International Thoroughbred Racing Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell 1992 - 2021
Cheltenham Festival 2018
One race at the 2018 Cheltenham festival that has got people talking is the Arkle Chase on day one. Most of the early suggestions had been about how short a price Footpad would be because he really has looked an exceptional talent over fences. The current Betfair Cheltenham odds for the race make him the 11/8 favourite.
The 6 year old Footpad trained by Willie Mullins was a top hurdler having placed fourth in the 2017 Champion hurdle behind Buveur D’Air. However this season over fences he now looks to be the top novice chaser around. He won his first two starts by 11 lengths putting in faultless rounds of jumping, not having to come off the bridle on either start. On the second occasion beating Any Second Now who is fancied by many to win at the festival. On his most recent start he made all to beat Petit Mouchoir by 5 lengths and with Petit again being his main rival he must be the likely winner.
Petit Mouchoir was returning from a 108 day break so is likely to improve from the run but again but in several early mistakes which would not have helped his chances. Considering he also had the beating of Footpad on all three occasions last season over hurdles further enhances his chances. He is the current 5/2 second favourite following continued backing in the market. If Petit Mouchoir can put in a clear round of jumping he would likely triumph however this is unlikely as he may just be a better hurdler.
The next key rival to Footpad is the fast improving 5 year old Saint Calvados. Trained by Harry Whittington he started the season fairly under the radar. However he has put in three jaw dropping performances having the fields beaten at half way. They are 9, 10 and 22 length victories. His most recent was at Warwick in the Grade 2 Kingmaker where he made all putting in a faultless round of jumping clocking a very fast time. In the process beating top horses Diego Du Charmil and North hill Harvey. He is now the 4/1 third favourite for the race but with an RPR mark of 168 he must have a good chance. One negative for the horse is all his winning has been done on flat tracks so it will be all different when it comes to Cheltenham.
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