Matt Brocklebank is keen to get a couple of horses on side for Cheltenham before they potentially enhance their credentials this weekend.
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With the Dublin Racing Festival looming large this weekend, there's still time for another major overhaul in the antepost market for several Cheltenham races, including the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Altior, Chacun Pour Soi and Defi Du Seuil have been vying for favouritism throughout the season and the latter took full control of matters when following up his Tingle Creek win with a taking performance in Ascot's Clarence House Chase.
Defi Du Seuil is just about the complete package now as his jumping looked a touch scruffy still at the start of the season when scrambling home in the Shloer Chase.
He's improved a lot in that department and doesn't really have anything to prove when it comes to ground conditions either having been equally as effective on proper spring ground when dominating the juvenile division in his youth.
He sets the bar at which to aim but at 2/1 the juice in his price has completely dried up and there's still a big question over how we read last season's Punchestown form when Chacun Pour Soi slammed him by over four lengths.
That was Chacun Pour Soi's second run of a really light novice campaign, whereas Philip Hobbs' Cheltenham Festival winner was having his sixth.
That probably told on the day and I'd expect Defi Du Seuil - who also bad a bad blunder at the fifth-last at Punchestown - to reverse the form this March, especially after Chacun Pour Soi's relatively disappointing comeback run behind A Plus Tard over Christmas.
A Plus Tard has long been considered a Ryanair Chase contender by trainer Henry De Bromhead but he clearly has plenty of gears and it will be fascinating to see how that pair shape up again in Saturday's Ladbrokes Dublin Chase.
With John Durkan winner Min now all but certain to take the Ryanair route, he might not be asked to drop back in trip this weekend but Willie Mullins' must be tempted to roll the dice with CILAOS EMERY against the supposed 'big two'.
He has an identical official rating to A Plus Tard (165) after his two really impressive wins at the minimum trip this season and he's now unbeaten from three chase starts in total having bolted up at Gowran Park on his only novice outing last January.
A setback ruled him out of the Festival but given he'd thrashed Impact Factor, eventual Arkle winner Duc De Genievres and Ex Patriot at Gowran, then it's not hard to image he'd have gone close.
This season he's been very good, beating Ornua by nine-and-a-half lengths in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas before another improved effort in a three-runner Hilly Way Chase field at Cork.
He and Ballyoisin went at it from quite a long way out and put Great Field under so much pressure he unseated Jody McGarvey. Danny Mullins sent Cilaos Emery to the front three out and he measured the last two fences extremely well for such an inexperienced chaser.
Ballyoisin, beaten seven lengths at the line, had previously beaten A Plus Tard two and three-quarters in the Fortria at Navan so there is plenty of substance to the form.
It would take a pretty significant performance for anything to usurp Defi Du Seuil at the top of the Champion Chase market but while some punters are keeping the faith with the much-vaunted Chacun Pour Soi, the value currently appears to lie with his 10/1 (General) stablemate who possesses a similar level of potential.
The other horse I'm keen to get on side before the weekend is FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES, who has upcoming options at Leopardstown and Sandown.
The entry in Sandown's Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown is particularly interesting as that's obviously over two and a half miles, while he could also be stepped back up in trip in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Saturday's ERSG Arkle Novice Chase is widely considered the most likely place we'll see him over the weekend, but he'd face a rematch with Boxing Day conqueror Notebook if heading down that route.
Perhaps connections will fancy a rematch with the De Bromhead runner, but Fakir D'Oudairies always looked to have plenty of stamina in his juvenile hurdle appearances last year, and his best run this term arguably came in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
He may not have had Samcro's measure at the time of that horse's departure but he kept the revs up all the way to the line, eventually finishing 22 lengths clear of Ronald Pump, who is no mug himself.
Fakir D'Oudairies was a staying-on fourth to Klassical Dream in last year's Sky Bet Supreme before pushing Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills close at Aintree, so we shouldn't expect his form to tail off in the spring.
He was getting 7lb from Notebook at Leopardstown when last seen and was dropped a pound in the ratings on the back of that display, but there was no disgrace in the run, just getting a little tapped for toe at a crucial stage before running on strongly from the last fence.
Everything suggests that two miles just isn't enough of a test for him now and whatever happens this weekend, he looks a much better bet at 14/1 (Ladbrokes) for the Marsh than 11/2 generally for the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham. The former is a price I'm more than willing to take now.
Mister Fisher enhanced his Festival claims last weekend with a tidy victory in Doncaster's Lightning Novices' Chase from Al Dancer, who I remain fairly sweet on for the Arkle.
The winner looks likely to step back up to the Marsh trip and it was interesting to hear his trainer Nicky Henderson admit the horse was nowhere near his peak at last year's Festival when down the field in the Sky Bet Supreme.
The current 10/1 about him appears fair but the big potential springer in this market is Allaho, who is seen as a possible RSA Chase contender as well but Mullins might consider sticking to the intermediate trip for the time being.
Last year's Albert Bartlett third absolutely bolted up over the extended two mile, five furlongs at Fairyhouse, where his jumping was exemplary, and he's not short of pace either.
If he's confirmed for this event then expect the 12/1 prices to go rapidly but for now it's Fakir D'Oudairies who rates the best bet.
Posted at 1420 GMT on 28/01/20
Antepost Angle: Cheltenham Festival tips
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