With last year’s winner Nichols Canyon sadly no longer around, a new champion of the three-mile hurdling division will be crowned and sound cases can be made for four or five.
Yanworth holds Supasundae on their meeting at Aintree last year, but has not run over hurdles since and returns to the smaller obstacles on the back of a mixed season over fences.
Sam Spinner would be a popular winner for northern-based trainer Jedd O’Keeffe, but he is unproven on the track, while Penhill is respected after winning the Albert Bartlett here a year ago.
However, Supasundae is also a previous Festival winner, having run out a decisive victor in the Coral Cup 12 months ago, and has enjoyed the perfect preparation.
The eight year old appears to be better than ever, judged on his defeat of Faugheen in last month’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and, while there are doubts over whether he will be as effective back at three miles, both trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power displayed infectious enthusiasm during a recent stable visit.
The Ryanair Chase looks at the mercy of defending champion Un De Sceaux.
The 10-year-old has a tremendous record, having won 20 of his 26 career starts and there is no suggestion his powers are on the wane after he claimed a historic third victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.
In four previous visits to Prestbury Park he has won this race, the Arkle Trophy and a rearranged Clarence House Chase, as well as finishing second to Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
With conditions in his favour, he should prove very hard to beat.
Terrefort gets the nod in what does not look a vintage renewal of the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s French import made a mockery of an opening mark of 137 on his British debut at Huntingdon in January and knuckled down well to follow up in last month’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown, seeing off subsequent winner Cyrname.
Connections were initially lukewarm on the idea of a Festival appearance but, with the ground being right and no real superstars up against him, it is no surprise they have been tempted into letting him take his chance.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Glenloe looks a potential blot on the handicap in the Pertemps Final, while King’s Socks is of major interest for the David Pipe team in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.
Willie Mullins has been fulsome in his praise of Laurina, who bids to provide the Irish champion trainer with a third successive win in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.