Has looked a totally different mare in a couple of wins so far this season and readily stamped her authority on the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time when readily coming clear of Silver Streak (who finished third in the Champion Hurdle last March). She has all the right credentials for the race this year as she travels, jumps and can quicken where it matters. The drying ground come March will not be a hindrance, either. She can follow in the footsteps of that other great mare, Annie Power, who lifted the hurdling crown in 2016.
Defi Du Seuil
Many punters now consider Defi Du Seuil to be banker material in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and it is not difficult to see why. He was imperious when winning at Ascot on his last start in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase as he showed an electric turn of foot to easily brush aside a good marker in Un De Sceaux. He won the JLT Novices’ Chase at the festival 12 months ago so the course’s unique undulations hold no terrors and regular rider Barry Geraghty gets on really well with him.
Unbeaten in bumpers and over hurdles so far, he is already a short-priced favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as a result. Gordon Elliot’s classy inmate is the one they all have to beat as he has not been troubled to win his last two Grade 1 outings and gives the distinct impression there is more to come with each run. One thing is for sure many Irish eyes certainly will not be smiling if his colours are lowered at The Festival in March
Emma Lavelle’s star hurdler has been to Cheltenham on four occasions and gone home a winner three times, including when taking the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle last March. It is very difficult to oppose him ahead of this year’s renewal as he has struck up a grand relationship with jockey Aidan Coleman (the pair are now seven wins from seven tries) and his sterling credentials are there for all to see.
Clan Des Obeaux
Plenty of water has run under jump racing’s bridge since the Paul Nicholls glory days of Kauto Star and Denman but all that could change in March as Clan Des Obeaux can provide the champion trainer with his fifth career success in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. Forgive and forget his past disappointments at Prestbury Park as the eight-year-old is bigger and stronger this year and looks tailormade for a big run after his King George victory at Kempton over the Christmas period.