Oscars Well to upset Avrika apple cart
RACING:The St Stephen’s Day hordes might head to Leopardstown with a bounce in their step but many of them will be hoping there is no hint of “bounce” about headline act Arvika Ligeonniere in the €85,000 Grade One feature.
Just five line up for the Racing Post Novice Chase and Christmas Day deliberation of the likely winner will revolve around Arvika Ligeonniere’s chances of repeating his spectacular Drinmore victory at Fairyhouse three weeks ago.
Even Ruby Walsh admitted to being a spectator for much of that Grade One race as the Willie Mullins-trained horse set at a scalding pace with the eight-time champion jockey and routed the opposition with a devastating all-the-way success.
That was over 2½ miles but Arvika drops back to an extended two on Wednesday where, with Walsh on King George duty at Kempton, he will team up with Paul Townend for just the second time on a race course.
The drop back in trip may not be as much a source of encouragement for the favourite’s opposition so much as Arvika Ligeonniere might have to be just as exceptional as he looked in the Drinmore to put in as dominant a performance again so soon after Fairyhouse.
After all this will be just the seven-year-old’s seventh start for Mullins in a stop-start Irish career that has meant Arvika being off the track for more than two years prior to a first chase win at Punchestown last May. He didn’t appear again until earlier this month and racing’s “bounce” theory – where horses often fail to build on a spectacular return appearance – could come into play with a novice that bookmakers already rate as Ireland’s big hope of beating Simonsig in Cheltenham’s Arkle this March.
The Mullins star is a 7 to 1 shot in ante-post betting for that race but Oscars Well is only a few points longer in Cheltenham calculations and he rates a value alternative at likely Christmas odds to vault over his rival after Wednesday.
Jessica Harrington’s former Grade One hurdler is two from three over fences with only a second fence mishap at Punchestown blotting his copybook, something that looked to have knocked nothing out of Oscars Well subsequently at Navan.
Unlike the likes of Dedigout, who chased Arvika Ligeonniere home at Fairyhouse, a horse capable of finishing sixth in a Champion Hurdle should be much more capable of lying up with any pace set by Arvika.
The prolific Baily Green also looks up to preventing the favourite a solo up front, but it was Harrington who was anticipating the big-race clash yesterday.
“He had that horrible fall in Punchestown but I thought he was brilliant in Navan, I couldn’t complain about that performance at all,” she said.
“He won’t mind the ground, he coped with Navan all right. It’s an unbelievable two-mile division this year and we’ll find out more about where we stand.”
The last time Harrington landed the St Stephen’s Day feature was 11 years ago with a certain Moscow Flyer. Oscars Well might not be quite up to that legendary standard. But he might have enough to upset the Arvika apple cart.