Key talking points as fields for key Cheltenham Festival races take shape
Everyone fancies their chances in an open Champion Hurdle
In the last ten years the largest Unibet Champion Hurdle field has numbered 12. However, that looks likely to be surpassed this season with more than 30 horses engaged for the day one highlight.
Three of the top four in the betting are mares, but there is every chance only one of those, Epatante, lines up. Honeysuckle looks likelier to go for the mares' hurdle, while Benie Des Dieux would need to be supplemented and has alternative options.
Stablemate Cilaos Emery is another who is short in the betting but would need to be added to the field at an additional cost. With so much uncertainty surrounding the race it is no surprise plenty of other connections are considering chancing their arm.
Champion Chase favourite to be the race of the meeting
Paddy Power would no doubt take a stab at pricing up something as subjective as 'race of the festival' and the overwhelming favourite would have to be the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Altior is attempting to win the race for a third consecutive year, but it will be no easy task. Defi Du Seuil has emerged as a genuine rival and connections have decided to take a swing at the reigning champion.
That clash would be blockbuster material, but when you throw in Chacun Pour Soi, who defeated Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last May, you have all the ingredients for a stunning showdown.
It would be dangerous to focus solely on that trio in a race that could feature many stars, and whoever comes out on top will likely have fought hard to do so.
Ryanair could benefit from Champion Chase defections
Of the 18 runners entered in the Champion Chase, ten also hold an engagement for the Ryanair Chase.
Those who have the choice of engagements include last season's Champion Chase runner-up Politologue, the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard, Min and venerable veteran Un De Sceaux.
Last year's winner Frodon is on target for the race again along with runner-up Aso and it could be there is a lot of strength and depth to this season's Ryanair.
Paisley Park looks a festival banker
When it comes to assembling the cornerstone of a Cheltenham Festival multiple, Paisley Park should be at the top of the list.
Among the remaining 29 entries for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle, last year's winner is the class act and appears to hold all the aces.
Emma Lavelle's stable star is already odds-on and will shorten further if Benie Des Dieux, next best in the market, lines up in a different festival race.
If The Cap Fits has already been rerouted to Aintree and on official ratings Paisley Park has nearly a stone in hand on his British-trained rivals. He is the one to beat.
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