A case can certainly be made that the most dangerous race to be backing any sort of favourite, but especially one that is odds-on, at the Cheltenham Festival is in the Arkle Chase.
This is because novices have far less experience when it comes to jumping fences and because the contest is run over 2m, it means they are effectively running flat out for the most part.
If there is a situation where a horse is most likely to fall, it is when they are jumping at speed, increasing the likelihood of an error.
Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Un De Sceaux may have triumphed for odds-on favourite backers in three of the last four Arkle runnings, but history also suggests some market leaders that have taken a tumble in big 2m chases.
The likes of Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Well Chief have fallen in the Champion Chase, which could be classified as the senior version of the Arkle. If they are capable of falling, novices have to be more so.
Even last year’s dominant Arkle winner Un De Sceaux has ended on the deck in two of his six career chase starts.
Douvan is this year’s heavy favourite, jumping impressively to date to triumph in both chase starts over the bigger obstacles. However, 4/6 is plenty short enough on his chances.
As well as the ability to jump when going a quick gallop, horses have to have the pure speed to be in contention over 2m. No matter how well they jump, if they can’t keep up with the quicker types, they are highly unlikely to win.
Un De Sceaux was rated 11lb superior over hurdles to any Arkle entrant last year and was sent off at 4/6.
Douvan doesn’t have this much in hand based on hurdles form.
L’Ami Serge was fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, 10 lengths behind Douvan, but never really travelled, suffered traffic problems up the inside rail and was competing on ground quicker than soft for the first time.
The result was that he ended his novice hurdles career rated 8lb inferior to Douvan.
L’Ami Serge has looked a natural in the chasing sphere on both jumps starts this term, including when beating three rivals smoothly at Wetherby this past weekend.
He hasn’t had much practice at a competitive chase yet where there is extra pressure on jumping, but he has looked quick and accurate at his fences in his two starts.
The six-year-old has the speed to live with Douvan and has looked no worse in the jumping department yet.
Given what can happen in the Arkle, 7/1 looks a fine each-way price on L’Ami Serge, especially if the ground is on the softer side come March.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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