Defending champion Energumene will face six rivals in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
The nine-year-old gave Willie Mullins the final piece of his Prestbury Park big-race puzzle last year when lighting up a miserable day two of the Festival and is the sole Closutton representative in the second-day feature.
Although following up last year’s Cheltenham success with impressive victories at both the Punchestown Festival and on his reappearance in the Hilly Way at Cork, he failed to fire when only third in the rearranged Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day.
That day it was the re-opposing Editeur Du Gite and Alan King’s Edwardstone that fought out a thrilling finish.
Clarence House winner Editeur Du Gite will attempt to give Gary Moore his second win in the race and is a first Champion Chase ride for Niall Houlihan, while Edwardstone may have lost out by the barest of margins on Trials Day, but still did enough for the bookmakers to make last year’s Arkle hero their race favourite.
Venetia Williams’ Funambule Sivola was eight-and-a-half lengths behind Energumene 12 months ago and returns to Prestbury Park in decent order having bounced back to something near his best in the Game Spirit at Newbury.
Dan Skelton is likely to be on weather watch for Nube Negra but has nonetheless declared his good-ground loving nine-year-old who missed the race last year when conditions turned testing on the second day, but was runner-up to Put The Kettle On in 2021.
Paul Nicholls’ Greaneteen was fourth on that occasion and is another returning to Champion Chase action having skipped the 2022 running, while the seven-strong field is rounded off by Irish raider Captain Guinness, who attempts to give Henry de Bromhead a fourth victory in the race.
Impaire Et Passe & Hermes Allen among 10 in Ballymore contention
Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior lead the Willie Mullins charge in a red-hot running of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle that kicks off day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
The former has been the talking horse of the Festival preview circuit and as a result is currently topping the market, while the former will attempt to go one better than his second in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the meeting 12 months ago.
The master of Closutton has won this three times in the last 10 years – including last year with Sir Gerhard – and is responsible for four of the 10 declared for the opener.
Hermes Allen has been touted as one of Paul Nicholls’ best chances at the meeting and takes his chance, while Barry Connell’s Dublin Racing Festival scorer Good Land is another declared bringing top form to the table.
Scilly Isles winner Gerri Colombe tops the 11 going to post for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, with Jordan Gainford getting the chance to register a Grade One winner at the Festival.
Mullins is responsible for five of the declared runners with his quintet including Sir Gerhard and the supplemented Adamantly Chosen, while Patrick Neville has chosen to run dual course victor The Real Whacker in this rather than take an audacious swing at the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Gordon Elliott has a strong hand in the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course with defending champion Delta Work and Galvin both set to take their chance, while it is business as usual in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with Willie Mullins responsible for 10 of the full field of 24, including three of the top four in the betting.
There is also a full compliment of runners in both the Coral Cup and Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, although the latter will be missing both Unexpected Party and Rouge Vif who were both popular in the ante-post markets.