This year’s two-mile novice championship event is being billed as a straight shootout between Simonsig and Overturn.
The Arkle Chase crowns the top novice chaser over two-miles and has produced some of the greatest chasers ever to have graced the turf.
Nicky Henderson’s star novice Simonsig is leading the markets at 8/11 whilst Overturn has been putting pressure on the favourite in recent weeks and can be backed at a best-priced 4/1 for Arkle success.
Sprinter Sacre ran out a very classy Arkle winner in 2012, and has continued his incredible form this season – there is a feeling within Henderson’s stable that Simonsig could turn out to be of similar high-quality.
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He already has previous Festival form following his easy win in last year’s Neptune Investment Hurdle, where he didn’t see another rival in his 13 length victory under Barry Geraghty.
Rather strangely his style is very similar to Sprinter Sacre, as he is a very lengthy and athletic horse that looks to have the capabilities to trounce any two mile chasing field he’s put up against.
He made a very impressive debut over fences earlier this season at Ascot and then backed that showing up with a sparkling front running performance in the williamhill.com Novices’ Chase during the Kempton winter Festival.
When you consider that he has yet to run on his preferred ground, which is good, then you would think he has plenty of improvement to find at Cheltenham if the ground does dry out.
Simonsig has been all the rage in the betting markets in the build-up to the race; he is being touted in some punting quarters as the Festival banker.
Coral have stayed strong against the well-backed favourite though and have remained best-priced at 4/5. A more general and well-rounded price from the bookmakers seems to be around the 8/11 mark, as William Hill and BetVictor have shown.
The only real challenge to Simonsig seems to be Donald McCain’s Overturn. There have been only three winning favourites in the Arkle since 1991, which gives huge hope to followers of the McCain runner.
The admirable dual-purpose horse was outstanding his latest success at Musselburgh in the Scottish Arkle Novices’ Chase. On his third start of the season, he looked assured at his fences and seems to have all the characteristics you would associate with a champion two-mile chaser. Overturn was far too good for Tetlami, beating him by 29 lengths without even really being tested.
That performance gave the impression that he possesses the weapons to really throw a challenge down to Simonsig, and the bookmakers tended to agree.
They cut his price down from 5/1 and 9/2 to a general 7/2 chance for the Arkle. William Hill and Ladbrokes have stuck their neck outs though and have stood strong at 4/1.
Before his Doncaster win, Overturn had been just as impressive over the timber, scorching to wins at both Sandown and Doncaster and winning by an aggregate of 39 lengths without having to break sweat.
When they’re two horses in a market like this, you have to ask yourself a question: if given a free £10 bet which horse would you rather back at the prices? Simonsig at 8/11 or Overturn at 4/1.
For us it is a no brainer. Overturn has to be the bet at nearly four times the price of Simonsig. The discrepancy between the two is far bigger than it should be which tips the scales in the favour of the McCain runner.
He has a fantastic attitude and has been through many battles in his time, both on the Flat and over Jumps.
One feels that he just might be too battle-hardened up the Cheltenham for Simonsig to deal with.