The Arkle Novice Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival has the potential of being one of the races of the entire week with two of the most exciting novice chasers seen in recent seasons in the shape of Nicky Henderson's brilliant grey 7yo Simonsig a impressive winner at last seasons festival and could well have become a leading Champion Hurdle contender if connections opted to remain over hurdles and the Donald McCain trained Overturn one of the most popular horses in training who has built up a very impressive portfolio of big race wins both on the flat and over hurdles and this season has shown he is a master of all disciplines with three impressive wins over fences.
Simonsig didn't make his seasonal debut until December where in the space of just six days he never got out of 2nd gear to take grade 2 chases at Ascot and Kempton by a combined total of 84 lengths. He will warm up for Cheltenham in the Game Spirit Chase a race used in preparation for stable mate Sprinter Sacre before his brilliant win in last years Arkle and another win at Newbury looks sure to see him go off short odds at Cheltenham.
Overturn who over hurdles was good enough to finish 2nd with the brilliant Hurricane Fly behind him in last years Champion Hurdle is also unbeaten over fences putting in three of his trademark bold jumping, front running displays to register wins at Sandown in November, Doncaster in January and most recently at Musselburgh where he put up his most impressive performance over fences so far to brush aside Nicky Hendersons very useful Tetlami by 29 lengths.
Both jump brilliantly with Overturn possibly the more extravagant over his fences, Simonsig on the other hand has shown his ability to handle very soft ground that does not suit Overturn who has bypassed several possible engagements this season due to such conditions.
Obviously its not a two horse race and any runners coming over from Ireland must be respected but no other entries in the race have the credentials of Overturn and Simonsig and if asked who I think will prevail come March 11th I would have to give the edge to Simonsig with him being two years younger and open to that bit more improvement than his 9yo rival but if they are both upsides jumping the last there is no harder horse to pass than Overturn and this facinating race could well steel the show on day 1 of the the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.