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2021 Arkle Tips – Can Shishkin win at Cheltenham again?

Last updated: 15 Mar 2021
Jon Vine 15 Mar 2021
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  • We’ve published our guide to the 2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy
  • This Grade One is the second race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival
  • Shishkin tops the betting
  • Allmankind, Franco De Port and Captain Guinness could also run
  • Shishkin is our best bet at 1/2
Shishkin wins easily at Doncaster. (Getty)

The first Grade One for chasers on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Named after the greatest National Hunt horse of all time, the Arkle has been the launching pad to stardom for many of the sport’s finest chasers, with the likes of Moscow Flyer, Douvan, Sprinter Sacre and Altior winning this Grade One during their first season over fences.

This year’s Arkle has been discussed more than most during the build-up to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, as we have two incredibly talented novice chasers sitting atop the betting.

2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy Guide Tips

2021 Arkle Odds

Franco De Port
Captain Guinness16/1

*Odds taken from Paddy Power on 26/2/21*

2021 Arkle Tips – Top Billing

Shishkin2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy FavouriteGET 1/2 HERE
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Fans on this side of the Irish Sea will be desperate to find a British banker at this year’s meeting, and many think Shishkin fits that description. Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has taken to fences brilliantly, winning on debut at Kempton, before collecting the Wayward Lad and the Lightning Novices’ Chases.

allmankind cheltenham
Allmankind powers to victory in the Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick. (Getty)

2021 Arkle Tips – Best Of The Rest

Allmankind2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy ContenderGET 6/1 HERE
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Given the strength of the market leaders, I’m expecting a fairly small field to take part in the second race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival. Allmankind, however, is a guaranteed runner, having won the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick this term.

Some will tell you not to back five-year-olds in the Arkle, as they have a poor recent record. Yet, since Voy Por Estedes became the last five-year-old to win this Grade One, we’ve only had a handful of horses in that age group run in the Arkle, and you can’t say any of them underperformed. Allmankind travels to Cheltenham with a live chance, but I doubt whether enthusiasm can help bridge the class gap between himself and the top two.

Franco De Port finished strongly off a hot pace to win the Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas. Mullins’ charge was then beaten 10-length behind Energumene in the Irish Arkle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Willie sent Franco De Port to the Marsh Novices’ Chase instead.

Captain Guinness had no answer to Energumene when they met at Naas, and suffered a heavy fall at the Dublin Racing Festival. Blackbow laboured home a lengthy third behind his two rivals at Naas, and although he performed better in the Irish Arkle, he was no match for Energumene once more.

Darver Star showed he could handle Cheltenham when third in last year’s Champion Hurdle, and he could be an each-way player if the ground came up good on day one.

Fusil Raffles
and Eldorado Allen would run here merely to make up the numbers, and Ga Law has ten-lengths to make up on Allmankind after finishing third to that rival at Sandown.

shishkin cheltenham
Shishkin (right) battles back to beat Abacadabras in the 2020 Supreme Novices' Hurdle. (Getty)

2021 Arkle Tips – Final Verdict

Shishkin2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy TipGET 1/2 HERE
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As few as six or seven runners will make the final field for this year’s Arkle, making any possible each-way bets rather pointless. Allmankind may not be good enough to win this, but his presence in the field is vitally important. He’ll go hell-for-leather from the front as soon as the starter drops his flag, and an honest pace is all-but-guaranteed.

Franco De Port might appeal each-way if we had more runners. But, as we have just six entrants, SHISHKIN seems to have a fairly straight-forward task to complete.

Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for Nico De Boinville’s mount in last year’s Supreme. Yet, Shishkin was able to summon the strength and class to get the job done, marking him down as a potential superstar.

Nicky Henderson’s charge has faced little in the way of competition over fences, winning his three starts by a combined distance of 45-lengths. On debut at Kempton and last time out at Warwick, Shishkin made a few fiddley mistakes. However, in the Wayward Lad at Kempton, where known front-runner Gumball made the running at a strong pace, Shishkin’s jumping was flawless and he won as easily as he liked.

People were shocked when Energumene completed the Irish Arkle a second-and-a-half quicker than what Chacun Pour Soi managed in the Dublin Chase. While that’s a very impressive feat, Chacun Pour Soi was fractionally quicker from the second-last to the line, and he won just as easily as Energumene did.

At Kempton over Christmas, Shishkin’s time in the Wayward Lad was almost three seconds quicker than Nube Negra’s triumph in the Desert Orchid. What’s more, Shishkin was a second quicker than Nube Negra between the third-last and second-last, 0.60 seconds quicker between the second-last and the last, and another second faster from the last to the line – all that with two-pounds more on his back!

Shishkin has Cheltenham Festival form on his side, and decent ground will certainly favour him more than the Irish horses.


Energumene is a rival who warrants great respect. I just feel can't side against Shishkin, and Nicky Henderson's star will take a whole lot of beating.

2021 Arkle Challenge Trophy Tips: Shishkin Straight Win @10/11 at Boylesports - 30 Units
Straight Win
@10/11 - 30 Units
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