The six-day declarations are now in meaning we are much closer to seeing who will line-up on day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2019.
Most of the big names stand their ground for their respective races on Tuesday, with some now added to the card following recent rainfall and a couple of high profile absentees ruining one or two ante-post bets.
Thankfully, major players Defi Du Seuil, Duc Des Genievres, Glen Forsa, Kalashnikov and Lalor all stand their ground at this point with the notable addition of Clondaw Castle having been supplemented at a cost by Tom George, making a total field at this stage of 21 novices.
This is quite a move by the seven-year-old’s Gloucestershire trainer given that he was already a leading fancy for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase but has been added to this Grade One field instead. His best runs have been on fast ground this season too so why they are so confident remains to be seen.
Mick Channon has been open about the fact that the rain is good for his Glen Forsa, though it’s clear Kalashnikov was nowhere near his best when they met last in the 3-runner Kingmaker Novices’ Chase and it must be remembered that the ground was heavy when Amy Murphy’s charge was only narrowly beaten in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Just 14 remain at this stage for the day one feature, big-hitters Laurina, Apple’s Jade and of course the admirable double winner Buveur D’Air thankfully all among them.
Buveur D’Air has won his two Champion Hurdles on good-to-soft and heavy ground, though in the latter his performance wasn’t quite as taking which is thought provoking. He did however put in a dream display at Newcastle on genuinely soft ground in the Fighting Fifth and so won’t be shirking this challenge.
His stable companion Verdana Blue on the other hand has been described as very ground dependant with a good surface essential, so while she remains in the field at this stage a late decision is expected on her participation if the rain persists.
The one for cash recently has been Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade and, strictly on the numbers, her form stands up pretty well to the jolly and you’d have to take into account the fact she will receive a 7lbs sex allowance. She is unbeaten this season and seems to stay any trip and the ground too should not be a worry.
Willie Mullins’ Laurina is another who gets the 7lbs from the champ though she will need to take a big step forward to win this. That remains possible however after Ruby Walsh reported her to have given him a great feel in her work and as of now she is very much an intended runner.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
All eyes are on the curtain-raiser in which 27 horses are left, notably Al Dancer, Elixir Du Nutz, Grand Sancy, Angels Breath, Klassical Dream, Fakir d’Oudairies and Gardens Of Babylon.
Naturally this is a frightfully competitive race with the latter named pair both trained by Joseph O’Brien for JP McManus, the high profile owner who has pulled four of his other festival fancies out over concerns they’d been harshly treated by the British handicapping team.
Others to Note
Paul Nicholls’ Give Me A Copper has been sitting atop the ante-post market for the Ultima Handicap Chase and he remains an entrant at the six-day stage.
Jester Jet has been supplemented for the Mares’ Hurdle after winning a Listed race at Haydock Park last time out and she will have to face what Ruby Walsh has described as his ride of the week in the shape of Benie des Dieux, a mare seemingly well suited by the recent drop of rain.
Ante-post favourite for the National Hunt Chase, Nicky Henderson’s OK Corral, remains on course for his date with destiny and he may well face a strong Irish challenge from Ballyward and Mortal.