There are 52 engaged in The Irish Independent Arkle Chase, run over two miles on The Festival’s first day, Tuesday, March 10, and this year’s renewal currently looks wide open. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has five engaged in a race he has won with Flagship Uberalles (1999) and Azertyuiop (2003) with his principal hopes looking to rest with Tatenen, a 24-length winner of The Independent Newspaper Novice Chase at Cheltenham in November, dual chasing winner I’msingintheblues and Free World.
Alan King – successful with My Way De Solzen in 2007 and Voy Por Ustedes 12 months earlier – has four chances to add to his impressive record via Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase winner Araldur, Oh Crick, Sir Harry Ormesher and Turkish Surprise
There are 17 Irish-trained entries, including the Tom Cooper-trained Forpadydeplasterer and the Willie Mullins-trained Jayo, while leading French handler Marcel Rolland is set to bid for a Festival winner with his first runner at Cheltenham with the colossal Original, winner of the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 27.
“We are hoping to run Original in The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase,” said Rolland. “We were expecting him to run well at Kempton but didn’t really reckon that he would win. He’s better going left-handed so we are hoping that he can improve going round Cheltenham. “Obviously, he’s won a Grade Two and now we are going to be taking on some of the top novice chasers around at The Festival. We had thought about Cheltenham prior to his victory at Kempton Park and I wanted to get him used to British fences beforehand. “He will go straight to Cheltenham now and he will follow the same programme as he did prior to Kempton, when he came over 10 days before the race and stayed with Jean-Rene Auvray in Lambourn. “He’s a very tall horse but jumping seems to come naturally to him. James Davies will definitely take the ride again having ridden him so well at Kempton Park . We actually asked some other jockeys to ride him at Kempton Park but they all declined – perhaps they were too scared of the horse!”
Panjo Bere and Calgary Bay , who finished first and second in the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Saturday, and the Philip Hobbs-trained Planet Of Sound, an impressive winner at Newbury last week, are other notable entries.