Douvan should stroll to Champion Chase victory for Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins's Douvan is the top-rated chaser in Ireland and will go off around the 1/4 mark for this afternoon's two-mile Champion Chase, the £365,760 feature on the second day of the Cheltenham meeting.
The 174-rated seven-year-old has won at the Festival for the last two years and has an unbeaten record as he bids for a 14th consecutive success.
Defeat is unthinkable unless fate intervenes.
Second-favourite in the market is Colin Tizzard's Fox Norton. The pair have had two previous encounters with Douvan coming out well to the good, 32 lengths in front of Fox Norton on the most recent meeting.
The 10 year-old Special Tiara has twice finished third in this race, behind Sprinter Sacre last year and behind Dodging Bullets previously. Douvan can gain his 14th win with the minimum of fuss.
Neon Wolf and Bacardys will both be popular in the opening Neptune Novices' Hurdle but the two-mile-five-furlong contest has had a few casualties in the build-up with Finian's Oscar a notable absentee due to injury.
Mullins has also taken his multiple winner Let's Dance out, presumably waiting for later in the week.
Our champion trainer still saddles four of the 15 runners, headed by dual Leopardstown winner Bacardys.
Nothing in the race has anything in hand of Gordon Elliott's mare Shattered Love and the 7lb mares' allowance swings it for her.
Labaik was the early shocker for the yard in yesterday's opener and when a stable can win with a character like that then anything is possible.
The RSA chase is another of Cheltenham's major races that appears on the decline as this three-mile stamina test often bottoms out its winners.
Only 12 runners, five of them Irish-trained, of which Bellshill might be best. A short-priced favourite but beaten when falling behind Disko at Leopardstown a month, he may struggle against Might Bite, Whisper and Royal Vacation.
The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle is always difficult but amongst the Irish contingent there are a couple I really like, namely Mullins's Tin Soldier, whose treatment by the handicapper must have brought a smile to the faces of connections.
Since declaration time yesterday his price has contracted from 16/1.
Carrig Cathal ran second to Rathpatrick at Naas on Sunday and just squeezes in here on bottom weight. Denis O'Regan rides, replacing Jack Kennedy who partners stablemate Auomated.
Scoir Mear (David Mullins) is another that merits a place on any short list.
Ballboker Bridge runs well around here and has an outsider's chance in the cross-country chase against fancied types amongst the 10 Irish candidates such as Cause Of Causes and perhaps First Lieutenant.
The Irish runners in the four-year-old handicap hurdle all seemed to be handicapped 6lb above their Irish marks. I suppose Ruby's booking for Gavin Cromwell's Prospectus is interesting but I can't take an interest.
There are 10 Irish runners in the bumper and of that party I'd prefer Next Destination over Someday and Debuchet.
1.30 Shattered Love (Nap)
2.10 Might Bite
2.50 Tin Soldier (Dbl)
4.10 Cause Of Causes
5.30 Next Destination
2.50 Carrig Cathal
3.30 Fox Norton
4.10 Ballyboker Bridge
4.50 Long Call