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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

This week's five most important Cheltenham Festival developments

Supasundae and Robbie Power leads Jessica Harrington's string during work at Leopardstown
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Sceaux classy at Ascot

The biggest Cheltenham contender in action over the last seven days was Un De Sceaux, who looked as good as ever when landing a third straight Clarence House Chase at Ascot by a comfortable seven lengths.

He remains clear favourite to repeat last year's success in the Ryanair Chase at the festival in March, but ante-post punters ought to be aware that the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase remains an option.

Trainer Willie Mullins said: "I'd be happy enough that the Ryanair is the race for him at the moment but let's see what happens to the other horses first." 

On the comeback trail

Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite Altior took another step towards Cheltenham on Saturday.

He is recovering from a wind operation and the fact that he was reported not making a noise when his exertions on the gallops at Seven Barrows were stepped up pleased Nicky Henderson.

Last year's Arkle Chase winner is rated '50-50' to make his comeback in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month – if he misses that contest, he is set for a racecourse gallop instead.

Nicky Henderson: pleased with Altior

There's more than one festival now

A glittering array of entries were unveiled for next month's inaugural Dublin Festival at Leopardstown.

Numerous horses will have their final outing at Cheltenham at the two-day meeting as the Irish prepare for their bid to match last year's 17 festival winners.

Last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John will not be there but Jessica Harrington was reported to be 'happy' with him and stablemate Our Duke, whom she is aiming at the Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Our Duke: the Irish Grand National winner will bid for next month's Irish Gold Cup

Who's taking the Air on?

Last year's winner Buveur D'Air is a best-priced 8-11 favourite to land a second Unibet Champion Hurdle after the entries were revealed on Wednesday.

Most intriguing name among his 22 potential opponents was Arcenfete, a French import who has won his only race over hurdles but has not run since June 2016.

He was described as 'a nice sort' by trainer Henry de Bromhead and is set to reappear at Naas next Sunday.

Buveur D'Air: topped 23 entries for the Champion Hurdle

Gordon's going great guns

A Toi Phil, Dinaria Des Obeaux, Dortmund Park and Pete So High underlined an important message for Cheltenham by winning at Thurles on Sunday.

None of them are 'good things' for the festival and at least one of them is decidedly unlikely to travel, but their victories advertised once again what an incredible season Gordon Elliott is having.

He had six winners at Cheltenham last year and is 11-8 favourite with William Hill to retain the crown as top trainer at the meeting in March. 

If you are interested in this, you might like:

Six to savour: horses to have on your radar at Leopardstown's big weekend

British trainers snub Leopardstown battle before Cheltenham war

Turf Club doctor confident Ruby Walsh will be back in time for Cheltenham

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I'd be happy enough that the Ryanair is the race for him at the moment but let's see what happens to the other horses first
E.W. Terms
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