Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ferof out to enhance Arkle Chase credentials

2011 was a tremendous year for the Paul Nicholls-trained Al Ferof who went through the 12 month period unbeaten in three races over hurdles and two over fences, and who heads into 2012 as a leading contender for honours for the Irish Independent Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, writes Elliot Slater.

The John Hales-owned grey had shown smart form the previous calendar year in running second to Cue Card in the Cheltenham Festival Bumper and finishing third to Backspin in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, but went from strength-to-strength in 2011 with a series of fine performances highlighted by his two-length victory over Spirit Son in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Those placing an online Cheltenham bet should bear this in mind.

Beginning the current campaign with the new challenge of making up into a novice chaser the seven-year-old certainly wasn’t given an easy option for his first public outing over fences when asked to compete in the Grade 2 Independent Newspaper Novices Chase at Cheltenham in November, but he did everything right and jumped like an old hand in dishing out a seven-length eating to the decent Astracad.

Immediately stepped up by the champion trainer to Grade 1 company, Al Ferof then showed talent as well as plenty of guts in repelling the tough For Non Stop to land the Henry VII Novices Chase at Sandown in early-December, toughing it out in the closing stages as the runner-up came hard at him on the run from the final fence, eventually holding on by a neck.

That effort convinced many observers that Al Ferof has what it takes to run a massive race in the Arkle Chase and he is currently quoted at odds of up to 7/1 to land the two-mile novice chasing crown. First though he will have to continue his education over the larger obstacles and Nicholls is very seriously considering throwing him in at the deep end once again by asking the talented performer to take on more experience horses in the Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on January 21.

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