Paul Nicholls eyes Arkle Challenge Trophy with Sandown Grade 1 winner Vibrato Valtat

The national hunt season is in full swing at Sandown Park.

The national hunt season is in full swing at Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey.

By Simon Jackson.

Paul Nicholls is eyeing the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase with Vibrato Valtat who secured his first Grade 1 success at Sandown 11 days ago.

Vibrato Valtat showed plenty of fight to land the £40,000 Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase for Noel Fehily in the boutique field of four runners that included stable mate Irish Saint.

The winner tracked the leaders throughout the two mile contest before challenging late and showed plenty of fight to prevail. The five-year-old is now best-priced at 20-1, but as short as 14-1, for the Arkle on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival on March 10.

“He has got a heap of ability,” Nicholls said immediately after the victory. “He wasn’t finishing his races last year. It was not because he is un-genuine it was because he was struggling with his breathing and had a breathing op in the summer. He needed his first run [when finishing second at Cheltenham in November]. On form you could say he should have won last time, but it just didn’t unfold quite right. He is a very good horse.

“They went a good gallop this time and you want to produce him as late as you can, but not get too far out of your ground. This track always suits a horse like that because it is a speed track and it suits him quite well. We have always thought quite a bit of him, but I did think Irish Saint might take a bit of beating.

“Last season [his finishing] was just because he couldn’t breathe. He needed his first run and ran really well at Cheltenham. Today it has unfolded right for him over two miles. He needs a good track for a specialist two-miler who jumps and has got a turn of foot.

“We thought Irish Saint was probably our first choice in the race. But then the race cut up and there was only three declared and these races need supporting. There is not many opportunities and you have to run a couple against each other, so be it.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he [Vibrato Valtat] is an Arkle type. He has got pace and jumps well. Ground-wise he is quite versatile and has got loads of speed and is getting stronger.

“I am not sure where he will go next. He might run at Kempton at Christmas and then give him a break afterwards.”

Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.