Racing: Pipe and Germany to share glory in Arkle

In the esoteric world of equine genetics, Germany appears to be the new France. The unprecedented high-profile success of French-bred jumpers has meant their stock – and their price – has soared and the shrewder agents and trainers have been seeking a fresh source of bargains. There is no jump racing to speak of in Germany but the recent high-profile exploits of Flat horses like Borgia, Tiger Hill and Silvano has been noted and quality is quality, whatever the milieu.

In the esoteric world of equine genetics, Germany appears to be the new France. The unprecedented high-profile success of French-bred jumpers has meant their stock – and their price – has soared and the shrewder agents and trainers have been seeking a fresh source of bargains. There is no jump racing to speak of in Germany but the recent high-profile exploits of Flat horses like Borgia, Tiger Hill and Silvano has been noted and quality is quality, whatever the milieu.

This National Hunt season has seen the emergence of German-breds at the highest level, with Grade One wins first from ill-fated Miros and then Golden Goal. A third can come today when Seebald (3.55) contests the Arkle Trophy. The seven-year-old and his compatriot and Martin Pipe-trained stablemate Bernardon are owned by the footballers Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, inevitably prompting the thought that they have swapped goalposts for jumpers.

The Arkle Trophy, sponsored by the Irish Independent, is the two-mile novice chasers' title and has produced some serious horses in the past, notably sprint cracks Klairon Davis, Remittance Man and Waterloo Boy and a pair who shone over further, Pendil and Alverton. The last two winners, Flagship Uberalles and Tiutchev, are among the contenders for tomorrow's senior title, the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Seebald has not always been a natural jumper but intensive work by Pipe's assistant, Jonothan Lower, has honed his technique, aided in public by Tony McCoy, to the extent that he is unbeaten in his seven races over fences. He has won twice over the course and distance, most notably in a Grade Two contest in November, when he had Armaturk, twice a winner since, trailing in his wake.

Whether or not he would have beaten another of today's daunting selection of rivals, Fondmort (a French-bred), that day is open to debate. Nicky Henderson's charge was travelling well when he sprawled as he landed two out, and has jumped immaculately in his two wins since. The re-match will be fascinating but the ground may favour Seebald and Pipe has been calling him his meeting banker for some time.

It is by no means a two-horse race, however. Barton, a former top-class hurdler, is on a five-timer and although the chestnut's jumping has had its critics he is clever for a big, rangy horse and has never looked like falling. The pace today will be fierce, though, for a horse who has won over much further.

A greater threat may come from one of the Irish raiders, Moscow Flyer, another high-class hurdler (he twice benefited at the top level from Istabraq falls) who has taken well to the bigger obstacles. He comes to today's fray on the back of a tumble at Leopardstown but if his confidence has not been dented his form stands close inspection.

The Irish love to be involved from the off and the roar from the stands as the tapes go up for the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle will be matched a few minutes later should Like-A-Butterfly (2.00) comes thundering up the hill in front. The mare has sound credentials; she has won at this level already and carried her penalty to beat good horses last time. She gets the mares' allowance and given luck (the assistance of Charlie Swan should ensure the good judgement) can maintain her unbeaten run. If there is to be a shock, it could come from her compatriot Soltero, who is on an upward curve.

The National Hunt Handicap Chase regularly throws up smart staying performers of the future. This year's contenders shape more like Grand National types (Rough Quest and Seagram are past winners) rather than the likes of 1951 Gold Cup winner Silver Fame. Ad Hoc (3.55) was poorly after his Hennessy fifth and can bounce back. The Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Chase, one of the week's highlights for the amateur brigade, can be left to the sound jumper Royale De Vassy (4.30).

In the closing Pertemps Final, CALLADINE (nap 5.05) can tail the day that Like-A-Butterfly topped for the raiders. Trained by the not-unshrewd Christy Roche, he turned in an eyecatching prep when fifth, not unduly punished, at Leopardstown. Before that he had been a nine-length eased-down winner on the Co Dublin track.

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