King charge Uxizandre can take flight in Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham
LAST year's Festival saw Sprinter Sacre complete a Lazarus-like return and this time it can be Uxizandre who rises like a phoenix to regain his Ryanair Chase title on day three at Cheltenham.
Uxizandre is unlikely to spark quite the same emotional scenes as Sprinter Sacre did, but he certainly has a very special place in Festival history as he gave Tony McCoy his final winner at the meeting when lifting this race in 2015.
That was certainly an unexpected victory as he had shown only a limited amount in his two previous runs, but he benefited from a classic McCoy ride as he made every yard to run out a five-length winner.
However, Uxizandre has suffered his troubles since and did not actually reappear until chasing home Un De Sceaux in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase on Trials Day at Cheltenham in January.
He has five lengths to find with the winner here, but there is every reason to believe the Alan King-trained Uxizandre can make up that difference and more.
Uxizandre will surely have tightened up considerably for his first competitive action in nearly two years, while switching back up in trip from two miles is also a plus given the way he stayed on up the hill at this meeting two years ago.
Any drying of the ground would certainly not go against Uxizandre, in contrast to the favourite, and he can snatch back his crown to kick off what could be another memorable afternoon for owner JP McManus.
Unowhatimeanharry also sports the green and gold of McManus and he appears set to carry all before him in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.
Unbeaten since joining Harry Fry in November 2015, the nine-year-old hit the mark in last year's Albert Bartlett and has thoroughly impressed in each of his three outings this term.
Unowhatimeanharry can seemingly handle any ground, having won on soft at Newbury on his return before strolling home on slightly quicker conditions in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
His victory in the Cleeve Hurdle, when he beat previous staying champion Cole Harden, should have put him spot on for this, particularly as he appeared to have a fair bit left in the locker at the line.
Backing him will not make you rich, but he certainly should not lose you any money.
Paul Nicholls has spoken in glowing terms about Politologue and given the JLT Novices' Chase has long been on the agenda, he should not be ignored.
The six-year-old is three from four over fences this term, with his only defeat coming behind Waiting Patiently at Haydock back in January.
He probably just paid the price for racing keenly on Merseyside and the winner is certainly no slouch, so it is probably best to judge Politologue on his previous wins at Haydock and Ascot, when he impressed on both occasions.
His victory at Kempton last time out was really a given, but it at least showed Nicholls the addition of a hood could help curb his eagerness and his jumping is more than good enough to withstand the rigours of Cheltenham.
Road To Respect stood no chance against Acapella Bourgeois as that one led the field a merry dance at Navan, but he is an interesting candidate as he switches to handicaps for the first time over fences in the Brown Advisory and Merribelle Stable Plate.
The well-regarded winner was allowed far too much of an early lead at Navan and took full advantage, leaving Road To Respect to come out on top in the scramble for second.
Noel Meade's charge has been trying his hand in Grade One company this term and while he is short of that calibre, he could be a surprise package here.
Airlie Beach can seal a famous success for owners The Supreme Racing Club in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle having had a nice break since claiming Grade One gold back in December.
A six-and-a-half-length winner of the Royal Bond, Airlie Beach was chased home by Saturnas who has also since gone on to score at the highest level, giving the form a really solid look.
Let's Dance is Willie Mullins's number one hope, but Airlie Beach already has the form in the book.
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final is another tricky puzzle, but the progressive Impulsive Star can be the solution for Neil Mulholland following an impressive victory at Exeter.
Hadrian's Approach can give his rider a good spin in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup and his fourth in the Welsh National makes him a worthy contender.
IRISH NEWS YANKEE
Treble: Road To Respect
Yankee: Impulsive Star