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Top 10: First-time Cheltenham Festival runners to watch out for

Which Cheltenham Festival debutants need the most attention to detail this March?

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Bravemansgame and Harry Cobden win at Newbury Racecourse in November 2020

The Cheltenham Festival is widely known as the pinnacle event of the National Hunt calendar, with many superstars and regulars turning up at the Gloucestershire course.

But as always, there are several promising runners that will make their maiden start at the greatest show on turf.

Here are ten runners that are preparing for their Festival debut at Cheltenham this year.

Bravemansgame – Ballymore Novice’ Hurdle

There aren’t many trainers that would compare a novice hurdler to one of their previous greats.

That’s exactly what Paul Nicholls did after the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, with Bravemansgame giving the Ditcheat trainer his first success in the contest since the mighty Denman back in 2006.

A classy jumper with bags of speed, he has all the credentials to become a top-level chaser in time to come.

With what will most likely be his last start over the small obstacles, Bravesmangame’s maiden start at the Festival could be a first win of many at Prestbury Park.

Energumene – Arkle Chase

Willie Mullins’ rising star has rapidly progressed in the last few months, with the seven-year-old showing the raw talent to be a threat to Shishkin in this contest.

Still currently unbeaten over fences, the gelding has won by a total of 36 ½ lengths and has looked untouchable at times.

With his freakish level of speed and jumping ability, Energumene will make his presence known on his first start at Cheltenham.

Entoucas – Grand Annual

Entoucas may have only made five starts over fences, but he has produced some promising performances in that short time.

The seven-year-old has yet to register a victory over fences yet, but has placed on four occasions and caught the eye when staying on strongly for fourth in a handicap chase at Fairyhouse last month.

Joseph O’Brien’s gelding can improve with more experience and should progress further.

He is one to watch on his first start in Britain.

Farouk D’Alene – Albert Bartlett Novices‘ Hurdle

The Albert Bartlett is known to be a battle from start to finish, with a punishing level of stamina and arduous staying power needed to even be in a chance of competing.

Step forward Gordon Elliott’s Farouk D’Alene.

Farouk D’Alene has lost only one of his six career starts

The six-year-old showed pure grit and determination on testing ground in Limerick last month, landing his first Graded honours in the Lyons of Limerick Jaguar Land Rover Novice Hurdle.

Elliott’s gelding looks tailor-made for this contest and should be in the mix on his maiden Cheltenham Festival appearance.

Flooring Porter – Stayers’ Hurdle

Superstar stayer Paisley Park’s rapid rise to stardom in the 2018/19 season saw the gelding destroy handicap fields in October, landing his first Grade 1 in December and taking the prestigious Stayers’ Hurdle in March.

Could we see Flooring Porter repeat the same feat this season?

The six-year-old was massively impressive in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle, seeing off dual Pertemps Final victor Sire Du Berlais and Grade 1 winner The Storyteller with significant ease.

Gavin Cromwell is known as a specialist in getting his recruits ready for big races, with Espoir D’Allen’s jaw-dropping performance at Prestbury Park being the key example.

The late five-year-old stunned the field in the 2019 Champion Hurdle, recording the widest winning margin in the race’s history for the Danestown trainer.

Flooring Porter is clearly an improving sort and should be given some respect on his Festival debut.

Metier – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

A former runner on the flat, Metier joined Harry Fry’s yard early last year and has been near-perfect since switching to obstacles on his three starts.

The five-year-old established himself as arguably the best two-mile novice hurdler on British soil after a devasting display in the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle last month.

He looked comfortable throughout the contest, before storming clear to win by an impressive 12 lengths in difficult conditions.

Metier is potentially the new star of Fry’s stable, and could well be the runner to overthrow favourite Appreciate It in the Supreme.

Potters Corner – Cross Country Chase

A long-distance expert, Potters Corners pushed himself into the spotlight after landing the Midlands Grand National back in 2018.

He went on win the Welsh Grand National in 2019, ending a 54-year wait for Welsh racing punters to welcome one of their own into the winners’ enclosure.

Potters Corner won the Welsh Grand National for Christian Williams in 2019

Also the ‘winner’ of the 2020 virtual Grand National, the 11-year-old will be heading to the Festival for the first time to prepare for the real event at Aintree in April.

He will take on dual National hero Tiger Roll and last year’s Cross Country Chase winner Easysland, in what looks to be a fascinating clash.

Royale Pagaille – National Hunt Chase/Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase/Gold Cup/Ultimate Handicap Chase

A useful sort that caught the imagination of racing fans last month, Royale Pagaille is a horse that looks to have the world at his feet.

Trained by Venetia Williams, he defied top weight by flying home in impressive fashion in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock.

Even with many seeing the seven-year-old as a genuine contender for the Gold Cup, it is still unclear which race he will be targeted for as the gelding still holds four entries at the Festival.

Whichever contest is chosen for him, Royale Pagaille will be a tough nut to crack and an exciting prospect to witness on his Cheltenham bow.

Secret Reprieve – National Hunt Chase

After giving Evan Williams his first success in the Welsh Grand National earlier this month, Secret Reprieve looks destined to head to Aintree later on this year.

However, the original aim was the National Hunt Chase for the seven-year-old and the Festival could well still be on the cards.

The unexposed gelding has massively stepped this season and has looked comfortable dealing with the longer distances.

Secret Reprieve could be a serious contender if Williams decides to send him to Prestbury Park for the first time.

Tritonic – Triumph Hurdle

Arguably Britain’s best chance of landing this contest, Tritonic hinted at his ability with a battling win on his debut over hurdles in January.

After a promising summer on the flat, Alan King’s runner caught the eye after pulling out all the stops to hold off Casa Loupi by a length at Ascot.

He will run once more before heading to the Festival, with the four-year-old being targeted for either the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle or the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.

A future prospect to watch out for on Gold Cup day.