Cheltenham Festival 2021: Arkle Challenge Trophy preview

Last season’s Supreme winner Shishkin has been the favourite for this race pretty much ever since that triumph and has looked every inch a top class prospect on his three starts over fences, with Nicky Henderson seeming to have found another superstar two-mile chaser to follow in the footsteps of Altior and Sprinter Sacre. 

But the seven-year-old looks to have greater competition than expected, with the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene having come on leaps and bounds since making the switch to larger obstacles and Dan Skelton’s Allmankind flourishing after making the often difficult transition from the juvenile hurdle ranks.

Unlike Shishkin, both have already tasted Grade 1 success – Energumene with a superb performance in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown and Allmankind in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown back in December. In the latter’s case, it is worth remembering that the weight-for-age allowance afforded to him in the early part of the season has gone, but his bold front-running style adds an intriguing tactical element to the race. 

Needless to say it would be a huge surprise if one of the ‘big three’ didn’t take the opening day contest, but their market dominance means there are plenty of other contenders who could make each-way appeal at big prices.

Franco De Port is another Grade 1 winner over fences having scored at Leopardstown at Christmas and his only defeat of the campaign came to Energumene, albeit by 10 lengths, at the Dublin Racing Festival.

His stablemate at the Mullins yard, Blackbow looked impressive on chase debut at Navan before falling on his next start and then twice finishing in the places behind Energumene.

Captain Guinness for Henry De Bromhead is a horse that has always appeared to hold a great deal of talent and was unfortunate to be brought down in last year’s Supreme but has endured a mixed campaign over fences, as shown by form figures that read: P12F.

When is the Arkle Challenge Trophy?

The Arkle Challenge Trophy will be run at 1:55pm on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the first day of this year’s Festival.

Arkle Challenge Trophy odds

(Odds provided by Betfair NRNB market and are subject to change, correct as of 1/3/21)

  • Shishkin 10/11
  • Energumene 5/2
  • Allmankind 6/1
  • Blackbow 16/1
  • Captain Guinness 16/1
  • Franco De Port 16/1
  • Fusil Raffles 20/1
  • 25/1 bar

How to watch the Arkle Challenge Trophy

TV channel: The Arkle Challenge Trophy will be shown live on ITV1 and Racing TV. 

Live stream: TV licence payers can stream the race for free via the ITV Hub website and app. Subscribers can also stream the action via the Racing TV website. 

Terms: Min £20 in Exch bets on Saturday races, excludes ante-post. Max £10 free bet per qualifying day, awarded 15/03. Betfair Rewards ‘Basic’ customers excluded. T&Cs apply

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