The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival has plenty of top-class contests for punters to sink their teeth into, with the Arkle Chase next up on the card.
EDWARDSTONE (15/8) is the current favourite for the two-mile contest, after producing a near-flawless campaign over the larger obstacles.
After being brought down on his first start of the season back in November, the son of Kayf Tara has been spectacular in his last four showings for Alan King.
The gelding has won all four of his starts since his seasonal reappearance, including a thumping victory in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
The eight-year-old travelled strongly throughout in that contest before hitting the front at two out and bolting away from his rivals to win by an eye-catching 16 lengths.
Edwardstone looks the one to beat here off his current form, but he does face a tough rival hailing from across the Irish Sea.
BLUE LORD (11/4) remains unbeaten over fences for Willie Mullins, with the gelding claiming his first Grade 1 victory last time out at the Dublin Racing Festival.
The seven-year-old does hold some Cheltenham worries over him, as he surely would have claimed second in the Supreme last season if he hadn’t fallen at the last.
Despite that, he has claimed victory in each of his three starts over the larger obstacles and he could well be a threat to Alan King’s promising novice here.
Blue Lord will likely be joined by stablemate HAUT EN COULEURS (6/1), who will have a bit to prove after falling in the Irish Arkle earlier in the month.
The five-year-old did show some promise when he placed third in the Triumph Hurdle in his very first start under Mullins and he did claim success on his chase debut over the festive period.
The gelding could well have more to offer over the larger obstacles here and he is one of interest in this contest.
Stablemates SAINT SAM (15/2), JUNGLE BOOGIE (12/1), CIEL DE NIEGE (14/1) and EL BARRA (50/1) all hold entries in the two-mile chase as well.
RIVIERE D’ETEL (7/2) is the sole representative of Gordon Elliot in this year’s edition of the Arkle, with the five-year-old showing hints of consistency in his first season over fences.
The son of Martaline won comfortably on his first three starts this season, landing a hat-trick of victories by a combined 44 lengths.
He was just edged out by Ferny Hollow in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and a mistake at the last cost him victory in the Irish Arkle earlier in the month.
If Elliott has managed to iron out the issues from his last two starts, then Riviere D’Etel could well be a major threat to the favourites here.
Henry De Bromhead holds two entries in the contest with MAGIC DAZE (14/1) potentially getting her first chance in Grade 1 company, while COUER SUBLIME (11/1) could feature here if connections opt out of running in the Grand Annual.
Dan Skelton’s THIRD TIME LUCKI (12/1) has been beaten twice by Edwardstone this season and will need to improve if he is to be competitive here, while BRAVE SEASCA (25/1) has shown promise in handicaps this season and could well run here if connections don’t choose to go down the same route as Couer Sublime.
WAR LORD (33/1) finished a distant second to Edwardstone at Sandown before claiming success next time out for Colin Tizard, while stablemate ELIXIR DE NUTZ (40/1) could be plunged straight into the deep end after featuring in handicaps all season.
Alex Hales’ FOR PLEASURE (50/1), Emma Lavelle’s RED ROOKIE (66/1) and Ben Pauling’s SHAKEM UP’ARRY (100/1) complete the list of entries.
*Odds courtesy of Spreadex and correct at time of writing