1-30 SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE – 2 MILES
Min should prove difficult to beat and can get Willie Mullins followers off to a flying start at Prestbury Park. His form was handed a significant boost when Ball D’Arc romped home in a Grade 2 at Naas last month. He is undefeated so far this season and Ruby Walsh looks set to keep their partnership intact. Altior has been significantly backed in recent weeks and is respected as he is a previous course and distance winner but it is worth remembering that Nicky Henderson has not trained the winner of this since 1992 and Willie Mullins has taken five since then. Min is far from being the finished article but he is open to even more improvement on better ground.
2-10 ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY – 2 MILES
Douvan is very much viewed as a festival banker by many. He has looked an absolute beast of a horse in his preparations for this winning three novice chases with the absolute minimum of fuss. He did of course win the Supreme around here last season so has proven festival form which ought to also stand him in good stead. L’ami Serge will be bang on the premises to pick up the pieces should the worst happen with the Gary Moore trained Ar Mad progressing through the ranks nicely to also warrant each way consideration if you can’t bring yourself to back an odds on shot.
3-30 CHAMPION HURDLE – 2 MILES
Old Guard looks alternative each way value in a race which is turning into something of a farce. Willie Mullins was meant to saddle both Arctic Fire and Faugheen however both have now been sidelined with injuries. Old Guard is a three time course and distance winner who has proven himself with victories in the Greatwood and International Hurdle races around here. Paul Nicholls seems to have turned a corner with his runners and this five year old is rated only a few pounds inferior to Nichols Canyon. At current odds of around 25/1 he looks overinflated and could well surprise a few of the more fancied rivals.
4-50 NATIONAL HUNT CHASE – 3 M 7 F 170 YDS
Vicente looks decent odds to stop the Mullins juggernaut on the first day as is undefeated around here when they is any mention of good in the going description. Paul Nicholls will be the first to admit that his yard has been underachieving this year but this seven year old could well atone for that. He is a half-brother to Scottish Grand National winner Al Co so stamina is unlikely to be an issue. Black Hercules looks to have been specifically aimed at this race by Willie Mullins and will prove a massive threat, whilst if the ground were to come up soft or worse, Seeyouatmidnight would also be high on the shortlist.
1-30 SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE 1.MIN 2. SUPASUNDAE 3.ALTIOR
2-10 ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY 1.DOUVAN 2. L’AMI SERGE 3. AR MAD
3-30 CHAMPION HURDLE 1.OLD GUARD (E/W) 3 NICHOLS CANYON 3. IDENTITY THIEF
4-50 NATIONAL HUNT CHASE 1.VICENTE (E/W) 2. BLACK HERCULES 3. SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT
3-30 QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE – 2 MILES
Sprinter Sacre bids to enhance the stranglehold that the English have had on this race in recent seasons. He has looked impressive on his two recent starts and it is worth remembering that he has made the frame in all twenty of his completed starts. Nicky Henderson looks to have him back to somewhere near his best and he can become the first horse sine Moscow Flyer to regain his crown. Un De Sceaux won the Arkle here last season having made all but his talent is often overshadowed by his necessity to commit the odd blunder. Falls at Thurles and Leopardstown in his recent past give rise to uncertainty and these fences can be pretty unforgiving. Sire De Grugy has looked a ghost of his former self in recent months and will do well to make the frame.
4-10 CROSS COUNTRY CHASE – 3 M 6 F
Josies Orders ought to arrive here as a justifiable favourite. He has rekindled his enthusiasm for the sport having switched codes and trainers in the last year. Having joined Enda Bolger he has already proven himself twice over this course and distance. Nina Carberry is a master at this game and she knows this seven year old inside and out. The fences and cheese wedges take some getting but with age still on his side, Josies Orders can follow in the footsteps of Bolgers previous winners in this race Garde Champetre and Spotthedifference. Bless The Wings has shown a liking for this game and has been there or thereabouts in his two most recent visits whilst Ballybroker Bridge is another potential Irish threat.
3-30 QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE 1.SPRINTER SACRE 2. UN DE SCEAUX
4-10 CROSS COUNTRY CHASE 1.JOSIES ORDERS 2. BALLYBROKER BRIDGE 3.
1-30 JLT NOVICES’ CHASE - 2 M 3 F
Garde La Victoire remains undefeated in three outings so far this year and he comes here as a multiple course and distance winner. He has made the frame in ten out of sixteen career starts and he appears to act on any ground. Likely to be partnered by Richard Johnson, the seven year old has won over further than this in the past. Philip Hobbs tends to get a few winners at each festival and this looks to be one of his best chances this year. Bristol De Mai is unproven on the track so looks too short at current odds in my opinion. If Otago Trail goes in this race he could return at a huge price. He has made the frame in all eleven starts to date and may well appreciate the better ground.
2-50 RYANAIR CHASE – 2 M 4 F 166YDS
Josses Hill did not get off to the best of starts this year when falling in the Tingle Creek at Sandown. He was allowed time to recover from that and then got back to winning ways when thumping God’s Own at Kempton just a few weeks ago. That should have allowed his confidence to grow and given that he has been placed at two previous Festivals, there has to be every chance of him running another huge race here. The better the ground the better are his chances and Nico De Boinville likely to keep the ride, the duo will command the utmost respect. Al Ferof is a previous course and distance winner and this grey is likely to have been specifically targeted at this race. Despite being an eleven year old he showed he retained plenty of ability to land the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon back in December. At a monster price Fine Rightly has some excellent form in the book. A recent third to Carlingford Lough in the Irish Gold Cup cannot be underestimated and he too could have a decent each way shout.
3-30 WORLD HURDLE – 2 M 7 F 213 YDS
Thistlecrack has done nothing wrong all year and showed he was a leading contender for this race when adding The Long Distance, The Long Walk and Cleeve Hurdles to his CV throughout the winter. His emergence on to the staying scene occurred when he romped to victory at Aintree last season. Colin Tizzard has his team in excellent form this year and this eight year old hasn’t looked back since. Annie Power showed her well-being with a facile success at Punchestown a few weeks ago but is unproven over a trip this far and was beaten in this race two seasons ago. Punters will be wary following her fall here last year and she may just full match fitness. Cole Harden ought to make a bold bid to defend his crown. He can confirm form with the likes of Saphir Du Rheu and At Fisher’s Cross.
1-30 JLT NOVICES CHASE 1.GARDE LA VICTORE 2. BRISTOL DE MAI 3. OTAGO TRAIL
2-50 RYANAIR CHASE 1.JOSSES HILL 2. AL FEROF 3. FINE RIGHTLY
3-30 WORLD HURDLE 1.THISTLECRACK 2 .ANNIE POWER 3. COLE HARDEN
3-30 TIMICO CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP CHASE – 3 M 2 F 70 YDS
Vautour looks increasingly likely to head here for a crack at the most prestigious prize in racing due to the recent fall of stablemate Djakadam. Ruby Walsh will be the first to admit that the ride he gave the six year old in the King George was far from perfect and he can improve on what he did there on what is likely to be much better ground. He definitely has the ability to see out this three and a quarter mile trip and with age very much on his side, he ought to take the world of beating.