Champagne Fever may look to bag his third consecutive Cheltenham Festival success on the opening day and the Willie Mullins-trained grey is heading the ante-post betting for what should be a wide open renewal of the Arkle Challenge Trophy on March 12.
A winner of the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices' Hurdle in the last two years, the Co. Carlow inmate has hardly set the world alight over fences and was well beaten in the Racing Post Novice Chase over the festive period, but a return to Prestbury Park could see him at his best and that's why he is at the head of the betting.
Charles Byrnes's Trifolium trounced Felix Yonger by nine lengths in the Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown and that pair could meet again in this Grade One highlight and if the former can emulate that jumping display then has to be a major contender to the aforementioned Champagne Fever.
Paul Nicholls is set to unleash a dual-pronged attack and Dodging Bullets has already shown he excels around the undulations of Cheltenham, but he was beaten in the Game Spirit Chase last time out, whilst Hinterland could be another major Ditcheat player and he beat some smart performers in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown Park.
Former Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby has secured a brace of wins over fences, but Harry Fry's stable star is yet to be tested and will have to improve to feature here, whilst Alan King's Valdez is another in the higher echelons of the betting and adds more class to the contest.
Of the others, Nicky Henderson's Grandouet has hardly impressed over fences, but he is a class act on his day and could surprise some people, whilst Djakadam and the aforementioned Felix Yonger are another couple of exciting Irish talents who could take their chance.
3/1 Champagne Fever
9/2 Rock On Ruby
6/1 Dodging Bullets
10/1 Felix Yonger
25/1 Ted Veale
40/1 Claret Cloak
50/1 Raya Star
50/1 Western Warhorse
50/1 Brick Red
66/1 Next Sensation
NON RUNNER FREE BET WITH BET VICTOR BOOKMAKERS
Open an account with Bet Victor where you can get £100 worth of Free Bets.
The Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade One chase run at the Cheltenham Festival over two miles for horses aged five years or older.
Named after arguably one of the best chasers to ever have graced the national hunt game, Arkle, who amassed three Cheltenham Gold Cup wins during the 1960's, the race sees the leading novice chasers go to post to contest the two-mile contest on the opening day of the Festival.
Having been introduced to replace the Cotswold Chase, the Arkle often sees runners who have contested the Champion Hurdle the following year stepping up to the chasing game and trying their hand at the larger obstacles.
Down the years there have been some top class winners of the race including the mighty Flyingbolt, who won the race in 1965 for trainer Tom Dreaper en route to become one of the greatest racehorses in recent memory.
More recently, Moscow Flyer won the 2002 renewal for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Barry Geraghty and used it as a springboard to bigger and better things as he went on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase on two occasions in 2003 and 2005.
Azertyioup was another who emulated Moscow Flyer's feat by winning the Arkle before returning to the Cheltenham Festival to win the Champion Chase. Sizing Europe was the last to achieve the coveted double after bagging the 2009 Arkle for trainer Henry De Bromhead and no doubt many more will accomplish two-mile chasing dominance in both the novice and top class ranks.
No doubt certain horses will take to novice chasing from hurdling, whilst some will struggle to make the transition to the larger obstacles, but we will keep on top of the latest form for the two mile contest and closer to the meeting outline the runners.