The previous year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle is usually the best indicator for the Arkle and in that respect, it makes sense to start with MARINE NATIONALE and FACILE VEGA. The former was a superb winner at Cheltenham and was arguably worth more than the winning margin at the Festival.
However, I can definitely see Facile Vega reversing that form over fences. Chasing has always been the plan for this horse and connections are hopeful that he can avenge that Supreme defeat over the bigger obstacles.
MISTER POLICEMAN is another who has been touted as a potential Arkle horse and I’d be very excited to see how he gets on against Facile Vega, particularly if the two were to meet at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
One for the Turners at this stage would be INTHEPOCKET. Owned by JP McManus and trained by Henry de Bromhead, he ran a big race in the Supreme before winning a Grade 1 at Aintree in April. A P2P winner over three miles and a Grade 2 novice hurdle winner over 2m4f, he should improve for a step up from the minimum trip.
Another JP McManus horse to keep an eye on is IROKO. Winner of the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Iroko then stepped up to three miles and ran a huge race to claim third – finishing a length clear of Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay, another who is set to go novice chasing this term.
Iroko is trained by Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero and they’ve always spoken highly of him and that chasing will be his bag. Given how much promise he showed as a hurdler, he is a very exciting prospect for novice chasing and I’m hoping he’ll be involved in more battles with the likes of STAY AWAY FAY and Aintree winner APPLE AWAY this campaign.
A horse I’ve been keen on for some time is AFFORDALE FURY. He is an out-and-out stayer and I hope he can take a step forward and compete in a Brown Advisory. Noel Meade isn’t the most glamorous trainer name on this list but he is a shrewd operator and I’m hoping he can take high rank in the three mile novice chase division.
SALVADOR ZIGGY is the early market leader for the National Hunt Chase and he ticks plenty of boxes for that particular race at this stage. Gordon Elliott likes to get his contenders for that race out nice and early, gaining plenty of experience ahead of the Festival. With four chase runs since June, Ziggy looks to be the main dart for the 3m6f race for Cullentra.