Cheltenham Festival Contenders: Three Horses To Watch In Ireland This Weekend

Horses head-on
Timeform highlight three horses putting their Cheltenham credentials to the test

Timeform highlight three horses whose Cheltenham credentials will be put to the test in Ireland this weekend.

"...he is an exciting prospect and should book his ticket to the Festival."

Timeform on Carefully Selected

Allaho (12:25 Fairyhouse, Saturday)

Allaho quickly developed into a leading staying novice hurdler last season, winning a Grade 3 at Clonmel in February before finishing placed in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival and Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. He made a highly promising chase debut at Leopardstown over Christmas, despite failing to justify favouritism, simply looking undone by a lack of peak fitness, like others from the Willie Mullins stable at that meeting.

Allaho had to settle for second at Leopardstown but he jumped soundly in the main, which offers plenty of encouragement, and he should take a big step forward. He should prove difficult to beat in this beginners' chase and can advertise his claims for the RSA Novices' Chase, for which he is a top price of 16/1.

Dolcita (14:10 Fairyhouse, Saturday)

Willie Mullins has dominated the Mares' Novices' Hurdle, winning all four runnings since its inception in 2016. His most impressive winner was Laurina, who registered a devastating 18-length success two years ago, and Dolcita - who also carries the colours of Jared Sullivan - appears to be following the same path to Cheltenham. The French recruit rocketed to the head of the betting for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle after winning in style at Tramore, in the same race Laurina had won with such authority.

Dolcita travelled noticeably powerfully and deployed a good turn of foot at Tramore, marking herself down as one to follow. She faces a much stiffer task in the Grade 3 Solerina Novice Hurdle on Saturday, taking on a host of similarly promising rivals, and the race will pose a good examination of her Cheltenham credentials.

Carefully Selected (14:10 Naas, Sunday)

Connections have seemingly decided that the National Hunt Chase is the target for Carefully Selected (he's not entered in the RSA) and he has to finish in the first four here to qualify. They will be hoping for better than a first-four finish, though, as Carefully Selected has created a big impression since being sent over fences, doing well to overcome a serious error at Fairyhouse before following up in a Grade 3 at Punchestown last time, where he always looked to have matters under control.

Carefully Selected showed that he was a strong stayer over hurdles (finished third behind Minella Indo and Allaho in a Grade 1 at Punchestown) and he remains open to improvement now facing a sufficient test of stamina. This won't be easy under a 6 lb penalty and against a useful rival like Ronald Pump, but he is an exciting prospect and should book his ticket to the Festival.

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