The Arkle Challenge Trophy is the second race of the Cheltenham Festival. A National Hunt steeplechase run on the Old Course, this race is the foremost novice minimum distance chase on the seasonal calendar.

It is open to five-year-old horses and above and run over a distance of around two miles.

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Cheltenham Arkle Challenge Trophy leader
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Arkle Challenge Trophy history

The Arkle Challenge Trophy was introduced in order to pay tribute to the legendary Irish thoroughbred racehorse Arkle.

Arkle famously won the prestigious and challenging Cheltenham Gold Cup on three consecutive years from 1964-1966; in honour of his achievements, the former Cotswold Chase was renamed the Arkle Challenge Trophy.

Until 1980 the race took place on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, moving in that year to its current slot as race two on Day One.

There have been four sponsors of the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the first being Waterford Castle from 1991 until 1993. Guinness sponsored the race from 1994 until 1999, followed by the Irish Independent newspaper from 2000 until 2011. Current sponsors the Racing Post took over in 2012.

There have been several winners of the Arkle that have later gone on to win the Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase, the most prestigious steeplechase of two miles on the calendar. These include Sprinter Sacre, who took home the Queen Mother in 2013.

The Course

The Arkle Challenge Trophy takes place over what is known at Cheltenham as the Old Course.

Thought of as slightly easier than the New Course due to being a little shorter, the Old Course is nonetheless challenging for horse and jockey alike. Open ditches and a water jump combine with an undulating course structure to create unique challenges requiring a fine balance of pace and stamina.

There are thirteen fences that must be jumped during the two-mile duration of the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Making all races at Cheltenham particularly challenging are the undulations in the turf, and the fact that all courses feature relatively steep inclines and declines at various points.

Arkle Challenge Trophy records

The top jockey in terms of this particular event is Barry Geraghty, with four wins under his belt between 2002 and 2013 on Moscow Flyer, Forpadydeplasterer, Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig.

Leading trainers with five winning horses each are Tom Dreaper and Nicky Henderson. The fastest winning time was set by Tiutchev in 2000, finishing in 3 minutes and 46.5 seconds. The longest priced horse to take victory was Western Warhorse in 2014, coming in with odds of 33/1.

The Arkle Challenge Trophy typically attracts a smaller field than other novice races at the Festival, but this does not by any stretch mean it is any less challenging. The current safety limit for the field is 20.

This novice race helps get the Cheltenham Festival started, making Day One a thrilling and challenging day for newcomers to the world of competitive horse racing. If you’re after a really exciting flutter, this is the race for you.

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