Betting takes a back seat when there is a brilliant horse on show and that is certainly the case with Douvan, who can live up to his top billing in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
While many star names are missing from the Festival, the Willie Mullins-trained Douvan is the one that National Hunt fans cannot wait to see strut his stuff. Douvan has won at the last two Festivals, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle, and provided he puts in his usual sound round of jumping, then he should outclass the opposition. He is nine out of nine over fences and looked as good as ever when strolling home in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown last month in his last public appearance.
With Douvan certain to go off at long odds-on, there may be each-way value in Special Tiara for a place.
Henry de Bromhead’s runner was third to Sprinter Sacre 12 months ago and can be excused his last performance behind Un De Sceaux on this course as he would have hated the testing ground. Special Tiara is a better horse when spring arrives.
Alpha Des Obeaux found only Thistlecrack too good in last year’s World Hurdle and the Irish raider is fancied to go one better in the RSA Chase. Mouse Morris’ charge is clearly suited by the better ground conditions in the spring and by three miles.
However, the only time he has run over that trip over fences was a big disappointment as he broke a blood vessel in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and was pulled up.
Morris has since given Alpha Des Obeaux a clean bill of health and seems quite keen on the seven-year-old’s prospects.
His overall profile gives him a big chance.
Tombstone ruffled a few feathers when overturning Jezki in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park last month to emerge as a leading contender for the Coral Cup.
Though that race was over two miles, there is no reason why he shouldn’t stay the two-mile-five of this helter skelter of a handicap hurdle.
He ran a blinder in last year’s Supreme, staying on strongly to take fourth place behind Altior to suggest a longer trip would hold no fears for the Gordon Elliott-trained seven year-old, who did look like going for the Champion Hurdle before being given a tempting mark for this.
Neon Wolf is seen by many as a banker, having created an almighty impression visually when winning his only two starts over hurdles to date at Exeter and Haydock.
His performance at the latter track had Cheltenham written all over it and the six-year-old , trained by Harry Fry, pictured below left, will surely be hard to beat in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Dino Velvet looks on a good mark to make his presence felt in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. He appeared promising when running out an eight-length winner at Sandown back in December before finding Grade One company completely beyond him at Chepstow at Christmas.
His three-length second behind Don Bersy at Warwick in January reads particularly well and while he was well beaten at Ludlow last time, he sneaks in here off a low weight and could well rise to the challenge.