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The two star chasers are set for a mouth-watering clash in the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14 at Cheltenham 2018. Douvan (Willie Mullins IRE), yet to race this season, is top-rated with Timeform on 193 and could reappear at Gowran Park at the weekend, while unbeaten chaser Altior (Nicky Henderson, 186p with Timeform) made an impressive comeback in the G2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last Saturday.
The 21 confirmations for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase also include Douvan’s stablemates Min (180+), who defeated last year’s winner Special Tiara(Henry de Bromhead IRE, 175) at Leopardstown recently, and the highly-rated Great Field (Willie Mullins, 179p). G1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase victor Politilogue (Paul Nicholls, 176) also goes forward.
Might Bite (Nicky Henderson, 183+) and the 2017 winner Sizing John (Jessica Harrington IRE, 183) headline the 27 going for glory in the highlight of The Festival, the £625,000 G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m 2f 110y), on the fourth and final day, Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16.
Native River (Colin Tizzard, 181), who was victorious on his return to action last weekend in the G2 Denman Chase at Newbury, and impressive G2 BetBright Cotswold Chase winner Definitly Red (Brian Ellison, 177+), are among the home challengers for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Road To Respect (Noel Meade IRE, 179) and Edwulf (Joseph O’Brien IRE, 176), successful in the G1 Leopardstown Christmas Chase and G1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown respectively, remain engaged too in chasing’s championship race.
Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has a strong hand in the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase (2m 5f), the feature race on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15, with nine of the 28 confirmations. They include Douvan (193?), Min and last year’s winner Un De Sceaux (180).
Top Notch (Nicky Henderson, 181) has won his last two starts impressively and goes for this weekend’s G1 Betfair Ascot Chase, in which he is set to clash with Waiting Patiently (Ruth Jefferson, 177p), Coney Island (Eddie Harty IRE, 177+) and Cue Card (Colin Tizzard, 177).
Hot favourite and defending champion Buveur D’Air (Nicky Henderson, 181) headlines 19 going forward for the £450,000 G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13. The seven-year-old is three from three so far this season, including an easy success in the G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.
His owner J P McManus also has My Tent Or Yours (Nicky Henderson, 174), runner-up three times in the Unibet Champion Hurdle, who gained a deserved success in the G2 Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
Faugheen (Willie Mullins, 174) won hurdling’s highlight in 2015 and his stablemates Wicklow Brave (172§) and Melon (170), who finished second in last season’s opener at The Festival, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, are also engaged.
Top mare Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott IRE) heads Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings for both the £325,000 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (26 acceptors, 3m) and the £120,000 G1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (27 acceptors, 2m 4f), which she won last year. She has a weight-adjusted rating of 176 for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and 174 for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.
The confirmations for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, staged on St Patrick’s Thursday, also include G1 Long Walk Hurdle scorer Sam Spinner (Jedd O’Keeffe), last year’s Coral Cup hero Supasundae (Jessica Harrington IRE), and Yanworth (Alan King). All three are rated 175 by Timeform.
The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 174) won the G2 Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park for the fourth time on January 20 and is set to step up to three miles in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.
The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, which takes place on Champion Day, also has in order of Timeform rating, the 2016 winner and 2017 runner-up Vroum Vroum Mag (Willie Mullins, 167), Colin’s Sister (Fergal O’Brien, 164), Lagostovegas (Willie Mullins, 163), Let’s Dance (Willie Mullins, 163), La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex, 162+), Augusta Kate (Willie Mullins, 162) and Verdana Blue (Nicky Henderson, 160).
Mullins has enjoyed success in eight of the 10 runnings of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.