Cheltenham Festival under the radar – Ttebbob for the Arkle
It is interesting that in his two-year stint as a hurdler, Ttebbob was virtually always held up and never tackled a distance shorter than 2m3f. In fact he was more regularly seen tackling contests between 2m4f and 3m.
Therefore, it is something of a surprise to see him run from the front in both of his chase starts to date, dominating a reasonable field over 2m2f at Thurles and then romping to a Grade 3 success over 2m1f at Navan.
The latest victory certainly means a step up to Grade 1 company is on the horizon, with trainer Jessica Harrington hinting that he will remain over similar distances for the foreseeable future. The Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Boxing Day has been touted as his next target.
This would mean a probable clash with Festival Arkle favourite Douvan, alongside Henry De Bromhead’s Sizing John.
However, there are reasons to suggest that Ttebbob should be the shorter price of the latter pair.
In his latest start, Lord Scoundrel was the nearest to Ttebbob and this is the horse that also finished behind Sizing John at Punchestown last month.
Yet while Lord Scoundrel finished eight lengths behind Sizing John, he was 41 lengths adrift of Ttebbob.
The obvious negative with Ttebbob is that he has never shown he has the speed to live with the best over 2m. Douvan won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the last Festival, while Sizing John was third in the same race.
Both had official ratings over 160 over hurdles.
Ttebbob’s rating was only 145, but it is possible that he was being ridden with the wrong tactics over the wrong trip. The crucial thing is that he was never given the chance to show his credentials over the minimum distance.
Based on his two chase starts so far, he clearly jumps well and will be allowed to race handily. These factors are useful in the Arkle, as a horse that makes a jumping error towards the rear will virtually have no chance of making up any ground lost.
It is also worth repeating that trainer Jessica Harrington knows what it’s like to have a superstar 2m chaser, with Moscow Flyer winning an Arkle and two Champion Chases this century.
He was also a high-level rather than a top-drawer hurdler, officially rated at just 151.
Stayers don’t often win the Arkle or Champion Chase because they don’t have the natural speed to keep pace with a quick gallop over 2m. But it would be unfair to label Ttebbob as a stayer just because of his hurdles career.
20/1 currently looks a big price for a horse that has won a graded race by 41 lengths. If he beats Douvan and co on Boxing Day, he may even be Arkle favourite.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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