Arkle, Brown Advisory and more: potential runners plus a 25-1 long-range shout
The major first half and festive period of jumps racing has passed and that means the build-up for this year's Cheltenham Festival cranks up another notch.
Who will contest each of the 28 season-defining races at the festival will become clearer week by week, and the entries for the meeting's four novice chases, the Arkle, National Hunt Chase, Brown Advisory and the Turners (formerly known as the Marsh) were revealed on Tuesday...
Total entries: 24
The key horses: Willie Mullins has won this premier novice chase for two-milers four times since 2015 and looks on course to extend that prolific record with the exciting Ferny Hollow, the only horse to beat Bob Olinger.
The 2020 Champion Bumper winner is one of nine entries for Mullins while Henry de Bromhead (Coeur Sublime and Magic Daze) and Gordon Elliott (Riviere D'Etel) have opted for a more selective approach.
Grade 1-winning chaser Edwardstone leads the British hopes for trainer Alan King, who won back-to-back runnings of this race in 2006 and 2007.
Ante-post favourite: Ferny Hollow (6-4)
Total entries: 48
The key horses: Run Wild Fred looks a worthy favourite to continue Gordon Elliott's excellent record in this race, and the Cullentra trainer also has The Bosses Oscar among his seven entries. Last year's Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier should relish every yard of the near four mile trip.
2019 Cesarewitch winner Stratum, Ontheropes and Stattler, who runs in the colours of last year's winning owner Ronnie Bartlett, look the pick of Mullins' eight entries. British-trained horses account for 26 of the runners including Threeunderthrufive, Corach Rambler, Annual Invictus, Back On The Lash and Does He Know.
Ante-post favourite: Run Wild Fred (4-1)
Total entries: 47
The key horses: The race formerly known as the RSA has thrown up future Gold Cup winners such as Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere this century and this year's running could be the first of many titanic tussles up the Cheltenham hill between Galopin Des Champs, Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor.
Galopin Des Champs could not have been more impressive when winning by 22 lengths at Leopardstown on his chasing debut, while Bravemansgame has proven his trainer Paul Nicholls right by looking a natural over fences in his three chase victories to date. The most recent of those came when seeing off Ahoy Senor at Kempton, although a first visit to Cheltenham for the Lucinda Russell-trained Grade 1-winning hurdler adds another layer of intrigue.
Nicky Henderson's lightly-raced Dusart would need to improve dramatically on his chasing debut win at Leicester to trouble the three big-hitters who would provide a thrilling spectacle should they all line up.
Ante-post favourite: Galopin Des Champs (6-4)
Total entries: 44
The key horses: Bob Olinger has been leading the market for this race since scooting clear to win last year's Ballymore and, after making it 2-2 over fences at Punchestown, Henry de Bromhead confirmed that the Turners was firmly the plan despite the seven-year-old also holding an entry for the Brown Advisory.
Stylish Dipper winner L'Homme Presse could step up to Grade 1 company for trainer Venetia Williams. Galopin Des Champs, Bravemansgame and Ferny Hollow all hold entries for this 2m4f contest, but are likely to head for other targets.
Ante-post favourite: Bob Olinger (evens)
Long-range shout: 'His form has been boosted nicely'
The National Hunt Chase is comfortably the best betting proposition of the novice chases and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Pat's Fancy looks overpriced at 25-1.
I was impressed with the manner in which the seven-year-old saw off the challenge of the talented Imperial Alcazar at Chepstow last time out, galloping powerfully to the line in a manner which suggested a step up in trip would not be a problem.
The form of his first win over fences in December has also been boosted nicely, beating subsequent Mandarin and Classic Chase runner-up Gericault Roque as well as Broken Halo, who bolted up next time out at Exeter.
Curtis is the perfect trainer to nurture a staying chaser and I am hoping she opts to run Pat's Fancy here rather than the Brown Advisory, a race she won with O'Faolains Boy in 2014.
Charlie Huggins, reporter
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