Simon Holt previews the pick of the action on Wednesday - and thinks Samcro has a battle on his hands in the Ballymore.
Simon's best bets:
A clash between Altior and the Willie Mullins-trained pair Douvan and Min is something to savour in Wednesday's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, there can be little doubt that the likely odds-on favourite, who has recovered from a last-minute minor foot problem - will be hard to beat after a striking defeat of Tingle Creek winner Politologue on his reappearance at Newbury last month when he barely broke sweat to win.
Altior may not have been at his absolute best in last year's Arkle at this meeting but he surely has the edge on form over Min while Douvan has questions to answer returning from the injury he incurred when hot favourite for this race 12 months ago.
The card also features the much vaunted Samcro who is sure to start another short-priced market leader in the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
One of the most exciting novices perhaps to be trained in Ireland since the early days of Vautour and Faugheen, the six-year-old has been mightily impressive in his three career victories at Fairyhouse and at Punchestown (twice), latterly at Grade One level (2m) last month when beating the re-opposing Duc Des Genievres by over five lengths.
Successful previously over two-and-a-half miles, against much weaker opposition, Samcro has so far shown no flaws, but I do think the promising DUC DES GENIEVRES could give him something more to think about over this trip.
Very stoutly-bred, the Willie Mullins-trained grey travels really well and caught the eye when third behind stable-mate Next Destination on his English debut at Naas in early January.
Behind Samcro, he also moved notably well but was given plenty to do that day, and the extra five furlongs here must play to his strengths. There's a good chance, at least, that he could turn the tables on Next Destination here, and maybe also cause an upset.
Later, Irish-trained horses may also dominate the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase in which PRESENTING PERCY and Monalee head the market.
The winner of the Pertemps Final here last year, Presenting Percy may have been more inconvenienced by the drop to two-and-a-half miles than his classy Gold Cup-bound rival Our Duke at Gowran Park last time having earlier defied top weight in a handicap chase at Fairyhouse and won a Grade Two hurdle, again at Gowran.
A smooth traveller and sound jumper, Davy Russell's mount is just ahead of Monalee, runner-up to Penhill in the Albert Bartlett Novices here 12 months ago, in the chase ratings.
Monalee showed plenty of tenacity when landing a Grade One chase at Leopardstown early last month, but the first four home were covered by a length-and-a-half, and the selection is rated far superior on hurdling form.
The remarkable Black Corton, successful eight times this season, has surprised everyone including his trainer Paul Nicholls, and seems to go particularly well for Bryony Frost. The winning combination should not be under-estimated but, in all likelihood, this race requires yet one more step forward.
In the always-competitive Coral Cup, WILLIAM HENRY can give young riding sensation James Bowen his first winner at the Festival.
The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding didn't take to fences first time out this season, but then put up a splendid effort under Bowen to defy top weight in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle over this trip at Kempton, and the placed horses have all run well since.
William Henry has won and finished second on three previous visits to Cheltenham and, in light of subsequent events, his effort to chase home Wholestone here on the New Course last January with Poetic Rhythm, Topofthegame, Elegant Escape and Coo Star Sivola all behind also looks very solid form.
Still lightly raced, this is a horse who should be open to further improvement.
Simon Holt's recommended bets:
Posted at 1130 GMT on 13/03/18.