This year’s renewal of the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival (2.10) has a wide open look to it and Hardline makes plenty of appeal at 6/1 given that has some strong form in the book which includes a win in Grade 1 company. That came at Limerick where the Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old got the better of the highly regarded Getabird by 1/2 a length.
Hardline chased the leaders and after being driven into contention took up the running shortly after jumping the last before digging deep to prevail. It was a gutsy display and the pair pulled 21 lengths clear of the third home Riders OntheStorm who has won since and is a my fancy for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on this card. Jetz, who finished a further 4 1/2 lengths back in fourth, has since gone on to land a Grade 3 so the form looks strong. Hardline also ran well last time out when a 5 1/2 length third to La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase over 2m 5f at Leopardstown. He was held-up well off the pace that day and kept on nicely to be nearest at the finish. The drop back to 2m will hold no fears for Hardline and will enable him to be ridden more positively by jockey Davy Russell who has been onboard in four of his last five wins and now takes over from Jack Kennedy who partnered him last time out. Hardline, who has won three of his five starts over fences, also has proven winning form on all sorts of ground so any of the forecast rain that falls at will not be an issue. Everything looks in place for a big run and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t hot the frame at least.
Daily Sport recommended bet – posted on twitter 5.50pm 10/03/19: 2pts each-way Hardline (6/1 general – use BOG firms)