Cheltenham Festival News

2023 Sporting Life Arkle Chase: stats, trends and replays

Sun 1 Jan 2023

We share the facts and stats you need to know for the first race over fences at the Cheltenham Festival, the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy. Enjoy all the action live on Racing TV!

What Grade? Grade One. What course? Old Course. What Distance? 2m (13 Fences)

Prize Money? Ages: For 5yo+ which are allotted a BHA rating of 120 or more Weights & Allowances: 11st 4lb. Allowances, mares 7lb

Key statistics and trends

 Edwardstone jumps to victory in last year's race (Pic: Focusornacing)
Edwardstone jumps to victory in last year's race (Pic: Focusornacing)

Six and seven-year-olds fare best:

In the last 25 renewals, six and seven-year-olds have won on 18 occasions (72% of the time) with only four five-year-olds and three eight-year-olds have been successful. The last five-year-old winner was Voy Por Ustedes (2006) and the last eight-year-old winner was the most recent one - Edwardstone.

Market clues:

The Arkle doesn't tend up to throw too many surprises, despite big-priced wins for Western Warhorse (33-1) in 2014 and Put The Kettle On (16-1) in 2020. The big-race favourite has triumphed in 8 of the last 11 renewals with seven of those returning at odds-on.

Top class:

Class tends to out in the Arkle.

Since 2010, nine of the 13 winners had the highest official rating while horses rated 160 or more have provided eight winners from 14 runners since 2010 - with the six also-rans contesting renewals ultimately won by a 160+ horse.

Of the past 31 winners, nine have gone on to win the following season’s Champion Chase including the likes of Sprinter Sace, Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Remittance Man. Put The Kettle On achieved the feat in 2021 and became the first mare to land the Champion Chase.

 Nicky Henderson knows what it takes to win the Arkle (Pic: Focusonracing)
Nicky Henderson knows what it takes to win the Arkle (Pic: Focusonracing)

Look out for Seven Barrows:

Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer in this race with seven victories - Remittance Man (1991), Travado (1993), Tiutchev (2000), Sprinter Sacre (2012), Simonsig (2013), Altior (2017) and Shishkin (2021).

Since 1997, Henderson has saddled 18 Arkle runners and trained five at an excellent strike-rate of 28%. He's also had a further five placed in that time. When the yard relies on just one runner the strike-rate jumps to 36%.

Winning form

In the last 25 renewals, 21 Arkle winners had won last-time out and every one of the last 13 winners arrived at the Cheltenham Festival on the back of a win. Forpadytheplasterer (2009) was the last Arkle winner not to score on his previous start, but he did finish runner-up in Grade One company.

Most successful jockey:

The most successful jockeys have been Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh - both with four wins. Of current riders, Nico de Boinville has ridden two Arkle winners (Altior in 2017 and Shishkin in 2021) and a 14-1 runner-up (Brain Power in 2018) from four rides in the race. His other ride (Vaniteux in 2017) was at least in contention for the places when unseating two from home.

Race History:

The Sporting Life-sponsored Arkle Challenge Trophy is the first Grade One novices' chase of the Cheltenham Festival attracting the best two-mile novice chasers in training. It is the second race on Day One of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Sporting Life backed the contest for the first time in 2021 and is only the fifth-ever sponsor of the race. The Irish Independent was the backer from 2000 to 2011, Guinness sponsored from 1994 until 1999 and Waterford Crystal between 1991 and 1993. Racing Post most recently sponsored the race from 2012 until 2020.

First run in 1946, Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer with seven victories in the race spanning 27 years - Remittance Man (1991), Travado (1993), Tiutchev (2000), Sprinter Sacre (2012), Simonsig (2013), Altior (2017) and Shishkin (2021).

Recent renewals of the Arkle Trophy

2022 - Edwardstone

Edwardstone completed a five-timer in running out an emphatic winner of the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

The eight-year-old, ridden by Tom Cannon, powered away from the opposition on the run to the line to give trainer Alan King a third success in the two-mile novice championship after Voy Por Ustedes in 2006 and My Way De Solzen in 2007.

However, it was not straightforward for the 5-2 favourite, as he was almost brought down at the fourth fence when Brave Seasca fell, taking out Saint Sam.

Then at the second-last Edwardstone collided with the leader Riviere D'etel, but was soon on an even keel. He showed his superiority from there by pulling clear to score by four and a quarter lengths from Gabynako. Blue Lord was three and a half lengths away in third place.

King said: “I’m just relieved. I’m not high at the minute, that will be later as I’m just relieved. I’m thrilled for the horse and connections as they are wonderful.

"It is great to see Tom win as well. He is a great lad and I’m lucky to have him. I’ve been training 22 years and he is only my third stable jockey. I was very spoiled with Choc (Robert Thornton) and Wayne (Hutchinson) and now we have got Tom. It means a lot to me."

2021 - Shishkin

Shishkin (4-9F) justified his ‘banker’ billing to saunter home and remain unbeaten over fences for jockey Nico de Boinville, trainer Nicky Henderson and owners Joe and Marie Donnelly.

Allmankind and the keen-going Captain Guinness traded blows out in front with Shishkin always in close attendance. He took up the running two furlongs from home to prevail by an eased-down 12 lengths from Eldorado Allen (33-1), who plugged on for second from both Captain Guinness (10-1) and Allmankind (5-1).

Henderson said: “We’ve had great days here in this race – Sprinter Sacre, then Altior followed him. It’s extraordinary to find another, and he looked as good as the other two did in this race today.

“He nearly hurdles his fences, he’s very quick which frightens you a little. He’s very fast, he’s always looked like a chaser but he’s definitely a two-miler. He’s just a natural.”

2020 - Put The Kettle On

Put The Kettle On (16-1) showed the boys how it's done and became the first mare to win the Arkle for 40 years, putting in a fine round of jumping in an attrtitional race for jockey Aidan Coleman, trainer Henry de Bromhead and owners One For Luck Racing Syndicate.

Customarily towards the head of affairs throughout, the mare was challenged for the lead but looked likely to play a big part turning into the straight with Fakir D'Oudairies in pursuit and was not to be denied on the run for home, prevailing over that rival by one-and-a-half lengths with a whopping 18 lengths further back to Rouge Vif in third.

"All the way I absolutely was having some craic - then turning in, I was going to be sick if I got beaten," said Coleman.

"It's her jumping - it's a joy to behold. She's just brilliant."

This proved the crowning moment of quite a rise for Put The Kettle On. Busy all summer before earning a break after victory at Grade Two Cheltenham in November, her first victory over fences was on chase debut at a quiet Kilbeggan fixture the previous May.

"I'm delighted. For a mare that won a 116 beginners chase in Kilbeggan she’s come a long way," said De Bromhead.

2019 - Duc Des Genievres

Duc Des Genievres (5-1) ran out a facile winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.

The result was scarcely in doubt, with the six-year-old grey, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden y Paul Townend, fencing fluently throughout the two-mile contest in behind the pacesetting Knocknanuss, before taking over the lead still full of running before the home turn.

Clondaw Castle briefly looked a threat, but soon weakened as Duc Des Genievres found another gear in the straight to leave his rivals trailing in his wake.

Glen Forsa unseated Jonathan Burke early on, while 100-30 favourite Hardline never threatened to land a telling blow. Lalor also ran below-par, being pulled up early on.

Townend said: "The plan was to leave them at it, but this horse just travelled so well and jumped his way there. I was able to take him back down the hill and it's not too often you can do that here."

2018 - Footpad:

Willie Mullins continued his dominance of recent years when Footpad scored by 14 lengths under an ecstatic Ruby Walsh.

Punters had heavily supported Mullins' short-priced favourite in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, who ultimately disppointed, but kept the faith in Mullins and Walsh and Footpad returned the 5-6 favourite.

Favourite backers only had one scare which was when Footpad made a bad mistake at the sixth fence but, other than that, his victory was never in any doubt. Ruby Walsh said after the race:

"It sent the hairs down the back of my neck.

"He was brilliant. I can't say I was confident when we landed at the back of the first down the back, but I was kicking myself I went too fast in the first and thought they can't keep going and would come back."

2017 - Altior:

An injury to the leading Irish hope Min, left Altior as the 1-4 favourite and he justified those prohibitive odds but not in the style we had become accustomed to.

He made it five from five over fences but he took a while to find top gear before eventually finishing strongly to win by by six lengths. He was helped slightly by his old rival Charbel falling at the second last, but he surely would have won regardless.

Altior has not been seen since winning the Bet365 Celebration Chase (Grade One) at Sandown Park on the final day of the Jumps season beating Champion Chase hero Special Tiara by eight lengths. He is the ante-post favourite for this year’s Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and is said to be only "50-50" for the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month.

2016 - Douvan:

Only seven runners and Douvan, who was already a dual Grade One winner over fences was sent off the red-hot 1-4 favourite.

He cantered through the race using his high cruising speed and jumped his rivals into submission without ever really coming off the bridle, finishing seven lengths clear of his old rival Sizing John. This gave Willie Mullins back-to-back victories in the race.

Douvan went on to win at the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals in 2016 before a perfect preparation to the 2017 Champion Chase where he was sent off 2-9 favourite but finished a disappointing seventh.

He has not been seen on a racecourse since. His old rival Sizing John stepped up in trip following the Arkle Chase to avoid another beating and went on to lift the 2017 Timico Gold Cup.

2015 - Un De Sceaux:

Having fallen on his chasing debut, Un De Sceaux had been a wide margin winner of his next two chase starts and came into the race as the red-hot 4-6 favourite.

Ruby Walsh avoided any complications and jumped Un De Sceaux off in front. He barely saw another rival on his way to a comfortable six-length success from God's Own.

Un De Sceaux was sent off at 4-6 again for the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but he found the brilliant Sprinter Sacre three and a half lengths too good.

At the 2017 Cheltenham Festival he was again sent off 7-4 favourite and won the Ryanair Chase (Grade One) by one and a half lengths from Sub Lieutenant. He has been a tremendous racehorse, having won 20 of his 26 starts under Rules, with the Clarence House Chase his eighth Grade One.

2014 - Western Warhorse:

A massive shock. Western Warhorse came into the race having won his only chase start by a neck at Doncaster in the January and held a rating of only 135. He was sent off at 33-1.

There were joint favourites with the dual Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever (Champion Bumper 2012 & Supreme Novices' Hurdle 2013) and Trifolium (Irish Arkle Grade One winner) both at 11-4.

Rock On Ruby was also in the field, having won the 2012 Champion Hurdle and finished runner-up the following year to the brilliant Hurricane Fly.

Champagne Fever attempted to make all, but Western Warhorse, having been outpaced at various stages of the race, stayed on well under pressure to nail the long-time leader on the line to win by a head.

Western Warhorse only raced once more, when he was defeated at that year’s Aintree Festival.

2013 - Simonsig:

Having been a runaway winner of the 2012 Neptune Novices' Hurdle, Simonsig's chasing campaign had not disappointed and he came into the Arkle having won both his chasing starts in Grade Two company by an aggregate of 84 lengths.

He was sent off the red-hot 8-15 favourite. This was not the strongest of renewals and Overturn set out to make the running in his customary fashion, but Simonsig, despite racing freely and making a mistake at the fourth last, came up the hill best to score. He was not at his best in victory and he scoped dirty after the race.

Problems plagued the classy grey after this win and he did not see the track again till November 2015 when beaten over hurdles at Aintree by Bobs Worth. He only raced another four times before suffering a fatal fall in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November 2016.

2012 - Sprinter Sacre:

The best winner of the race in recent times in the smallest field in the history of the race.

Sprinter Sacre had faded up the hill into third in the previous year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and he re-opposed Cue Card (fourth) and Al Ferof (first) in a vintage renewal.

Sprinter Sacre had a perfect record coming into the contest and he took time to settle in the race but his jumping was exemplary and he powered clear without being fully extended to win by seven lengths from Cue Card.

Afterwards trainer Nicky Henderson described him as 'as good an Arkle horse as we've seen for a good bit.'

This did prove to be a vintage renewal.

Sprinter Sacre went on to win a further eight Grade One races, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase (2013 & 2016), as well as victories at the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals and confirmed that he was one of the best chasers of the modern era.

Cue Card stepped up in trip after this and became one of the best staying chasers winning six Grade One races including the Betfair Chase (2013, 2015 & 2016) and King George VI Chase (2015). Gold Cup glory eluded him though, falling twice in the Blue Riband (2016 & 2017) when having leading claims.

2011 - Captain Chris:

Having been beaten in three of his four chasing starts prior to the Arkle, Captain Chris had a bit to prove over fences but he was improving with each run.

He tracked the leaders before becoming slightly outpaced, but once landing over the last he powered home to finish two and three-quarter lengths clear from Finian's Rainbow with a further six lengths back to Realt Dubh in third.

He was given a canny ride by Richard Johnson, who kept him wide to give him a good sight of all his fences and fired him into every one once he had his eye in, before switching him inside at the top of the hill.

Captain Chris went on to claim Grade One honours at the 2011 Punchestown Festival and he also took the Grade Two Amlin Chase at Ascot in 2012.

Finian's Rainbow gained his Grade One at the following Aintree Festival, which was bypassed by Captain Chris in favour of Punchestown and he went on to win the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

2010 - Sizing Europe:

A number of high-class hurdlers turned up for this renewal and Sizing Europe put up a performance that erased the demons of his tame finishing effort in the 2008 Champion Hurdle.

He came into the race with an unbeaten record over fences and was a fresh horse, having not raced that year.

He travelled strongly throughout and having been left in the lead at the last had enough in reserve to hold off the late challenge of Somersby. He became the first eight-year-old to win the race since Moscow Flyer in 2002.

Sizing Europe was beaten on his next four starts before he returned to Cheltenham to contest the 2011 Champion Chase, which he won by five lengths from Big Zeb.

He returned a year later to defend his crown but found Finian's Rainbow too strong in the run-in, a race famed for the last fence being omitted and the first two colliding in a ding-dong battle to the line.

He attempted to regain his crown in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase, but he was outclassed by the imperious Sprinter Sacre who was 19 lengths too good. He did, however, win the Champion Chase (Grade One) at Punchestown in 2014 as a 12-year-old, confirming himself as a very classy operator.

2009 - Forpadydeplasterer

Seventeen lined up but favourite backers did nopt get much a run for their money with Tatanen, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, falling at the third.

By contrast, Forpadydeplasterer jumped soundly but he had finished runner-up in his previous three races and it again looked like he would have to settle for second as Kalahari King threw down a strong challenge at the final fence.

However, Forpadydeplasterer dug deep under BNarry Geraghty and the pho finish revealed Thomas Cooper's seven-year-old had prevailed at 8-1. The runner-upo was retiurned at the same price, with Planet Of Sound,having made an error two, five lengths further back in third.

Remarkably, finished second in his next seven races and won only once more.

2008 - Tidal Bay

Mention of Tidal Bay and most will recall his exploits in long-distance chases, including when romping home in a muddy renewal of the bet365 Gold Cup or when touched off in the Welsh National.

However, as a younger horse, when trained by Howard Johnson, he was not short of toe and he put up a top-notch display in this renewal of the Arkle, forging clear from the second last to win by 13 lengths from Kruguyrova.

There is no doubt Tidal Bay was helped by the soft going but the manner in which he accelerated clear was impressive.

Noland, the previous Supreme Novices'Hurdle winner, was sent off 7-4 favourite but was a one-paced third.

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