-quality beast. I’m not so confident whether Cheltenham is his sort of track though. May not even be given the run at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

Grand Sancy

Has been pitched into some difficult races to start his chasing career. Finished a 15-length third behind Espirit Du Large in a Grade One at Sandown on debut. Nicholls’ charge then stepped up on that in the Wayward Lad, where he stayed on gamely to finished just two lengths behind the winner. Despite having 14 runs under his belt, Grand Sancy (40/1 Betfred) is still very keen during his races and I can’t see him lasting up Cleeve Hill after the leaders set a relentless gallop. He won’t feature as one of my 2020 Arkle tips.

Lisp

Very consistent in high-profile handicap hurdles, mostly carrying big weights. Lisp (50/1 Paddy Power) has picked up in that same vein over fences. Placing behind useful chasers on two of his starts, with an emphatic 19-length win at Plumpton in-between. Off a mark of 144, Alan King will probably be eying a handicap with Lisp. However, if he is given an outing in the Arkle, he could run well beyond his current price.

Fakir D’Oudairies finishing second to Pentland Hills as a juvenile.

Arkle Tips – Verdict

There’s going to be a recurring theme with my tips in the novice races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, especially over fences. I think the novices we’ve seen over in Ireland vastly outclass what we’ve seen in British, baring a couple of notable exceptions. Irish horses have won four of the past five editions of the Arkle, and raiders filled the first three places 12 months ago. I can’t see the 2020 Arkle being any different.

Notebook beat FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES won when giving his younger rival seven pounds at Leopardstown, and there will be no gap between the two at the Cheltenham Festival. Henry De Bromhead’s charge looks a worthy Cheltenham Festival free bets favorite. Yet, I don’t think there’s much more progression left to come from Notebook – a notion I thought was justified at the Dublin Racing Festival, where Notebook looked a little work-man-like in seeing off Cash Back.

A seasons-best display will be needed to win the 2020 Arkle. I’m not sure Notebook is capable of that. Fakir D’Oudairies, on the other hand, has plenty left to give and I’m hopeful he will prove the class-act in the field.

Despite Fakir D’Oudairies winning twice from the front on his first couple of chasing starts, Mark Walsh decided to sit off a fairly slow pace at Leopardstown. Walsh also found himself boxed in on the rail as he tried to make up ground around the turn for home, and lost his irons briefly as he tried to find some open air.

There is talk that the Drinmore winner could go to the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Yet, soft ground is key to Fakir D’Oudairies’ chances and he’s much more likely to get that on day one than day three. There’s no doubt in my mind that this talented horse has the speed, grit and determination to triumph over two miles at Cheltenham and he could have too much quality for all of his rivals. He’ll be my sole 2020 Arkle tips.