The Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival is always one of the most exciting races of the week and the 2011 renewal is shaping up to be hugely competitive with a number of top class types set to take their chance. The latest name to emerge this campaign is Realt Dubh who is having a fantastic season over in Ireland for Noel Meade, his latest success at the weekend was in the Irish Arkle Chase and he will now go straight to the Festival. Realt Dubh has now won two Grade 1 races this season at Leopardstown and is expected to run well at Cheltenham, the bookmakers agree following his win and he was cut into around 12/1 for the Arkle Chase in March. Noble Prince has been a gallant runner-up twice to Realt Dubh this season including at the weekend and he is also set to be aimed towards the Festival, he battled all the way at Leopardstown to his credit but he is likely to come up short in better company.
The interesting runner in the Irish Arkle Novices Chase was Flat Out who is thought to be a real star from the Willie Mullins yard; the grey went off well backed but he fell two out when travelling well to rob us of a great battle. It was too far from home to say that Flat Out would have beaten Realt Dubh but he was certainly travelling well, and if he takes his chance at the Cheltenham Festival he could be the joker in the Arkle Chase pack. Flat Out and Realt Dubh look to be the main challengers from the Irish Team for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham but at the moment it is Finian's Rainbow for Nicky Henderson who heads the market. He has won both of his starts so far this season over fences with effortless style and looks to have plenty of scope to improve, he will need to show he can win in a big field like the Arkle where a fast pace will be the order of the day but the bookmakers believe he is the one to beat.