Whatever, it looks sure to be a very high class affair – and I believe that the highest class animal in the race, is Peddlers Cross.
He was undoubtedly the best over hurdles where victory in the 2010 Neptune investments novice hurdle was followed by him finishing runner up in last years Champion.
That was his first defeat in 8 outings under rules but it still saw him end the campaign with an official rating of 170.
Of his likely opponents, only Menorah got close to that over hurdles, with a rating of 162 – but he finished well behind Peddlers in last years Champion…
Of course hurdles ratings are far from the be all and end all, when it comes to chasing – in fact, not that many top class hurdlers make top class chasers (primarily because they need to learn to make a different shape over their obstacles).
However, there is every reason to believe that Peddlers Cross will buck that trend. He won his only P2P in Ireland as a 4year old, and despite the successes during his novice hurdle campaign, he was always seen as an embryonic chaser.
His first 2 outings over fences this autumn, seemed to fully support that view – and it was only when he was beaten over Christmas at Kempton, that any questions arose.
The horse that beat him at Kempton, was Sprinter Sacre, who is a very exciting novice chaser in his own right (and now favourite for the Arkle). He was a decent novice hurdler last season and made a spectacular winning debut over fences at Doncaster. However, watching that race, I wasn’t convinced that his jumping was totally secure and I can see the Cheltenham fences providing a real test for him.
Al Ferof beat Sprinter Sacre in the Supreme Novice hurdler last season and he has also made a very impressive transition to the larger obstacles this season. There is a possibility that he might actually go for the Champion chase – and I can understand the logic there as it doesn’t look much stronger than the Arkle. However, if he does contest the Arkle, then I could well see him providing Peddlers with his sternest challenger.
Other notable contenders include Cue Card and Menorah – both of whom have great natural ability, but neither look completely natural over fences.
It is currently difficult to see the winner coming from outside these 5. Whilst things can change over the next couple of months, there are no other obvious contenders and the 5 mentioned do set a very high standard.
However, I feel that Peddlers Cross has the potential to become a top class 2 mile chaser. I see distinct similarities between him and Moscow Flyer – who was also a very highly rated hurdler before turning his attentions to chasing. Of course, Moscow Flyer became a dual Champion chase winner, so Peddlers has a long way to go before he reaches those heights. That said, Moscow’s first step to chasing greatness was taken when he won the 2002 Arkle chase and it will come as no surprise to me if Peddlers Cross follows him onto that rung of the ladder, at very least.
2pt win Peddlers Cross 6/1
The move by Paddy Power to offer a money back guarantee on this race, if Sprinter Sacre is successful, has prompted me to insure our bet on Peddlers Cross with a saver on Al Ferof.
As I suggested in my original race preview, I see Al Ferof as potentially the biggest threat to Peddlers Cross, so with the concession offered by Paddy Power, it seems sensible to have a covering bet on him at odds of 5/1.
Of course, there remains the possibility that Sprinter Sacre will turn out to be as good as he has looked in his 3 races over fences. If that is the case, then we need look no further for the Champion chaser for the next few seasons and he will doubtless win the Arkle.
However, bigger bubbles than his have been burst at Cheltenham in the past and I can’t overcome the image I have of him cruising round the final bend in last seasons Supreme novice hurdle, before emptying up the hill.
Of course he is now a year older – but a horse who has failed to come up the hill once, is always liable to do the same thing again.
Whatever, he is going to have to be very good to beat both Peddlers Cross and Al Ferof (not to mention Cur Card and Menorah) and even money on that being the case, is not an attractive proposition to me…
I think even money on either Peddlers Cross or Al Ferof winning, would be a fair bet – but we have now secured almost 3/1 (and get a third of our money back if Sprinter Sacre wins). Whatever the outcome, that’s value !!
1pt win Al Ferof 5/1 (money back if Sprinter Sacre wins)