WITH Christmas over and done with, the Cheltenham Festival picture looks that little bit clearer.
We look at how each race would work out if they were all run now…
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
ABACADABRASpulled a rabbit from the hat in the Future Champions over Christmas and looks a rock-solid challenger for the opener.
Master Debonairhas plenty of speed and is Britain’s strongest two-miler, whileChantry House also looks exciting for Seven Barrows.
1st Abacadabras 2nd Master Debonair 3rd Chantry House
Arkle Novices’ Chase
ESPRIT DU LARGEwas a fine winner of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and is underestimated in the market.
NotebookandFakir D’oudarieshave held all before them across the Irish Sea and also have strong claims in an open race.
1st Esprit Du Large 2nd Notebook 3rd Fakir D’oudaries
Ultima Handicap Chase
Plenty of water to go under the bridge at the moment but WHITE MOON could be a handicap snip off 140.
BothAny Second NowandMortalhave very interesting profiles too.
1st White Moon 2nd Any Second Now 3rd Mortal
In a really week year, it would make sense for Henry de Bromhead to bite the bullet and runHONEYSUCKLE.
She has bags of class and should dominate from the front.
Epatanteis a clear danger after winning the Christmas Hurdle, with Saldierbest of the rest.
1st Honeysuckle 2nd Epatante 3rd Saldier
WithHoneysucklebetter off in the big one, it would be no surprise to seeLAURINArevert to hurdles if her chasing campaign continues to go awry.
Benie Des Dieuxshould be bang there again, whileRoksanawill give it another good go.
1st Laurina 2nd Benie Des Dieux 3rd Roksana
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
A very early look at this suggestsJARVEYS PLATEcould be the one if he’s dropped another couple of pounds.
Beakstownis interesting too, as is the front-runningDashel Drasher.
1st Jarveys Plate 2nd Beakstown 3rd Dashel Drasher
National Hunt Chase
A slog like this is tailor-made for DANNY WHIZZBANG,who needs a real stamina test to be seen at his best.
Champagne Classiclooks a real old plodder but has a bit of class too, whileBrahma Bullalso has claims.
1st Danny Whizzbang 2nd Champagne Classic 3rd Brahma Bull
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
All roads lead toENVOI ALLEN here. He’s the standout novice hurdler in Ireland and looks a hurdler of significant potential.
Thyme Hillis a very smart horse too and will be more likely to go here than the Albert Bartlett, whileThe Big Breakawayis as exciting as they come.
1st Envoi Allen 2nd Thyme Hill 3rd The Big Breakaway
Not much has gone right forMINELLA INDOyet but his chase debut was full of promise and he’s a spring horse who will be bang on for this.
Champhas claims but the suspicion remains he’s best over slightly shorter. Battleoverdoyenhas done nothing wrong and also has claims.
1st Minella Indo 2nd Champ 3rd Battleoverdoyen
CIEL DE NEIGEcould be well handicapped if remaining lightly raced, judged on his Fred Winter third off 3lb lower last year.
Ballyandyis likely to go here rather than the Champion Hurdle and has strong claims, as does the improvingMonsieur Lecoq.
1st Ciel De Neige 2nd Ballyandy 3rd Monsieur Lecoq
DEFI DU SEUILlooks the real deal and should be able to lift the Champion Chase. He’s got all the assets needed for the big one and can get the better ofChacun Pour Soi.
A Plus Tardwould be a big danger if coming here.
1st Defi Du Seuil 2nd Chacun Pour Soi 3rd A Plus Tard
Cross Country Chase
Easyslandclearly has all the tools for this sphere but it would be a massive shame ifTIGER ROLLwasn’t able to complete a stunning hat-trick in this race.
David Cottin loves targeting this race andUrgent De Gregaineis usually there or thereabouts.
1st Tiger Roll 2nd Easysland 3rd Urgent De Gregaine
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Impossible to weigh up form at this stage but LORD LAMINGTON is a horse with the right profile for this.
Botox Hasis also a prime candidate considering his smart course form, whileTremwedgealso has claims.
1st Lord Lamington 2nd Easysland 3rd Urgent De Gregaine
IfERIC BLOODAXEgoes for this then he’s the one to catch. His form in Ireland is strong and he looks a lovely beast for the future.
Israel Champ is Britain’s brightest hope, whileRisk Factordestroyed them at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day and looks very exciting.
1st Eric Bloodaxe 2nd Israel Champ 3rd Risk Factor
Marsh Novices’ Chase
A fine puzzle with no end of possibilities and half the battle is working out who will run.MISTER FISHERimpressed at Cheltenham in December and has plenty more to come.
Samcrowill likely be aimed here and has a shout, as does Black Op.
1st Mister Fisher 2nd Samcro 3rd Black Op
This looks the right race forJATILUWIHand he can provide the improving David Maxwell with a first Festival winner.
Burrows Parkhas a chance if the ground comes up testing, while Tobefairwill be happier back in handicap company.
1st Jatiluwih 2nd Burrows Park 3rd Tobefair
A who’s who of big names, with the most tempting selection beingMINover a trip at which he excels.
Frodonshouldn’t be discounted despite a couple of below-par runs this term, whileFootpadwill probably also go here.
1st Min 2nd Frodon 3rd Footpad
PAISLEY PARK is by far and away the one to beat here and it would be thoroughly disappointing if he can’t win his second Stayers’ Hurdle on the bounce.
If The Cap Fitsis a clear danger, whileApples Jadecould thrive if sent over this trip at the Festival.
1st Paisley Park 2nd If The Cap Fits 3rd Apples Jade
Brown Advisory Plate
Look no further thanHAPPY DIVAfor this. She’s as consistent as they come and her new mark clearly doesn’t overburden her.
Warthogis a changed horse this year and should go well from the front, whileSiruh Du Lacwill make a bold bid to defend his crown.
1st Paisley Park 2nd If The Cap Fits 3rd Apples Jade
Mares Novice Hurdle
A tough one to work out butMARIE’S ROCK really impressed at Taunton last time and it would be nice for the British mares to get one up on the Irish in this race.
The Glancing Queenhas bags of talent and should run a big one, as should the unexposedDolcita.
1st Marie’s Rock 2nd The Glancing Queen 3rd Dolcita
Kim Muir Handicap Chase
THE CONDITIONALis a handicapper going places and has claims back at a track he’s already won at this season.
Singlefarmpaymentis sure to run his race and not win, while Cogry will take some pegging back from the front.
1st The Conditional 2nd Singlefarmpayment 3rd Cogry
ASPIRE TOWERhas been very impressive in both his starts over timber and will be mighty hard to catch if continuing his progression.
BothAllmankindandGoshenhave potent front-running form to their name but may have to settle for the places.
1st Aspire Tower 2nd Allmankind 3rd Goshen
County Handicap Hurdle
This could be the race for ELIXIR DU NUTZ, who doesn’t quite have the mettle for Grade 1 contests but will certainly be on a competitive mark.
Gumball could make it a day to remember for owner Terry Warner, while Greatwood winnerHarambecertainly isn’t without a shout.
1st Elixir Du Nutz 2nd Gumball 3rd Harambe
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Connections should sendThyme Hillto the Ballymore and with that in mind, this may go to FURY ROAD.
He has bags of stamina and keeps improving.Latest Exhibitionwill likely be underestimated, as willRedford Road.
1st Fury Road 2nd Latest Exhibition 3rd Redford Road
This race is tailor-made for last year’s winnerAL BOUM PHOTO.He jumps, stays and has a lovely cruising speed, so should get the better of Lostintranslation.
Santiniis the forgotten horse and should not be discounted.
1st Al Boum Photo 2nd Lostintranslation 3rd Santini
A race at the mercy ofWHATSWRONGWITHYOU, if he can finally put it all together.
BothAl DancerandLispalso hold strong claims.
1st Whatswrongwithyou 2nd Al Dancer 3rd Lisp
THATSYhas the right profile for this and is as consistent as they come.
Countisteris a mare we’re still to see the best of, whileChampagne Wellis a useful tool at this level.
1st Thatsy 2nd Countister 3rd Champagne Well