Who can win the 2023 Arkle Chase at Cheltenham Festival?
The Arkle Chase is one of the headline acts of the Cheltenham Festival and the 2023 iteration of the event promises to be a thriller with several horses capable of winning the race. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful trainer in Arkle history and he returns with one of the best horses in the field in the form of Jonbon.
However, Willie Mullins will be out for glory too in a bid to end his drought in the race, while Gordon Elliott and Joseph O’Brien could have horses that could claim the Arkle crown. Here we look at which horse has the strongest credentials to triumph in the second race of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
Jonbon was defeated by his stable-mate Constitution Hill at Cheltenham last season in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. However, his conversion to a chaser has brought out the best in Jonbon and he is the prime contender as of 12th December in the odds for betting on horse racing at 6/5 to win the Arkle Chase. Henderson’s charge could not cope with Constitution Hill on the day but bounced back at the end of the campaign at Aintree to win the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle by a neck against El Fabiolo, an encouraging omen for the future for the French thoroughbred.
Henderson and owner John P McManus agreed to change the horse to a chaser for the 2022/23 campaign, and Jonbon responded well with a brilliant performance in the Highflyer Bloodstock Novices’ Chase. He dominated the field to win by seven lengths ahead of his nearest rival Monmiral to set him up nicely for the term. The standard of competition was elevated in December 2022 at the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, but Jonbon was on point with another excellent display to beat a good horse, Boothill, by a comfortable margin. He looks to be the one to beat at Cheltenham and it will take a very good competitor to beat him out for the crown.
El Fabiolo has yet to race as a chaser, which could leave him vulnerable to the experience of Jonbon at the Arkle. He already has a losing record against Henderson’s charge over hurdles after suffering a narrow defeat at Aintree in April. El Fabiolo has all the attributes to make the transition to become a chaser, but the proof will come when he takes to the track. In his other two races over hurdles in the United Kingdom, he was a winner. After making the move to Mullins’ yard in November 2021, he made his bow for his new trainer at Tramore in the David Flynn Construction Maiden Hurdle.
Jonbon just about holds off El Fabiolo to win the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 8, 2022
El Fabiolo was excellent as he cruised to a dominant victory to set up him for a run at Aintree. The Aintree experience was almost perfect, but Jonbon had the pace when it mattered the most to edge him out by a neck. El Fabiolo capped off his campaign with another fine run in the SalesSense International Novice Hurdle at Punchestown to make it two victories out of three under Mullins. If he can sustain that form it will be a fascinating duel between the two horses at Cheltenham and you can check his progress by following the latest horse racing news.
There are other horses in the field that could cause a stir. The Mighty Potter out of Elliott’s yard could be in line for a charge at glory should the trainer elect to place him in the Arkle. He won the Drinmore Novice Chase to beat out Gaillard Du Mesnil by four lengths, having previously triumphed at the Down Royal Beginners Chase. Those are two quality victories that will stand Elliott and his charge in great stead for a run at the Arkle, although Elliott has never won the race before which could be a weakness against Henderson and Mullins-trained competitors.
Joseph O’Brien also has the same issue with his charge Banbridge as he attempts to break the status quo in the Arkle. However, Banbridge does have a victory at Cheltenham under his name already this season in the dress rehearsal for the Arkle, the Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase. He won the event by six lengths to set him up for a run against The Mighty Potter in the Drinmore Novice Chase, only to place in third. He would need a stark improvement to challenge for the headline event.
Jonbon looks to be the horse with the best chances, but it will not be straightforward for Henderson and his charge amid the quality of the field.