1.30pm: JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m1f)
Nicky Henderson holds a strong hand yet again with his juveniles Apple’s Shakira, a full-sister to star mare Apple’s Jade, who has won three times at Cheltenham this season and bids to go one better than her sister who finished second to Ivanovich Gorbatov in 2016.
The master of Seven Barrows also saddles WE HAVE A DREAM who, at the prices, looks the value play. A Grade 1 winner of the Finale at Chepstow, he has proven himself tactically versatile and won nicely at Musselburgh despite his trainer admitting he had left plenty of work still to do with him.
Alan King has a fine record with his juveniles and Redicean has continued to progress at a rapid rate of knots. His jumping was spot on at Kempton and he has vital speed from the Flat which will aid his cause.
Mr Adjudicator and Farclas look best of the Irish challenge but will need to step up on what they have achieved.
2.10pm: County Hurdle (2m1f)
Flying Tiger has been well backed over the past couple of weeks and the case is fairly simple. Last year’s Fred Winter winner who caught the eye against potential Champion Hurdle contenders in the Kingwell at Wincanton and the handicapper left him on a mark of 140.
A Hare Breath goes exceptionally well when fresh and has been saved for this having won a handicap hurdle at Sandown in December.
2016 Triumph Hurdle hero Ivanovich Gorbatov is becoming well handicapped once again and drying ground on the Friday will firmly be in his favour.
Whatswrongwithyou could be a very interesting contender with him likely to be aiming for the £100,000 bonus by winning the Imperial Cup and this contest. He looks on a fair mark.
Willie Mullins has won this race four times since 2010 and perhaps one of his more interesting handicap entries of the week is WHISKEY SOUR. A very fortunate Grade 1 winner in Ireland over Christmas, he shaped okay when fourth to Samcro in the Deloitte and he looks fairly treated on his achievements.
2.50pm: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (3m)
An attritional test for any horse with experience being the key to the race. Every winner of the race has had at least five runs which rules out leading contenders Santini and Duc Des Genievres. Both have shown very good form and are exciting individuals for the future but a race of this nature may prove too much with the pair having only had three runs apiece in their whole lives.
Chef Des Obeaux has been rather impressive since stepped up to 3m and his ability to handle testing ground will always aid him in paying his way through the deep winter ground. Drier conditions would be a slight concern.
Poetic Rhythm won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle in tenacious style at the expense of Mulcahys Hill and he has to be considered with him possessing enough experience.
At the prices, a chance is taken on WHITE MOON as he looked a very good prospect before having excuses when well beaten by On The Blind Side at Sandown. The step up to 3m is in his favour and ground should pose no issue.
3.30pm: Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m2f)
4.10pm: Foxhunters Chase (3m2f)
Jamie Codd has been secured for the ride on Burning Ambition, a prolific point winner, who won on Rules debut at Limerick before finishing a good second to Gilgamboa at Punchestown last month. While he looks to possess plenty of ability, there are concerns about his resolution for a finish having been outbattled last time and his stamina for 3m2f.
Foxrock has been to Cheltenham twice before and disappointed both times so has a lot to prove regarding travelling over.
Punchestown Champion Hunter hero Balnaslow needs to improve considerably having pulled up last time in a point but could very easily return to form in a race he outran his odds in last year.
Paul Nicholls has stated that WONDERFUL CHARM is his best chance of a winner all week and, with Sam Waley-Cohen in the saddle, he is likely to be ridden a bit more forcefully than last year when second to stable companion Pacha Du Polder.
4.50pm: Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
Arguably the most difficult handicap of the week with plenty of unexposed novices with Graded aspirations for the future.
Diese Des Bieffes has been well supported in the lead up to this with the likelihood of James Bowen taking the ride. His last couple of runs have been encouraging at Kempton, including when fifth to stablemate William Henry in the Lanzarote, and this stiffer track looks likely to suit.
Deal D’estruval looks well treated on his second to Off You Go at the Dublin Racing Festival and the step up in trip looks in his favour, while other Irish contenders of interest include Dortmund Park and Early Doors, who both have solid Graded form to their name and are relatively unexposed.
Another with more to offer is SPRINGTOWN LAKE who chased home leading Ballymore contender On The Blind Side at Sandown earlier in the season and his tenacious attitude will see him right there at the finish when plenty have cried enough.
5.30pm: Grand Annual Chase (2m½f)
The last chance for the get out stakes with the hurly burly of one of the fastest National Hunt races on the entire calendar with little margin for error.
Nicky Henderson will be hoping for a third win in the race named after his father and Theinval is, surprisingly, his only representative. He shaped well when last seen on New Year’s Day and was subsequently dropped 3lb for that effort.
His former inmate at Seven Barrows has also had a preparation towards this contest all season in Vaniteux but his 0-10 record at Cheltenham tempers enthusiasm.
Last year’s winner Rock The World and Don’t Touch It both represent Jessica Harrington and the pair look to have excellent chances with both having been aimed at the race all season.
One who could pose a threat at a bigger price is 2016 Fred Winter winner DIEGO DU CHARMIL. His comeback run after a setback was promising behind Saint Calvados and 143 looks a very tempting mark compared to his hurdles rating.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*