Un De Sceaux and Vautour in Arkle frame

Stablemates Un De Sceaux and Vautour are two of the star names among 45 entries for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival on March 10.

Un De Sceaux and Vautour in Arkle frame

Unbeaten hurdler Un De Sceaux is the clear favourite for the two-mile Grade One, having put his chasing debut fall at Thurles behind him with a spectacular display at Fairyhouse last month.

The seven-year-old will look to enhance his Festival claims in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Vautour, a stunning winner of last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, banished memories of a disappointing run over Christmas with an assured display at Leopardstown last weekend.

Trainer Willie Mullins accounts for nine entries, with Un De Sceaux and Vautour also in contention for the JLT Novices’ Chase over a longer trip.

Gordon Elliott’s Clarcam and the Enda Bolger-trained Gilgamboa also feature among a formidable list of 19 Irish-trained entries in the Arkle.

Nicky Henderson is jointly the most successful ever handler in the Arkle, with five victories, and his one entry is Josses Hill.

Other contenders include the Tom George-trained pair God’s Own and Stellar Notion.

God’s Own won the Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal debut, but failed to fire in the Tingle Creek and was also well beaten back in novice company at Kempton over Christmas.

George said: “We have entered him for the Arkle because he won around Punchestown over two miles, but that is a very stiff two miles.

“He is ultimately a three-miler and our inclination is that he will probably be stepping up in trip next time.”

“We just need to get him back on track again before we start thinking about the Festival, but he has had a few blips before and bounced back.”

In other Cheltenham related news, Ptit Zig is set to take in the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton en route to a likely tilt at the JLT Novices’ Chase on March 12.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in four starts over fences this season, slamming Josses Hill on his penultimate outing at Ascot before a similarly impressive triumph at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Paul Nicholls’ charge is one of the star names among 60 entries — 12 of whom come from the Mullins yard — among for the JLT, but is set to first stop off at Kempton on February 21.

Part-owner Barry Fulton said: “I think the plan is for him to run in the Pendil at Kempton next.

“He’s been quite impressive this season and I just keep hoping every morning I won’t get a phone call to say he’s injured.”

Ptit Zig’s stablemates Irish Saint and Saphir Du Rheu could also be given the chance to shine in the JLT. The Mullins dozen features among 28 possible challengers from Ireland, with Gilgamboa, Mala Beach and The Tullow Tank also on the list.

Meanwhile, Kings Palace and Don Poli are the headline acts in an entry of 54 for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham on March 11.

Bookmakers are finding it hard to split David Pipe’s Kings Palace, twice a winner over fences already at Cheltenham, and the Mullins-trained Don Poli, who was successful at the Festival last season.

Don Poli is one of 12 entered by Mullins, along with the likes of Valseur Lido and Vroum Vroum Mag.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox