Menorah, the horse named after the seven-stemmed candelabra symbol of the State of Israel, is expected to spark to life in the forthcoming Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13 after pleasing his trainer Philip Hobbs in recent gallops and schooling sessions at his Minehead base, writes Elliot Slater.
One of the leading two-mile hurdlers last season when wining both the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle and the Grade 2 Stan James International Hurdle at Cheltenham before running a brave fifth to the mighty Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle, Menorah was expected to quickly take high rank amongst this season’s two-mile novice chasers but has been beset by a spate of jumping errors. Anyone looking at the 2012 ante-post Cheltenham Festival odds needs to remember this.
Looking all set to make a winning start to his new career at Exeter in November the seven-year-old had matters well in control when blundering badly and unseating Richard Johnson at the second from home, after which Hobbs switched him back to hurdles in a move that backfired when he ran a lack lustre race in finishing just fourth to Grandouet at Cheltenham in December. Having finally dispensed with the idea to go back to hurdling, Hobbs concentrated Menorah’s mind on fences and he duly obliged at Taunton, although not without making a few mistakes along the way.
The same could be said of his comfortable victory over the useful Kumbeshwar at Kempton in January, and he got no further than the third at Doncaster in the Grade 2 Lightning Novice Chase to once again highlight concerns over his fencing ability. Hobbs believes that Menorah’s tumble might well prove in hindsight to have been a good thing, as he has noticed owner Diana Whateley’s charge schooling with much more care and accuracy since his Town Moor fall.
With the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Al Ferof and Peddlers Cross all expected to be in the line-up, the Arkle is one of the hottest contests of the whole Cheltenham Festival meeting and Menorah is consequently available at up to 11/1 to bounce back and spring something of a surprise on better fancied rivals.