With the Festival now less than 20 days away, British trainers face arguably their toughest assignment yet in their pursuit for the Prestbury Cup.
Britain have not seen an outright success at the meeting since 2015, with a sole draw in 2019 being the Home Nations’ best return in recent years.
With the forces of Henderson, Nicholls and co hoisting the Union Jack, could we see the home side dethrone the Irish in this year’s contest?
We’ve picked out Britain’s best representatives for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Shishkin – Arkle Chase
Arguably Nicky Henderson’s strongest chance of a Festival winner, Shishkin returns to Cheltenham with a perfect record over fences.
Dubbed as the most exciting jumper in the UK by some pundits, the former Supreme winner has cruised to victory on his three chase starts.
He faces his first real challenge since transitioning to the larger obstacles, taking on the likes of Willie Mullins’ Energumene and Dan Skelton’s Allmankind in the Arkle.
An exciting talent nevertheless.
Epatante – Champion Hurdle
Another star of Nicky Henderson’s yard, Epatante heads back to the Champion Hurdle with the aim of landing back-to-back to successes in the contest.
The triple Grade 1 winner got her season off to a good start in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, but was disappointing when losing as the short-priced favourite in the Christmas Hurdle to Silver Streak.
The seven-year-old faces possibly one of the toughest challenges in her career, with the unbeaten Honeysuckle and improving Goshen lining up alongside her.
A difficult task, but Epatante has proven before that she can step up to the challenge.
Bravesmangame – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Cited in the same sentence as the legendary jumper Denman, Bravesmangame has proven to be an exciting prospect for Paul Nicholls.
The six-year-old cruised home on his Grade 1 debut in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, beating Evan Williams’ Star Gate by 10 lengths.
He faces a tough duo in Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bob Olinger, but the promising gelding should be well in the mix here.
Imperial Aura – Ryanair Chase
Last season’s winner of the now-removed Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase, Imperial Aura will be laying his down his claims to become a dual Festival winner in the Ryanair Chase.
Kim Bailey’s gelding landed his first Graded success in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.
He did suffer a hiccup on his last outing at Kempton, unseating rider David Bass in the Silviniaco Conti Chase.
But it is clear that the eight-year-old has the potential to land this contest, and he will be vying with the likes of Allaho and Min for victory.
Paisley Park – Stayers’ Hurdle
The superstar of the staying hurdle division makes a welcomed return to Cheltenham, with the hope of regaining his Stayers’ Hurdle title.
Emma Lavelle’s talent has landed seven Graded contests since November 2018 and is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
He spearheads the British challenge in this contest alongside Phillip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill, who claimed Grade 1 honours in the Long Distance Hurdle.
A cracker lies in wait on the Thursday.
Champ – Gold Cup
Nicky Henderson’s future star really does know how to steal the show.
After an incredible late rally to famously snatch victory in the RSA Chase last season, the nine-year-old produced possibly one of best losing performances ever seen in the Game Sprit Chase.
The gelding produced a valiant effort to come second at a significantly shorter distance, jumping fluently and nearly making all against some of the best two-mile chasers in the division.
His price for the Gold Cup was halved after that contest and Champ could be the one to end Al Boum Photo’s hopes of a prestigious hat-trick in this contest.