How do this year's leading contenders conform to the top Arkle Trophy trends?
1. No more than five runs over fences - 10 winners in the last 10 runnings
None of this year's principals fall down on this count.
2. Won a novice chase over 2m-2m1f - 9/10
Calgary Bay, who is currently disputing favouritism with Tatenen, has been beaten at both his attempts over around two miles (won over 2m5f), which has to be a concern for his potential backers.
3. Aged five to seven - 9/10
Kalahari King has come in for strong ante post support but the eight-year-old would be one of the oldest winners in the last decade.
4. Finished first or second on all completed starts over fences - 9/10 (the exception finished third at worst)
This has to be a slight concern for backers of Planet Of Sound, who could only finish fourth on his chasing debut behind Free World at Sandown.
5. Chase RPR (Racing Post Rating) of 144+ - 8/10
Unless they run and improve their current rating in the next couple of weeks, this trend would appear to rule out Kalahari King (142), Northern Alliance (143), Palomar (138) and Pasco (141).
6. RPR hurdle rating of 143+
Clearly, the Arkle winner was no slouch over hurdles either and, of the main contenders, I'msingingtheblues (137), Original (140) and Panjo Bere (127) fell short of the required standard over the smaller obstacles.
Five-year-olds have fared well in the past, but their generous weight allowance has now gone, meaning Tatenen, who leads this year's five-year-old brigade and scores well on the other trends, doesn't look such good value at around the 5/1 mark. Besides, he probably needs really deep ground to be at his best.
Current second favourite Calgary Bay (6/1 Coral) is the perfect age at six but he may find things happening too quickly over the minimum trip, so I'm drawn into looking further down the betting list for the winner.
Paul Nicholls, also responsible for Tatenen, has a very interesting candidate in I’msingingtheblues (10/1 Paddy Power), who scores a near perfect six out of seven. A winner of a valuable 2m handicap chase on his latest start and two other minor novice chases, he gave Calgary Bay 6lb and beat him a length at Doncaster in December, yet is nearly twice the odds of Henrietta Knight's horse. He wouldn't want the ground too soft, though, so is one to back on the day.
Planet Of Sound (12/1 bet365) may have finished out of the frame on his chasing debut, but he’s won both his races since in impressive style and his chance is not ground dependant, so he's the one to back now.