January 24th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary
I am not quite sure how I am going to approach this year’s Cheltenham Bulletin Book. Such is the dominance of Willie Mullins that for the main races it will be either a case of writing the obvious or stretching credibility to take one of his good things on.
Douvan was imperious in today’s Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Yes, at 14/1 on against two rivals rated 17lb and 22lb inferior many will claim nothing less would be expected, but his jumping was flawless and when Ruby Walsh let out an inch of rein after the last he surged away to win by 15 lengths, with a further 13 lengths back to the third.
Douvan not only jumped well, but you could see from his ears that he was taking everything in, eyeing up the next fence and nimbly finding his stride. Now a general 4/7 for the Arkle Trophy in March, the 6/1 offered for the race after he won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and even the 11/4 widely available this autumn now looks great value.
Described by owner Rich Ricci as having “the most potential of any horse I have ever had”, he added that the horse “may have more improvement to come.” There is also every chance that he will improve for better ground.
As for the likely opposition in March, I have the utmost respect for L’Ami Serge.
Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old was found to be wrong after finishing fourth to Douvan, beaten just over 10 lengths, in the Supreme. On paper he has the best part of a stone to find with the favourite on their hurdles form, but I like the way he has won his two races over fences and if the ground were soft at Cheltenham it would suit him better than Douvan . Henderson also has Vaniteux while Ar Mad and the very tough Garde La Victoire are worthy contenders.
This promises to be one of the classiest renewals of the Arkle Trophy that we have seen for many years. I backed L’Ami Serge and Garde La Victoire a while back but at this stage I have to say I have more hope than confidence.
As for Faugheen I find myself rather lost for words. There were arguments beforehand for suggesting that there was not more than a pound or two between the three main contenders, but despite racing on ground softer than ideal Faugheen strode clear from the turn to win by a long margin from Arctic Fire, with Nichols Canyon dropping tamely away.
For me this was the best performance we have seen from Faugheen, given the degree to which he extended his margin of superiority over his two rivals. Apart from flicking the top flight of the last his hurdling was slick and efficient. You will struggle to beat 2/5 about him now for the Champion Hurdle (1/4 with Ladbrokes), with 10/1 bar and Nichols Canyon out to 14/1.
Looking at the race from a betting perspective, I would expect The New One to prove popular each-way at 25/1. He did not impress at Haydock yesterday, but that ground isn’t for him and he has a good record at Cheltenham. The one that is lurking in the shadows is My Tent Or Yours, a horse of exceptional talent but not without his quirks.
I am going to need to be at my most inspired to find some value for Bulletin Book subscribers in a few weeks’ time, that’s for sure.