Tuesday 3 January 2023

Arkle Challenge Trophy

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 199 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham in March. The race is open to horses aged five years and upwards who, at the start of the current season, have yet to win a race over regulation fences. Named after Arkle, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running, in 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Arkle Challenge Trophy was established, in its current guise, in 1969. Currently scheduled as the second race on the opening day of the Chelteham Festival, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is, in fact, the leading race of its kind in the British National Hunt calendar.

Of course, it follows that the best novice steeplechasers over the minimum trip become the best steeplechasers in open company; in recent years, Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Voy Por Ustedes, Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre, Altior and Put The Kettle On have all won the Arkle Challenge Trophy followed by the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the next Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson, trainer of Sprinter Sacre and Altior, also saddled Remittance Man (1991), Travado (1993), Tiutchev (2000), Simonsig (2013) and Shishkin (2021) for a total of seven wins and is the leading handler in the history of the Arkle Challenge Trophy.

Looking forward to the 2023 renewal of the Arkle Challenge Trophy, which is scheduled for 2.10pm on Tuesday, March 14, the ante-post lists are dominated by Jonbon and El Fabiolo, who finished miles clear when first and second in the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree, and Sir Gerhard, a comfortable winner of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. At longer odds, Monmiral, described by trainer Paul Nicholls as 'a proper horse', has always looked an embryonic steeplechaser in the making.