Although just the four runners head to post for the Grade 2 Arkle Trial at Cheltenham on Friday, it is quite an interesting field, where all four of the runners could mould into nice chasers in the making.
2.20pm Cheltenham: SSS Super Alloys Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices' Chase (2 miles)
- Jockey: Henry Brooke
- Trainer: Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero
One of two runners in this field to have won on their only chase start so far, Homme Public went to Wetherby where he lined up in a decent class 3 Handicap contest.
That was off the mark of 135, which could be a lenient one for this horse, and the manner in which he won on his first ever time over a fence suggests he could be a better chaser than a hurdler, as he is already on the same mark that he was at his peak over smaller obstacles.
That chase debut was pleasing to the eye, as he was prominent with the leaders, at times not jumping with too much fluency, but he still pulled clear in the closing stages when ridden out by Henry Brooke.
He is pitched straight into the deep end for just his second run over fences, something that wasn't really done when he was a hurdler so you would imagine connections think he is a potential Graded chaser in the making.
He is an interesting runner, and needs to take this step up in class here, although he could hardly have enjoyed a better start over fences than how he performed last time.
- Jockey: Brendan Powell
- Trainer: Joe Tizzard
Fresh off their Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup win from last weekend, this could be the season where Joe Tizzard takes off since taking over from his dad Colin.
The yard has some nice types to go to war with this season, and none more so than novice chaser JPR One, who looked all a decent chaser in making last time out at Newton Abbot.
A decent enough hurdler over the last season or two, he jumped really well for the main part of the contest in Devon, and was held up last for the majority of the race, before travelling strongly to go clear with two to jump, and really asserting his authority late on in the contest.
That was just a handicap chase off the mark of 130, he is now rated 134 and is actually the lowest rated in this contest. However he looks the type to improve the most, and with conditions likely to suit, his connections would not be throwing him in the deep end like this if they didn’t think he was good enough.
Another small field which will suit him here after seeing off just two rivals on his chase debut last time, and while he has to take the step up in class to this Grade 2 level, he could be the classy type to come out of this contest on Friday.
Realistically this might not be as strong of a Grade 2 as we might see further along in the season, but nonetheless this is the perfect opportunity for him to get some black type to his name so early on in his chasing career.
- Jockey: D J Gilligan
- Trainer: Cian Collins
The only Irish raider in this contest, and the only horse to have already run over fences and not win the contest, Mighty Tom made a fairly pleasing start to chasing last time when running at a slightly further trip of two and a half miles.
However you would imagine this step down to a shorter two-mile trip won't be an issue with the stiff nature of the finish up the Cheltenham Hill.
The Cian Collins-trained gelding did manage three wins in his hurdling days, but he did make that pleasing start over fences earlier this month at Cork, and he has already shaped up to be a much better chaser than he was a hurdler.
Mighty Tom found only the decent-looking Letsbeclearaboutit for Gavin Cromwell a little too good on chase debut at Cork, but that rival placed in a Grade 1 over hurdles in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and had already won over fences, so in the long run could be a decent form line.
His stable has only sent four runners to Cheltenham, but has yet to land a winner there, so I think he brings this horse over here hoping this is an easier assignment than any over in Ireland, although he would need to take a big step forward to land a contest of this nature on Friday.
There might also be question marks on the trip, suggesting he could be better utilised at a slightly longer distance somewhere down the line.
- Jockey: Jonjo O'Neill jr
- Trainer: Jonjo O'Neill
The only horse in this contest to make his chase debut, it does seem somewhat of a big leap to win over the larger obstacles on your first attempt in a Grade 2 contest, although Petit Tonnerre does have the obvious advantage of arriving here the least exposed.
He ran nine times over hurdles, winning on three occasions (plus one second and one third), two of which were in France, so he has only won once in seven attempts for his new trainer Jonjo O'Niell and owner JP McManus.
That success came in a three-runner affair at Market Rasen, and since then he has run well on occasions without winning, placing in some decent handicaps as well as coming seventh in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The fact that connections have thrown him in the deep end on his chase debut, and that he is relatively short-priced in this contest could speak for something for this horse.
However, with chasing experience going the way of the other runners, as well as the all-important fitness edge, he would have to overcome a 245-day break as well as tackling a fence for the very first time.
Due to the fact we have yet to see him jump a fence in public, he could literally be anything over the larger obstacles, so the best piece of advice with this horse would be to keep a close on the market.
With just four runners heading to post the race probably lacks the quality we have had in the race previously, but that being said there could be a very nice type to emerge that could keep improving as the season goes along.
The Joe Tizzard horses are going well this season, and the feeling is JPR One could be one of the novice chasers to watch as the season progresses. He wasn't anything that special over hurdles, but he beat a more experienced rival on his chase debut last time, jumping well and pulling clear in the closing stages to win going away.
He would have learned from that performance last time, and given how he jumped and travelled, he could improve nicely to land a contest of this nature before potentially going onto bigger and better things for the season.
The 2-mile novice chasing scene looks wide open this year, especially for UK runners, so it would be good to see JPR One win this nicely here.
Race preview provided by @ Jake Russell