Timeform take you through the card on Tuesday, the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
"It was only 12 months ago that he was fourth in the Gold Cup and back down to a mark of 153 here, he is only 8 lb higher than when winning this race two years ago..."
13:30 - A winner of both his starts for the Willie Mullins yard, Min is a strong favourite to give his trainer and jockey Ruby Walsh a fourth consecutive win in this race. Min has always carried a lofty reputation and was impressive when winning the same Punchestown Grade 2 Vautour and Douvan took en-route to Supreme glory. He has a bit to find with Altior on Timeform ratings, but is open to more improvement than that rival and deserves his place at the head of the market here. Altior is respected, but it's worth trying to find a horse that might make the frame at a bigger price with the Placepot in mind and Bellshill fits the bill nicely. A stablemate of Min, Bellshill was a good winner of his first three starts over hurdles and can be forgiven a poor effort at Leopardstown last time. A smart performer in bumpers last year, he has a similar profile to what 2015 Supreme-second Shaneshill had going into the race and Bellshil could be the one to follow Min home and can provide Mullins with another 1-2 in this race.
14:10 - Douvan is unbeaten in eight starts for the Willie Mullins yard and there is no reason why he shouldn't make that nine here. Winner of last year's Supreme, he has hardly come off the bridle in three starts over fences and showed a sparkling turn of foot on his most recent outing in a Leopardstown Grade 1 to put distance between himself and his rivals from the back of the last. He is already some 14 lb clear of today's rivals on Timeform ratings, with the promise of more to come over fences and Douvan can win here with a clear round. Sizing John appeals most for the forecast spot, although The Game Changer will probably be ridden to pick up the pieces and can give him most to do in the battle for second.
14:50 - Holywell won this race in 2014 and, although he has been disappointing in three starts this season, there are reasons to believe that a revival could be on the cards here. It was only 12 months ago that he was fourth in the Gold Cup and back down to a mark of 153 here, he is only 8 lb higher than when winning this race two years ago. He thrives around Cheltenham, will enjoy the better ground than when running below par this winter and looks well-handicapped on his best form of last year. He rates a solid selection for the Placepot, a comment that also applies to Morning Assembly. Third in the 2014 RSA Chase, Morning Assembly missed last season with injury, but showed he retains plenty of ability when second over inadequate trips on both his starts this year. He will appreciate the stiffer test of stamina here and, although the unexposed Out Sam is feared, Holywell and Morning Assembly have enough classy from in the book to make them a good pair to go to war with in the Placepot.
15:30 - Annie Power is a worthy favourite for this race after the injury to stablemate and defending champion Faugheen, but she will most likely need a career-best to win here and it might be worth opposing her in the Placepot with a couple of solid alternatives. Unlike Annie Power, The New One has been trained specifically for this race all winter and already has some good Champion Hurdle form to his name. He was an unlucky third in 2014 and suffered from health issues prior to his respectable fifth in last year's renewal. He is reported to have had a much smoother preparation this time round and, with trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies typically bullish, The New One looks primed to run a big race in his bid to make it third time lucky. He is joined in the Placepot by Nichols Canyon, a winner of seven of his nine completed starts in this discipline and a proven stayer. His stamina will be be a valuable asset if he's involved in a battle up the Cheltenham hill and this hardy customer rates a very sound bet to make the frame.
16:10 - A familiar theme emerging as Vroum Vroum Mag comes here with an unbeaten record of eight wins from eight starts since joining the Willie Mullins yard. However, she is unproven on good ground and might be worth taking on with the admirable Polly Peachum. Second in this race last year, Polly Peachum won despite the conditions at Sandown on her most recent start and, unlike Vroum Vroum Mag, we know she will relish the return to a sounder surface here. She is only 1 lb behind Vroum Vroum Mag on Timeform ratings and, although open to less improvement than that rival, her consistent profile makes her a good bet to at least make the frame here, and could sign off her career with a win if the favourite is indeed undone by today's conditions.
16:50 - Ballychorus is clear of her rivals on Timeform ratings and can give her trainer a second Festival winner after Martello Tower's win 12 months ago. She still held every chance when falling at the last in the competitive Troytown Chase in November and repeated the trick when beginning to deliver a challenge on her penultimate start. However, she got back on track with a confidence boosting win at Thurles last time and shapes as if she will relish this longer trip and might even improve for it. There's very few others you can say that about in this race and she is fancied to go very well here. Native River provides a strong second string to our Placepot bow and is another who looks sure to be suited by this stiff test of stamina. He has raced lazily on his last two starts, but if first-time cheekpieces can help him stay in touch with the leaders on the first circuit, few rivals will be finishing as strongly as him up the Cheltenham hill.
17:30 - Double Shuffle and Amore Alato could be the two to take against the field here. The former has performed with credit in two starts at this track and the form of his Ludlow win in December has since been boosted by the runner-up. He has been given a break since that effort and looks to hold sound claims, a comment that also applies to Amore Alato. He is attractively weighted on the form of his Ascot run in December, where he looked to have seen off the likes of Le Mercurey, Thomas Brown and Out Sam, when unseating his jockey at the last. Not disgraced in good company on two subsequent starts, he is a fair price to break his maiden over fences in this competitive heat.
Back Holywell in the 14:50 at Cheltenham
Back Ballychorus in the 16:50 at Cheltenham
13:30 - 2, 6
14:10 - 3
14:50 - 2, 6
15:30 - 6, 11
16:10 - 14
16:50 - 8, 20
= 16 lines
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