This year’s £170,000 The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase has attracted a record entry of 64, an increase of 21 on last season.
Howard Johnson has entered his exciting chasing prospect Tidal Bay, who chased home Massini’s Maguire in last season’s Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle. The seven-year-old has made an impressive start over fences, stretching his unbeaten run to three when recording a facile win in the Boylesports.com Fon-A-Bet Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in December. Johnson could also be represented by Cedrus Libani, who has also yet to taste defeat in three starts over fences.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, successful in this race with Flagship Uberalles in 1999 and Azertyuiop in 2003, has entered 2006 Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Noland, who looked very promising when scoring on his only subsequent appearance in a beginners’ chase at Folkestone in January.
Nicholls has also engaged French import Big Buck’s, Grade Two chase scorer Marodima, last year’s Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle fourth Silverburn and Predateur, who finished second behind Moon Over Miami in the Grade Two Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in December, before chasing home Lead On in the Grade Two Utopia Group “Dipper” Novices’ Chase at the same course on New Year’s Day.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has entered his talented novice Mahogany Blaze, who looked a horse with a bright future when scoring in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 27, while Nick Gifford could run Wee Robbie, who defeated Mahogany Blaze in the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Ascot in January.
David Pipe could be represented by Acambo, who won the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last season, Consigliere, Paradi, Pauillac, Scotland Yard and smart hurdler Whispered Promises.
A strong Irish challenge of 20, double last year’s number, is headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Glencove Marina, who was a comprehensive 10-length winner of the Grade Two Paddy Fitzpatrick Memorial Novice Chase at Leopardstown on January 13. Mullins has also entered Freds Benefit, J’y Vole, Pomme Tiepy and Scotsirish.
Edward O’Grady, Cheltenham’s winning-most current Irish trainer with 18 Festival triumphs, has entered 2006 Coral Cup scorer Sky’s The Limit, who has gone on to Grade One success over fences in both the Drinmore and Durkan New Homes Novice Chases. O’Grady could also be represented by Clopf, who took the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last year.
Other notable Irish entries include the Paul Nolan-trained French Accordion, winner of the Grade Two Fortria Chase at Navan in November, and Niall Madden’s Wins Now, who finished fifth in last year’s Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
There are three entries from France – the Loic Manceau-trained Takeroc, a five-length winner at Pau on January 8, Pepsyrock, who scored for trainer Guillaume Macaire at the same track on December 23 and Okaido, who had won his two previous starts before falling in the Grade Two Utopia Group “Dipper” Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
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