As hinted in my post on Sunday, I’m keen on Tataniano for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the 2nd race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday 16 March. Following the publication of the entries today and trainer Paul Nicholls making bullish noises now is the time to stake my colours to the mast. Furthermore, Tataniano runs tomorrow at Newbury and whilst he is long odds on, a clear round will probably result in the typical trimming of the odds of any Festival contender who wins a race.
Unlike, last year when the race was weak this year’s renewal is very competitive. I was against Paul Nicholls contender, the similarly named Tatenen last year, but this time around I think his entry is the one and a value price at 8/1.
Tataniano is unbeaten over fences and his overall record including hurdle races is 5 wins from 7. Crucially, the second chase win came at Cheltenham so we know he acts well over the course. That win came in the Grade 2 Novice Chase at the Paddy Power meeting where he easily beat Pigeon Island, jumping accurately and quickly which he’ll need to do if he wins the Arkle. He’s also a good age at 6 years old, the same age as Azertyuiop when he won the Arkle for Nicholls in 2003. The trainer also won the race in 1999 with Flagship Uberalles so he knows what’s required.
Most of the Arkle attention has been focussed over the water in Ireland as their contenders have been the ones running. The favourite is old friend Captain Cee Bee who did the blog a good turn when winning the Supreme Novices in 2008. He then had a season out but has shown good form over fences before falling last time. That has to be a concern in a fast paced race like the Arkle and at 9 years old his age is also a concern. Only two 9 year olds have won since the race started in 1946. Sizing Europe won the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown in which Captain Cee Bee came down when challenging and is second favourite but he disappointed when favourite for the Champion Hurdle in 2008 and in light of that I’m giving him the swerve. Somersby is considered to be the major English challenger but unless the race develops into a war of attrition I think he’s too slow and he’s better suited by further.
I think another reason why there hasn’t been much media interest in Tataniano is that he carries the same colours as last year’s favourite and faller Tatenen and has a similar profile and front running style but he’s an altogether much stronger looking animal and much classier horse. Looking further ahead, he’s likely to be a contender for the 2011 Queen Mother and that’s not something you could have said about last year’s favourite.
Reports from Somerset indicate that Tataniano worked brilliantly yesterday and Paul Nicholls is very bullish saying today “take the 8-1 for Cheltenham while it lasts”. That’s clinches the case for me so take the 8/1 with Paddy Power.
Recommended bet: 1 point ew Tataniano 8/1 – Paddy Power