It has been a decade since Paul Nicholls last celebrated an Arkle victory at the Cheltenham Festival and his hopes of ending this record have been given a slight boost by the victory of Fago at Newbury.
Nicholls has had his fair share of market leaders in recent years for the Arkle since Azertyuiop’s success, but the likes of Noland, Tatenen and Ghizao have all failed to get the job done on the day.
He is without an obvious contender this year, with Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig odds-on in the Cheltenham betting, but Fago now appears his best hope.
Fago has been cut to 16/1 from 20/1 to win the Arkle after claiming victory on his first start on British soil at Newbury.
Having been seemingly struggling to get home in races in France, Nicholls opted to drop Fago back to 2m1f at Newbury and the five-year-old made all in a bold front-running performance under Ruby Walsh to win fairly comfortably.
The value of the success may also be slightly boosted by the fact that Colour Squadron was among those in behind, who had finished second in Grade One contests over hurdles last season.
The plan is to give Fago at least one more run before Cheltenham to boost his experience, with the Kingmaker at Warwick looking the preferred option.
Dan Skelton, assistant trainer to Nicholls, told Racing UK: “We needed to get an English debut into him, let Ruby sit on him and see how he fared. The way he jumped was a good sign and we are quite excited by him.”
“But we’d like to get more experience before he takes on the likes of Simonsig and Overturn.”
Alternatively, Nicholls could also run Hinterland in the Arkle, who can currently be backed at 33/1, but he has already been beaten by Simonsig by 35 lengths this season during the Xmas meeting at Kempton.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.