Even though 11 horses eventually lined up for the Arkle Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, many of the leading ante-post favourites ended up competing in other Cheltenham Festival races instead.
Gilgamboa, Ptit Zig and Irish Saint were all in the top 10 of the Arkle betting in the months leading up to the Festival, but were seen in the JLT Novices’ Chase instead. This was potentially to avoid a clash eventual Arkle winner Un De Sceaux, who many believed only had to stand up to win.
Douvan finds himself in the role of identical hotpot this time, albeit one that has seemed so far to be a safer jumper. On official ratings, he is 6lb superior to any of the other current 13 Arkle entries remaining after the latest declaration stage.
However, this perceived dominance is causing other trainers to reassess their Festival plans, with Garde La Victoire and L’Ami Serge already said to be going up in distance to run in the more open-looking JLT instead. Both still feature in the 14-strong Arkle line-up.
It is highly plausible that the field will be into single digits by the day of the Arkle, which is even better news for each-way punters hoping to take advantage of some of the bigger prices further down the betting, assuming the field doesn’t drop below eight.
God’s Own rewarded such punters when chasing home Un De Sceaux to finish second at 33/1 and The Game Changer could be the entrant to follow suit this time.
The problem last term for many in the Arkle was that they were simply not fast enough to keep up with the early pace set by Un De Sceaux and based on hurdles form, Douvan is the Usain Bolt this time lining up against the top British sprinters.
The Game Changer is the next best in the Arkle field behind Douvan based on chase ratings and it is his economical jumping that suggests he could be a threat.
There may be more exuberant jumpers in the field, but these leaps not only take more energy, but could cause a horse to lose some speed and momentum.
Furthermore, the fact The Game Changer tends to be held up could be a rare benefit in this race. Typically, it pays to be near the front in such a speed test. Not only is there less ground to make up on the leaders, but fewer horses ahead that could cause interference, which again affects momentum.
The defections of Alisier D’Irlande and Pain Au Chocolat at the latest declaration stage reduce the chances of an early breakneck Arkle gallop too, which may make it easier for The Game Changer to more gradually creep into the race, as the field are less likely to be strung out from the tape.
The Game Changer is currently 14/1 in the Arkle betting and he looks the most likely of those at double-figure prices to run Douvan close.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.