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WHY DOUVAN MIGHT NOT BE THE ARKLE CERT IT’S MADE OUT!

Read what The ValueRater (Matt Mitter) thinks to this years Arkle Chase and why Douvan doesn’t warrant the short price it currently is.

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Like many people in life, I have aspirations and expectations. Mine are mainly geared towards my achievements within the horseracing industry, and I try to analyse horses without being influenced by furore and hype. (I agree my analysis is not infallible, but it is unbiased.) I am suggesting that furore and hype have taken a grip in relation to the odds on favourite DOUVAN in the Arkle Chase at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival. I respect the comments of his trainer, Willie MULLINS and jockey Ruby WALSH, as that he is a very talented horse, but the racing media has gone into euphoria. Journalists are quoting that he is on springs at his fences, that his ears signal intelligence, he corrects his jumping in mid air and that he is all flamboyance. After his last win in the Irish Arkle trial at Leopardstown ATR commentators were salivating as to the jumping performance of this astounding and perfect specimen, and Timeform have him 13lb clear and already in the ARKLE winners enclosure.

Examine the facts; DOUVAN has won two Grade 1 novice chases in which he has encountered a total of 5 opponents. Last time he beat VELVET MAKER 15 lengths at level weights at odds of 1/14. “Remarkably” a superlative account was written that the second is a 143 rated horse, which should be viewed very positively, and DOUVAN is potentially the best chaser since ARKLE!! Surely that is a premature and overhyped assertion, especially when comparing DOUVAN to SPRINTER SACRE, who between March 2012 and April 2013 won 7 Grade 1 chases which included the ARKLE & CHAMPION CHASE. Now that was a horse at that particular time who would have realistically warranted the suggestion of such an accolade. My opinion is that sixteen time Grade 1 winner KAUTO STAR is the closest I have known to the great ARKLE.

I am keen to re-examine the strength of DOUVAN’S victory in last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle. He beat SHANESHILL just over 4 lengths in that contest, and SIZING JOHN and LAMI SERGE were in third and fourth respectively. What is interesting is that SHANESHILL was comprehensively beaten 15 lengths behind VANITEUX over fences at Doncaster in January. SIZING JOHN has won a dubious looking Grade 1 hurdle, but to my eye he looks well below Grade 1 status over fences. LAMI SERGE also won an averagely contested Grade 1 hurdle, and though displaying a modicum of chasing ability, he does not look out of the top drawer either.

The burning question is, whether DOUVAN is value as odds on favourite, on what he has achieved over fences. As we know there is the MULLINS factor, as the stable had the first four Grade 1 winners on the opening day of Cheltenham last year, and my intuition tells me that the bookmakers are ensuring repeat damage limitation. It was the same story when Frankie DETTORI had his magnificent seven winners at Royal Ascot in 1996. For many years afterwards his mounts at Ascot represented extremely poor value. I do acknowledge that DOUVAN has won eight of his nine races and has the raw ability to progress as a graded chaser, but do not be under the misapprehension that winning the Grade 1 Arkle at Cheltenham is a formality. Even the Greats like HURRICANE FLY and KAUTO STAR have been made to fight and tough it out in winning and losing at that venue.

I suspect that people will be deliberating as to what can beat DOUVAN, as the opposition looks to be falling apart with AR MAD suddenly and sadly becoming lame and LAMI SERGE dismally failing to impress last time. I am disappointed that the known proven pace of AR MAD will be missing, but I do think that his form has a very solid look about it. VANITEUX proved that when trouncing SHANESHILL, and he looks the obvious challenger especially when you consider his trainer N.HENDERSON will be attempting to become the most successful trainer in the race ahead of Tom DREAPER.

Another connected to the AR MAD & VANITEUX form is ARZAL and I have little doubt that he will relish a stiff two miles. He would be well suited to the hustle test of an ARKLE, and would run here if he were mine, but he is lower in the betting for the JLT Novice Chase at Cheltenham which is run over a further distance. The horse that is the clear each way value is GARDE LA VICTOIRE. He beat VANITEUX in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2014 and has equalled DOUVAN in winning his three chases to date. He is not a flashy horse and may be underestimated. His easy victory over BRISTOL DE MAI catches my eye, bearing in mind the link to AR MAD, and the subsequent Grade 1 & 2 exploits of BRISTOL DE MAI bode well for the form. GARDE LA VICTOIRE is also double entered for the JLT Novice Chase and although lower in the betting for that race, it is beginning to have an ultra competitive look to it.

Phillip HOBBS, his trainer, was quoted as saying “He does want further, but they say you need a two and half miler to win the ARKLE.” The stable has won the ARKLE with CAPTAIN CHRIS, (same owners) who on all known form looked held prior to the race, but, it has to be stressed, do not underestimate these connections. I was taught by the old school of thought, (never be afraid of one horse.) If DOUVAN is triumphant in a competitive battle, then I will be magnanimous in defeat, and even applaud his victory and that of the hyperbole factory. Oh yes; when I said I was unbiased, perhaps I do have a strong leaning towards rationale value!

Follow Matt Mitter on Twitter right here @ValueRater

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