Nicky Henderson’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini is among 10 contenders in the Paddy Power ’45 Sleeps To Cheltenham’ Cotswold Chase.
He has yet to win in two outings this season, at Aintree and when fifth in the King George VI Chase.
Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, fourth in the King George, rates as a serious danger as does Bristol De Mai, fresh from this third win in the Betfair Chase.
Twelve months ago, Santini and Bristol De Mai had a terrific tussle in the Cotswold Chase with the former prevailing.
The Verdict: watch what experts made of the Cotswold Chase last year
One who could be out again quickly is Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki, who only won at Taunton on Saturday.
“If it poured with rain on Thursday and Friday I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t put him in the race, though it is a tentative entry,” said Nicholls.
“He is hard to place off his mark of 161 and has not got any kind of penalty in this race.
“Some of the others that are going to run in the Gold Cup might not want a slog at this stage round Cheltenham, so it could cut up.”
Rehearsal Chase winner Yorkhill, David Bridgwater’s The Conditional and a previous Gold Cup winner in Native River (Colin Tizzard) are among the entries.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, Colin, said of Native River: “We want to get another run into Native River and the Cotswold Chase looks ideal. He ran a blinder at Aintree and he still had every chance bypassing the last. He has run a really solid race. He is a good old boy and seems in great form at home. He had a little school under Jonjo O’Neill on Wednesday morning. It will be interesting to see what turns up in the race. I imagine Santini will be there and there wasn’t much between them last time.
“As he has got older, he is certainly more ground dependent. He could have got away with it when he was younger but it would need to be soft for him to run in a Gold Cup.”
Paddy Power bet: 15-8 Santini, 5-2 Bristol De Mai, 7-2 Native River, 6 Saint Calvados, 8 Lake View Lad, 10 Yala Enki, 14 The Conditional, 16 Mister Malarky, 25 Yorkhill, 40 Lord Du Mesnil
Flashback: How good was Paisley Park 12 months ago?
Star staying hurdler Paisley Park is among nine entries for Saturday’s Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Emma Lavelle’s stalwart got back to winning ways last time out in a thrilling finish with Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
Philip Hobbs has not entered his charge this time around, but the Ascot form was boosted at the weekend when Roksana, who was third, was an easy winner.
“On paper it might not look as tough as the Long Walk, that’s true, and he’s in great order,” said Lavelle.
“What will be nice will be to go back to Cheltenham and have a nice experience after what happened at the Festival last year.
“While I’m glad there’s not going to be a massive field, I want him to have a nice experience. I certainly wouldn’t say it looks easy, though – all races at this level are difficult.
Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman told us about Paisley Park's latest win on Luck On Sunday
“We’ll be giving weight away, but he seems in great order and the timing of this race is absolutely perfect as we can let him down a bit after it.
“Obviously the ground looks like being testing, but we can’t do much about that. We’d love it if the forecast was a bit better and it wasn’t a real slog, but it is what it is. He loves racing, this horse.”
Harry Fry’s veteran Unowhatimeanharry is among potential opponents, along with the David Pipe duo of Ramses De Teillee and Main Fact, who had his long winning run ended in the Long Walk.
Itchy Feet could return to hurdles for Olly Murphy, with Third Wind (Hughie Morrison) another possible.
Paddy Power bet: 1-2 Paisley Park, 9-2 Itchy Feet, 7 Honest Vic, Main Fact, 10 Third Wind, 16 Unowhatimeanharry, 25 Ramses De Teillee, 33 Décor Irlandais, 66 Hear No Evil
Nicky Martin’s Bear Ghylls is among 14 in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, with Lecale’s Article and Wilde About Oscar in the mix.
The Pipe-trained Adagio, already a Grade One winner this season, is one of 15 in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle along with Gary Moore’s Nassalam, who was second to him at Chepstow.
Heross Du Seuil, Honneur D’Ajonc and Sage Advice ensure plenty of strength in depth.
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