Its trials day at Prestbury Park this weekend, a meeting that throws up future Festival winners year after year.
Here we take a look at some of the leading suspects that could be grabbing the headlines over the Weekend and look to enhance their claims for the Festival itself in March.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has another exciting French import on his hands in Adjali, who arrived from Guillem Macaire with a big reputation and was duly sent off odds on favourite for his UK debut at Market Rasen, when scoring in impressive style by 13 lengths.
Last seen when again well backed for the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over the Christmas period, finding only Quel Destin too good having made a costly error at the last flight, with the front 2 pulling 22 lengths clear of a well regarded horse in third.
Henderson is more than aware of what is required to win the Triumph Hurdle in March and if scoring in good style on Saturday expect Adjali’s current price of 16/1 to be cut into single figures and likely battling for outright favouritism.
16/1 – Triumph Hurdle, Friday 15th March
Paul Nicholls is a genius with Chasers and looks to have another top class prospect in the Six year old Dynamite Dollars. Though only rated 132 over the smaller obstacles, he has improved rapidly over fences and was last seen beating last seasons Supreme Novices Hurdle runner up Kalashnikov at Kempton in what was a really impressive figure on the clock.
The Arkle looks a very high class race this year but should Dynamite Dollars take another step forward here its hard to see why he wouldn’t be made favourite for the big day itself in March.
7/1 Betfair Sportsbook – Arkle Chase, Tuesday 12th March
The unbeaten Birchdale is Nicky Hendersons representative for this contest, having not declared stable-mate and Ante post favourite ‘Champ’ at the final declaration stage.
Birchdale has been some what of a talking horse since joining Henderson, scoring in really good style on debut at Warwick where he gave the impression he is very much a top class three mile chaser of the future.
He has numerous options for the Festival in March and quoted in all three Novice Hurdle Markets, so will be interesting if winning on Saturday which race connections nominate for the promising Five Year old.
25//1 Ballymore Properties, Wednesday 13th March, 33/1 Supreme Novices Tuesday 12th March, 25/1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle, Friday 15th March
Tom George decided to send his Grade 1 winning hurdler over fences this term, which unfortunately didn’t work out and has taken the correct decision to bring the Eight year old back over the smaller obstacles.
The staying division is lacking real strength and depth this season and should Black Op show the sort of performance when chasing home Samcro at last years Festival on Saturday he really would shake up the market. He has looked a strong stayer so stepping up to 3miles for the first time could bring further improvement and should he score in good style in the Cleeve the 14/1 currently available will be long gone.
14/1 Stayers Hurdle, Thursday 14th March
Away from Trials day at Cheltenham there is some top class action from Doncaster and there could be some Festival clues in the Yorkshire Rose Mares Hurdle at 2:40 from Town Moor.
Lady Buttons has been flying the flag high for shrewd trainer Phil Kirby, winning 3 from 3 this season where she has shown a high cruising speed and put up some impressive speed figures in her victories.
She is very flexible and able to perform over both Hurdles and Fences and another big performance looks on the cards on Saturday so the 50/1 quoted for the Champion Chase, and 33/1 for the Mares Hurdle could look generous depending which route they decide to take with her.
33/1 Mares Hurdle, Tuesday 12th March, 50/1 Champion Chase Wednesday 13th March