Cheltenham Festival 2018

2018 results: -9 points to level stakes

Cheltenham Festival 2018 Ante-Post Portfolio

The Henderson Treble = 11.78-1

Gold Cup: Might Bite

Queen Mother Chase: Altior

Champion Hurdle: Buveur D’Air

St. Patrick’s Thursday Double = 16.5-1

The Ryanair Steeple Chase: Un De Sceaux 5-2

The Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle: Sam Spinner 4-1

Ladies Day Double = 2.11-1

 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: Samcro 4-5

Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase: Altior 8-11

Top Jockey: Nico de Boinville 10-1

JLT Novices’ Chase: Modus 7-1

Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase: Coo Star Sivola 9-1

Champion Hurdle: My Tent Or Yours 10-1 each-way

The Gold Cup: Might Bite 4-1

RSA Chase: Black Corton 7-1  

JCB Triumph Hurdle: Redicean 4-1

Friday:  Day four dawns and Triple G goes into the last day -2.3 to level stakes after a disaster of an St Patrick's Thursday. No need for silly gimmicks or names for today it is simply Gold Cup day! I dread to think what the blood pressure is running at, cholesterol level at an all-time high and the liver and kidneys are screaming for mercy but the Festival is no place for the faint-hearted. The day four fancies can be found below.

13.30 Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle 2m1f:

Redicean goes for the Alan King yard and the trainer knows what’s what in this having won it in the past with Penzance and Katchit. He won the G.2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton as a warm up to this in the style of a decent horse. I took the 4-1 ante-post as I do fancy his chances. He will have to go some to beat Apples Shakira who won the trial here in style and is rightly jolly but I was impressed with the way the selection sprinted clear in the G.2 Adonis at Kempton. Barbury Castle handler King said in the build-up "We've been very happy with him since the Adonis. I do not think stamina will be an issue around Cheltenham as he won over a mile and three-quarters on the Flat. He goes on soft ground, but he will be a better horse on better ground." And that's the worry will the ground have dried enough.

14.10 Grade Three Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle 2m1f:

Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls have great records in this and anything they saddle must be respected. Drying ground (and it should be better today) gives last year's Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger a hope. A big-field with a strong pace should play to his strengths and his mark for this could look lenient if hitting form. I am on at 12-1.

14.50 Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 3m:

This is a proper test for Novices’ and you should be looking for one that has run over at least three-miles before. Chris’s Dream, the Henry de Bromhead trained six-year-old won a Grade Three event over three-miles on stable debut by 64-lengths at Clonmel last month in almost bottomless conditions and the wetter the better as far as he is concerned - they probably wish the heat was earlier in the week ideally. Grab 7-1 as I think he'll be fine on today's ground. Twice raced Santini heads the market though his inexperience is a concern he won a Grade 2 here in January in style and looks a smart prospect but the stiffer test is an unknown.

15.30 Grade One The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase 3m2½f:

Arguably one of the most wide-open Gold Cups for many a year as the betting suggests. Native River can place-up again (3rd last year) but I am not convinced he is quite good enough to win it though soft ground does play to his strengths, whilst Our Duke has a habit of making mistakes at the wrong time – see Irish Gold Cup run in February. Might Bite has been favourite for a while, if not a strong one, but that said he has done all that has been asked of him since winning the RSA here last year and looks the one with the least questions marks to me. At 4-1 with Paddy Power he is a tentative pick for the big one as I would prefer the word Good in the going - he is of course also leg 3 of the Henderson Treble.

16.10 St. James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup 3m2½f:

On The Fringe is an old favourite of mine and of course won this in 2015 and 2016. Fourth last year at the age of thirteen it is a big ask to relive past glories. Wonderful Charm was second last year and Paul Nicholls came out in February and said "if the ground is good Wonderful Charm can go one better this year. He's my best chance. He's a bit quirky and ground-dependent but is a good horse when he's right.” Foxrock put together a run last year out in Ireland of four wins in Hunter Chases before being pulled-up in the Irish National. He was soundly beaten by Gilgamboa at Thurles in January though. Burning Ambition is the new kid on the block as a seven-year-old and heads the market at 7-2. Beaten by the aforementioned Gilgamboa in heavy at Punchestown last month but only beaten on the run-in and with that rival not crossing the Irish Sea he has a big chance having won well in his first Hunters Chase at Limerick prior to that, if the ground dries a bit it shouldn't be a huge worry.

16.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 2m4½f:

This handicap has to be close to the top of Pond House’s hit list each season but thus far David Pipe has a shocking record in it. Flawless Escape had a number of entries, not unusual for a Gordon Elliott runner, but this looked the best fit to my eyes and he is here. He has been running well at two-and-a-half before finding three-miles too far last time when a fading third at Leopardstown. 7-1 is available and he is the one for Triple G.

17.30 Grade Three Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup 2m½f :

This has been a bit of a lucky last for Bookies in recent years with a number of double figure priced winners. They’ll be no short one this year either of course. Theinval looks like the main hope of the Nicky Henderson yard and would have to be considered regardless of his trainer naturally wanting to win this having finished third last year. A solid performer with plenty of experience he looks as good a punt as any in a wide-open race to finish the meeting at around 14-1. Another who wouldn't mind a sunny day to dry the ground a little. Here we go then the last day be lucky! 

Thursday: We’ve made it to the halfway point and thus far the liver and kidneys are holding up just about and the betting bank is looking pretty healthy (+4.7) even if I am not. Today is marketed as St Patricks Thursday and no doubt they’ll be plenty of Guinness sloshing about, I can’t say I like it very much so I’ll have a Jameson or two I think. That said first things first and the bets for the day.

13.30 Grade One The JLT Novices’ Chase 2m4f:

Paul Nicholls has been saying for a while that he feels this is the obvious target for Modus. Although the eight-year-old also holds entries the Arkle Trophy and RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, the 10-times champion trainer is favouring a shot at the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One. After losing his unbeaten record over fences with a fall at Exeter in December, the JP McManus-owned gelding bounced back to form with an impressive victory in a graduation chase at Kempton on Friday 9th February. Nicholls said: "It is an obvious race for him the JLT. He was very good the other day at Kempton. He jumps well and he loves decent ground. That will be the main option for him." At 7-1 NRNB I jumped on ante-post with a number of the others in the betting obviously going elsewhere; soft is a worry.

14.10 Grade Three The Pertemps Network Final 3m:

One that has caught my eye is Who Dares Wins the dual purpose six-year-old being aimed at this. Alan King's dual-purpose performer has not been seen since finishing third in a qualifier for the series at Kempton back in November, when he picked up an injury. The gelding finished third behind subsequent Irish Champion Hurdle winner Supasundae in last year's Coral Cup and would go very close at his best. He is available at around 14-1. 

14.50 Grade One Ryanair Steeple Chase 2m5f:

I of course jumped on Tripled G favourite Un De Sceaux back in January at 5-2 for this and he also forms part of my St Patricks Thursday Double. The ten-year-old is an all time favourite of mine and is chasing his third Festival success, having won the Arkle in 2015 and last year’s Ryanair (was second to Sprinter Sacre in the 2016 Queen Mother). I even backed him ante-post each-way for the Champion Hurdle of 2014 the one year he didn’t come over! I rate this horse very highly and of course he won’t mind the weather and underfoot conditions one bit. Get on! 

15.30 Grade One The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m:

I took the rouf 4-1 about Sam Spinner back in January as well as making him the second leg of the St Patricks Thursday Double. I was very impressed with the way he won the G.1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December and he went straight on the list for this after that. Supasundae has been chasing home Apples Jade out in Ireland before beating a below-par Faugheen over two-mile in the Irish Champion Hurdle and is feared most.

16.10 Grade Three Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate 2m5f:

Should be named the Bookmakers Plate as 20-1+ winners are regular in this! This far out the one that is most on my mind at 10-1 is Last Goodbye the 7yo putting in a cracking performance to win at Leopardstown in early February. Fifth in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase last year the hurly burly of a Festival race shouldn’t be a concern and neither will the soft going.

16.50 Grade Two Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle 2m1f:

Laurina is odds-on at 8-13 best for this and from what little we have seen of the five-year-old from the Willie Mullins yard she looks good, though the price is mighty skinny! I am going to take her on at that price as I think Maria’s Benefit has done little wrong and at 7-1 with Power she’s the one to take advantage if the hot-pot blows up. She was completing a 5-timer in Doncaster Grade 2 latest with an impressive front-running display.

17.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase 3m2f:

As is often the case a decent hose, in the case of this race one carrying 11st 4lb+ and a top amateur pilot is a must. Mall Dini and Sugar Baron are two to consider but I have gone with Pendra who was runner-up in this last year and races off the same mark today. The old boy goes well fresh so at 14-1 is the each-way pick in a wide open lucky last.

Wednesday: Day two and as is customary I am nursing the hangover from hell. Brilliant fun yesterday, Prestbury Park on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival really is a special place to be even if my ‘bouncebackability’ isn’t what it once was and Triple G starts day two +6.1 to level stakes – hair of the dog required.

On what is now known as ‘Ladies Day’ we of course have the Queen Mother Champion Chase, two-mile chasers going at full tilt around Cheltenham is one of the greatest sights in the Horseracing game and I love it. My picks for day two follow.

13.30 Grade One The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 2m5f:

I have been thinking all along Samcro would be sent for this rather than the Supreme or Albert Bartlett and after he strolled to victory in the G.1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle I took the 4-5 about him. He looks as close to a good thing as you’ll get all week to my eyes simple as that. He is part one of my Ladies Day Double.

14.10 Grade One The RSA Steeple Chase 3m½f:

Al Boum Photo is Willie Mullins' first string and he went well at Leopardstown last month when second to Monalee in the soft but there is no reason to see why he can turn the form around. The Henry de Bromhead trained trained 7yo has a number of entries but I would expect him to come for this and the forecast rain will be seen as a bonus. Presenting Percy is the jolly and won’t mind getting his toe in either. He was beaten by Our Duke over 2m4f at Gowran Park last time but lost little in defeat to a Gold Cup contender going down by only a length. Black Corton for Paul Nicholls won here twice in the autumn before going on to win G.1 Kauto Star Novices Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton and then the G.2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase as his final run prior to this at Ascot. The seven-year-old is progressing nicely, has won on good and soft ground, Bryony Frost clearly gets on well with him saying recently “I know there are a few good Irish horses about, but they'll have to be really good to beat my fella and I think he can take this prize and might be a bit of value with a couple of those Irish beasts at the head of the market and you can get 7-1 which I have. 

14.50 Grade Three The Coral Cup Hurdle 2m5f:

As wide-open as ever this year. William Henry is towards the head of the market for good reason but Max Dynamite has to be of interest for the Mullins yard. I thought hed run later this week but he is here and ould be well in on his best flat form if jumping is up to scratch. At 8-1 I have taken a       chance it is

15.30 Grade One The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase 2m:

Altior was off for a while having a wind operation and naturally you wonder if they will come back as good as before? Well he put that concern to bed in no uncertain terms when winning the G2 Game Spirit last month in a canter. He went odds-on after that, I was expecting 1-2, but 8-11 was available and I took that as well as making him part two of my Ladies day Double. Talking after the Grand Spirit, Paul Nicholls trainer of second-placed Politologue said talking about this planned engagement “I think Altior will be incredibly hard to beat and I don't know how we can turn it round, to be honest with you.” Says all you need to know. The foot problem was nothing more than a blip all being well As for Douvan the eight-year-old has not had a Cheltenham prep run and the recurring lameness that has kept him off track for a year has to be a concern. 

16.10 The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase 3m6f:

Cause Of Causes is back having won this last year. He has a good record here having won the Kim Muir in 2016 and the Toby Balding National Hunt Chase in 2015 having been second in the Kim Muir back in 2014 prior to that and has to be taken very seriously. For me though The Last Samuri is an interesting entry and is the best horse in the line-up albeit you would expect to see him on the National course at Aintree more than here. The Kim Bailey yard is in form and if taking to the challenge I think the chestnut gelding can win this and at 13-2 have taken a chance.

16.50 Grade Three boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 2m½f:

Difficult as usual Mitchouka leads the Irish challenge for the Elliott yard with Davy Russell onboard, having won his fourth race of the campaign last time. Looks the type to be suited by a well-run affair which hell get here and he looks as good a punt as any in this especially. I have the 9-1.

17.30 Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper 2m½f:

Willie Mullins had a number of possibilities for this and I talked about Hollowgraphic in one of the preview videos I did last week but he isn’t coming over! One that has travelled over the Irish Sea is Blackbow off the back of two wins at Leopardstown comfortably beating Rhinestone last time and he is obviously a danger. For me Didtheyleaveyououtto looks the best hope for the home team despite being passed over by Geraghty . Having won on the polytrack at Lingfield in a NH Flat race on debut he looked a decent type when winning a Listed heat at Ascot on his second outing scooting clear of the field before been eased to a 2¾ length victory. I am on at 16-1 each-way.

Tuesday: As is now a long held tradition for Champion Hurdle day Triple G is up at sparrows fart to get the old chuff chuff with the usual suspects Mr Wilson and Mr Griffiths. Mr Wilson has, as is also tradition now, booked us on one so early the stable lads will be getting a longer lay-in than me and we’ll be there before the horses again. Luckily The Old Restoration in the High Street does a lovely fry-up and a decent pint and let’s be honest there will be little sleep from now until Friday evening. Four days, twenty-eight races, copious amounts of booze, let’s have it!

13.30 Grade One The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2m½f:

It's going to be a wet Festival by the looks of it with the possibility of day one being heavy ground. Getabird is a short price to kick off the Festival for the Willie Mullins yard with a winner. A quick glance at the form and you can see why but it has all been right-handed and a few shrewd judges across the Irish Sea think he is a lot better going in that direction. If he struggles left-handed I am prepared to take a shot that Kalashnikov is the one most likely to take advantage. The Amy Murphy trained 5YO is 4 from 5 over the sticks and all four of those wins were on left-handed tracks. Won the G.3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February and I have 9-2 about him against the jolly. It being soft he won’t mind a bit which, with the way the British weather has been of late, is a bonus. Summerville Boy got the better of him in the G.1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January but that was in the heavy and I think the selection is improving still.

14.10 Grade One The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase 2m:

Footpad has been short for this for a while, he did have a wobble in the betting when the rumour mill went into overdrive on Saturday 3rd, but reportedly all is well now and he is back to a general 11-10. He does look the class act. I was ready to take him on with Sceau Royal but he sadly won’t be lining up. Petit Mouchoir is the obvious danger left in the field but has five lengths to make-up on the form of their G.1 Irish Arkle meeting in February. There is a theory he might get up the hill better than the jolly, did finish a place in front of him in last years Champion Hurdle when they were 3rd and 4th having beaten him in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but Footpad does appear to be the better Chaser.

14.50 Grade Three The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase 3m1f:

Gold Present and Singlefarmpayment headed the market for a while and have chances. One I keep going back to though is Coo Star Sivola who was fourth in last years Martin Pipe Hurdle and has gone well here since in Chases without winning. He did get his head in front last time out at Exeter and I like his style of running, towards the pointed end, which won’t hurt here. He has been shortening in the market and won’t mind if the forecast rain arrives; I took a punt NRNB on Tuesday 6th at 9-1 with Paddy Power.

15.30 Grade One Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2m½f :

Reigning Champ Buveur D’Air went odds-on for this as much due to the doubts surrounding Faugheen as anything but with the 2015 winner looking nothing like his old self this season that is understandable. He forms part of my Henderson Treble. I have gone each-way on my old mate, and his stable companion, My Tent Or Yours as he was always going to come for this and loves it here and though never been able to win he proves too good for most but the very best having finished as runner-up three times now. At 10-1 for me he had to be backed; you never know he may just be first passed to post this time – there can’t be a horse in training who deserves it more. Talking recently Henderson said "Tent is on old legs, bless him……………..He has been second in three Champion Hurdles and had his day in the sunshine in the International. He is not going without reward and we have literally kept him for this.”

16.10 Grade One OLBG Mares’ Hurdle 2m4f:

It does appear a case of if Apples Jade shows up she wins with the biggest concern for ante-post punters being is she’d run elsewhere. It is difficult to see who is going to dethrone the current Queen, she is rated 8lb better than the rest, and that’s why she is 4-7. Kayf Grace from the Henderson yard could be an each-way punt.

16.50 Grade Two National Hunt Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Steeple Chase) 4m:

I always thought this looked the main aim for Jury Duty from the Gordon Elliott yard and the trainer knows how to win the four-mile marathon. A decent horse over hurdles, third behind Presenting Percy in last years Pertemps Final, he has already won at G.2 level when beating stablemate Shattered Love at Punchestown in November. The form was reversed at Leopardstown over Christmas but with Shattered Love now being aimed at the G.1 JLT it tells you its decent form. 11-2 he is my pick in a tricky heat.

17.30 Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m4½f:

Donald McCain believes the Close Brother Novices' Handicap Chase is the "obvious" target for Testify at the Cheltenham Festival. “He's got five entries and Mr (Trevor) Hemmings (owner) is not putting me under any pressure to choose, but the Close Brothers looks the obvious one because it looks like being a small weight range with the top ones going for the JLT missing.” he said in the build-up, well he is here and you can get 12-1 which I have. De Plotting Shed heads a long list of dangers.

11th March 2018: Buveur D'Air will face 12 rivals when he defends his crown in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday. Nicky Henderson's charge is unbeaten in three starts this season and is odds-on across the board to win back-to-back renewals since Hardy Eustace in 2004 and 2005. Henderson also saddles three-times Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs and the only mare in the field, Verdana Blue

Rich Ricci has confirmed Douvan could sidestep the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday and instead run in the Ryanair Chase the following day. Speaking on Racing UK's Luck On Sunday programme, Ricci said: "Douvan coming back at all is a massive ask, particularly in a red-hot Champion Chase. "The Ryanair has cut up fairly badly and we just thought it was worth considering going a different route."

9th March 2018:  Last year's winner (Triple G favourite and my tip) Un De Sceaux is one of 14 confirmations for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.

The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old claimed his second Festival success in the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One last March, following on from his victory in the 2015 Arkle Trophy. He is a hot favourite to successfully defend his crown at Prestbury Park after becoming the first horse in history to win Ascot's Clarence House Chase three times on his latest appearance in January. Whether Un De Sceaux is Mullins' only runner remains to be seen. The Closutton handler has also left in Bachasson, Djakadam, Douvan, Min, Yorkhill and Benie Des Dieux, but all have alternative targets. The potential Irish challenge is completed by Henry de Bromhead's pair of Sub Lieutenant and Balko Des Flos, with both carrying the colours of Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud. O'Leary is still trying to win the race he sponsors for the first time. Ruth Jefferson has decided against running her stable star Waiting Patiently, but is still set to be represented by the ultra-consistent Cloudy Dream. The eight-year-old was runner-up to Altior in last year's Arkle and has finished second on each of his four starts this season. Colin Tizzard's popular veteran Cue Card will bring the house down if he can win this race for a second time having claimed victory in 2013. The Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Frodon and Le Prezien, and L'Ami Serge from Nicky Henderson's yard are the other possibles.

8th March 2018: Sizing John will not defend his crown in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup next week, trainer Jessica Harrington has announced. Harrington told Unibet: "It is with a heavy heart I have to report that Sizing John will miss the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He cantered as normal this morning at Commonstown and during routine checks this afternoon was found to be sore behind. I have had our vet Mark McRedmond come and check him over. He has found a hairline non-displaced fracture of his pelvis. He will have box rest for two weeks and then be rescanned with a view of starting walking exercise. This is a massive blow for the Potts family and for all our team here at Commonstown." Harrington is still set to be represented in the Gold Cup by Our Duke.

8th march 2018: Altior and Douvan remain on course for a mouthwatering clash at Cheltenham on Wednesday after both featured among 10 confirmations for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Nicky Henderson's Altior has missed much of the season after undergoing a wind operation in the autumn, but is odds-on across the board to claim his third Festival success following a sparkling reappearance at Newbury last month.

The Willie Mullins-trained Douvan has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a shock defeat and injury in this race a year ago, but as a former winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham - like Altior - he will be a fascinating contender if he returns to Prestbury Park next week. Whether Douvan makes the journey across the Irish Sea or not, Mullins has confirmed his intention to saddle Min. The seven-year-old was runner-up to Altior in the Supreme two years ago and produced what was arguably his most polished performance over fences to date in the Coral Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month. Mullins has also left in Un De Sceaux, although he is more likely to defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday. Last year's Champion Chase hero Special Tiara is one of two contenders for Henry de Bromhead, along with Ordinary World. The Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue, Gary Moore's Ar Mad, Kim Bailey's Charbel and God's Own from Tom George's yard complete the possible line-up.

7th March 2018:  Ante-post favourite Getabird is one of 28 horses confirmed for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday. Trainer Willie Mullins has won the Festival curtain-raiser three times in the last five years and a record five times overall. His last two respective major hopes, Min and Melon, both finished second. This year's assault is headed by Getabird, who is unbeaten in four starts and was a brilliant winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January, a race Mullins inmates Vautour and Douvan claimed en route to Supreme glory. The Closutton handler has whittled his potential team down to three, with Sharjah and Whiskey Sour his other representatives. Gordon Elliott has left in Mengli Khan and the much-vaunted Samcro, although the latter appears likely to contest the longer Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday. The home team includes Amy Murphy's Betfair Hurdle hero Kalashnikov, Tom George's Tolworth Hurdle winner Summerville Boy and Claimantakinforgan, who is Nicky Henderson's only challenger.

The Mullins-trained Footpad will face a maximum of eight rivals in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy. The six-year-old is three from three since having his attentions turned towards chasing and is a hot favourite to add to his tally at the chief expense of old rival Petit Mouchoir, trained by Henry de Bromhead. Mullins has also left in Kemboy and the only mare in the field Asthuria. Henderson's Brain Power and Harry Whittington's Saint Calvados are also in contention along with North Hill Harvey (Dan Skelton), Robinshill (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and the Elliott-trained Tombstone.

Last year's winner Apple's Jade is the headline act in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle. Elliott's prolific six-year-old is odds-on across the board for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One and is one of 17 confirmations. Despite the retirement of 2016 Mares' Hurdle heroine Vroum Vroum Mag, Mullins still has a strong hand as he bids to win the prize for a ninth time. This year's team is headed by Benie Des Dieux who, like Vroum Vroum Mag, reverts to hurdles having kicked off her Irish career by racing over fences. She could be joined by Augusta Kate, last season's Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner Let's Dance, Meri Devie and Pravalaguna. Other hopefuls include the Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi and Henderson's pair of Kayf Grace and Verdana Blue.

Gold Present heads 43 horses going forward for the Ultima Handicap Chase. Leading fancies include Coo Star Sivola and Singlefarmpayment. Jury Duty, Dounikos, No Comment and Rathvinden are all on a list of 28 confirmations for the National Hunt Chase.

The concluding handicap on day one of the Festival is the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, for which 52 have stood their ground. Ramses De Teillee heads the weights and the likes of De Plotting Shed, Any Second Now, Movewiththetimes and Barney Dwan all remain in the mix.

6th March 2018: Nicky Henderson reports all to be well with Altior as last year's Arkle Trophy winner bids to make a triumphant return to Cheltenham in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase next week. The star two-mile performer made a belated comeback last month with a pleasing success over Tingle Creek winner Politologue at Newbury. 

"Everything went right (at Newbury) and we haven't needed to have done a whole heap (of work)," Henderson told Unibet's Cheltenham Festival preview. "He did a bit of work (on Monday morning). He'll do a little bit more and then he can have a school. He's a natural athlete."

5th March 2018: Sceau Royal (was going to be my punt) will miss the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after meeting with a setback.

The Alan King-trained six-year-old, who is four from five over fences this season, was the general third favourite for the Grade One contest on March 13.

"It is just a little niggle, but it is enough to stop us and we have taken the decision we will not be taking him to Cheltenham. It is a shame, but this is what happens with horses unfortunately and there is no point hiding it," said King.