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Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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Cheltenham – The Arkle Challenge Trophy

Fast and furious is the way to describe the first steeplechase of the meeting - the Arkle – named after the legendary Irish horse who achieved much of his success at Cheltenham. The race named in his honour is over 2 miles and was first run in 1969 to commemorate his three Gold Cup wins (1964-66).

Arkle was often favourite in his races and the market and form book have offered a good guide to this race in the recent pace although we have to go back to 2003 and the Paul Nicholls trained Azertiyoup to find the last outright favourite to win – the Nicholls charge doing so at 5/4. Outright favourites might have trouble doing the business but you have to go all the way back to 1989 to find a winner at double figure odds – Waterloo Boy at 20/1. Second, third and fourth favourites are where the core of the winners come from and those placing Cheltenham 2011 bets should bear this in mind.

2010 winner Sizing Europe

Sizing Europe
One of the most important points to consider in the Arkle is that you need a horse who jumps well and fluently, as jumping prowess is often the difference between winning and losing. But beware of out-and-out front runners who really struggle to win the Arkle. But probably the most important trend of all is to be seen in the shape of the fact that it is a real advantage to have finished in the first two in the run before the Arkle – 22 of the 24 winners meet that criterion so it's clearly an important stat when it comes to Cheltenham racing betting.

It also provides a good stepping stone to other events later in the career for the budding chasers who contest this race – that last winning favourite Azertiyoup went on to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following year, as did the 2002 winner Moscow Flyer who became a dual winner of the same race in 2003 and 2005.

For a race named after an Irish great horses from that side of the Irish Sea have has a chequered past in this event but have won the race in back-to-back years in the shape of Forpadydepalsterer and Sizing Europe last year. If you are backing an Irish horse then make sure you check the form of the key Irish “trial” which is the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase run at Leopardstown in January (this year won by Realt Dubh) as seven of the last eight Irish runners have won that event.

The Arkle is a fantastic start to the chase events at the Cheltenham Festival – fast and furious sums it up.

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