Garde A Close Second To Douvan
Arkle Challenge Trophy
Willie Mullins’ followers will be looking to another of his hotpots delivering on the opening day in Douvan (1/3), who looks on course to make it 2-2 at the Cheltenham Festival.
Douvan Back For The Double
Successful in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle here last year (2m, good to soft), Douvan has improved beyond that level over fences this season, winning all three chases – the last two coming in Grade 1 events (2m1f, soft). The manner of those convincing victories – by 18l and then 15l – will have his rivals quaking, and a repeat of that form would make him very hard to beat.
While plenty of punters will be happy to make 33% profit upon their investment at odds of 1/3, others may look for some each-way value, with the likes of Nicky Henderson’s Vaniteux (11/2) at the top of the list.
Henderson To Strike For Britain?
This 7yo has certainly taken to the bigger obstacles this term, winning two of his three races, including a Grade 2 at Doncaster in January (2m, good). Despite being caught out by the strong pace that day, Vaniteux still won by over 3l, idling a touch at the finish.
Placed on three occasions over hurdles at Cheltenham previously, Vaniteux will need to improve if troubling Douvan, but could give the favourite something to think about.
Henderson also has L’Ami Serge (14/1), a dual minor chase winner prior to being beaten 11l by Violet Dancer in a Grade 2 at Warwick in February (2m, soft). That defeat at odds on was a setback, but if anyone can get a runner back to form at the right time then it is Henderson. Any support for him leading up to race time would be noteworthy.
Victoire Big At 16’s
One who has less to prove in terms of form is Philip Hobbs’ 7yo, Garde La Victoire (16/1), who is also entered in the JLT, but would have a live chance if turning up for this.
Currently 3-3 over fences, including a Grade 2 over C&D in November (good to soft), this 7yo is a 2m4f winner over hurdles, and that stamina will serve him well for the Arkle, which is always a truly-run event.
Sizing John also knows his way round Cheltenham, having been beaten 7l by Douvan when third in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. That was one of four defeats by Douvan, including by 18l at Leopardstown at Christmas, but that level of form could still be good enough for him to grab a place.
Another who is well priced is Gordon Elliott’s 7yo, The Game Changer (20/1), who is 6-8 over fences, having won his last three outings in Grade 3 company, and the improvement shown during that sequence make him a definite each-way contender.
Douvan looks the real deal and will take some beating, but with the places up for grabs, Garde La Victoire, would look an interesting runner if lining-up here. He has plenty of stamina and could outstay some of those at shorter odds.
*Prices correct at time of publication