Arpege on course for Cheltenham

Arpege D'Alene remains on course for the JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham next month.

Arpege D'Alene could still run at Cheltenham

The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old was fourth of five to Bigbadjohn in the Reynoldstown Novice Chase, but the Ditcheat handler expects the four-mile contest at Prestbury Park to be more to his liking.

He has Festival form to his name already, having found only Mall Dini too good in a tight finish to the Pertemps Final 12 months ago.

Nicholls said: "He never jumped, as you saw over the final three. He is a bit like that if he gets a bit of daylight or if he is a bit under pressure.

"Sean (Bowen) said even though he missed the second-last, he still he thought he would win going to the last.

"He will probably still run in the four-miler. It may sound stupid, but it hasn't made his chances any different by doing that because in the four-miler there will be over 20 runners and he will get a bit of cover.

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"He is better in handicaps with plenty of runners, rather than when he is a bit on the outside getting daylight.

"He is frustrating, but he will be fine. He is the sort where up at Ayr with 30 runners (Scottish Grand National) would suit him."

Nicholls also had news of Aux Ptits Soins, who was second to stablemate Zarkandar in the Rendlesham Hurdle at the weekend, on his return to the smaller obstacles after three starts over fences.

Owned by John Hales, the grey has run at the last two Festivals, winning the Coral Cup in 2015 before being off the track and returning to finish fifth to Thistlecrack in last year's World (Stayers') Hurdle.

Nicholls said: "He is a different kettle of fish to Zarkandar. He didn't jump a hurdle. If he had jumped really well and landed travelling, it would have been fine.

"He is obviously still a good horse. I was encouraged to see him stay on so strongly having jumped like that. If we can just iron those jumping problems out and get him jumping again, there is a really nice race in him.

"I don't know where he would go. He could go for the Coral Cup, but whether he wants to run in that over two-mile-five, I will talk to John.

"He could be a horse to go for those real good staying races in France at Auteuil in the spring like the Prix La Barka and the French Champion Hurdle.

"He stays and he might just have a little bit more respect for those baby fences."

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