Champion Chase big guns Altior and Douvan stand ground for showpiece

Thu 8 Mar 2018

By staff

Altior and Douvan remain on course for a mouthwatering clash at Cheltenham on Wednesday after featuring among 10 confirmations for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Nicky Henderson's Altior has missed much of the season after undergoing a wind operation in the autumn, but is odds-on across the board to claim his third Festival success following a sparkling reappearance at Newbury last month.

The Willie Mullins-trained Douvan has not been seen in competitive action since suffering a shock defeat and injury in this race a year ago, but as a former winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham - like Altior - he will be a fascinating contender if he returns to Prestbury Park next week.

Whether Douvan makes the journey across the Irish Sea or not, Mullins has confirmed his intention to saddle Min. The seven-year-old was runner-up to Altior in the Supreme two years ago and produced what was arguably his most polished performance over fences to date in the Coral Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month.

Mullins has also left in Un De Sceaux, although he has said he will defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase 24 hours later.

Betfair Super Saturday - Newbury Races Altior is among ten left in the Champion Chase on Wednesday (PA)

Last year's Champion Chase hero Special Tiara is one of two contenders for Henry de Bromhead, along with Ordinary World. The Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue, Gary Moore's Ar Mad, Kim Bailey's Charbel and God's Own from Tom George's yard complete the possible line-up.

Samcro is the headline act among 38 horses confirmed for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Gordon Elliott's striking chestnut extended his unbeaten record to six with a scintillating display in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and is widely regarded as one of the bankers of the week in the opening race on day two of the Festival.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old is Elliott's only remaining entry in the two-mile-five-furlong contest, whereas his great rival Willie Mullins still has 14 horses in contention.

Ante-post favourite Presenting Percy tops a list of 22 horses still in contention for the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase.

Trained by Pat Kelly, Presenting Percy won the Pertemps Final over hurdles at the meeting last year and was last seen chasing home Gold Cup hope Our Duke over fences at Gowran in February.

Samcro study - Feb 2018 - Leopardstown Samcro is the only Elliott-trained runner left in the Ballymore (Racingfotos)

Alan King has left in Mia's Storm but she could bypass the race in favour of the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree on April 13.

King said: "I will walk the course on Sunday and see what it is like. If it is worse than good to soft she won't run. If she doesn't run she will go straight to the three-mile-one Grade One novice chase at Aintree."

Mullins has saddled a record eight previous winners in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and has a formidable hand once again with Blackbow, Carefully Selected, Squadron Commander, Tornado Flyer, Colreevy and Relegate all among the 25 confirmations.

However, the well-fancied Hollowgraphic is a notable absentee.

The Coral Cup weights are headed by the Mullins-trained Bleu Et Rouge. Other leading contenders among 87 remaining hopefuls include his stablemate Max Dynamite and Nicky Henderson's William Henry.

Twenty horses go forward for the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country course. Last year's winner Cause Of Causes is set to be taken on by stable companion Tiger Roll, a four-strong Enda Bolger team headed by Josies Orders, and Kim Bailey's 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri, among others.

Cause Of Causes will be bidding for a remarkable fourth Festival success, having previously landed the National Hunt Chase and the Kim Muir under regular partner Jamie Codd.

Casa Tall tops the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, with leading ante-post hopes Act Of Valour, Nube Negra and Mitchouka all standing their ground.

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