Paul Townend retains the faith with luckless Dublin Racing Festival second Lossiemouth and the champion jockey should be able to make it back-to-back wins in this race after scoring in the same colours aboard Vauban 12 months ago. Stablemate Blood Destiny has been impressive but this will be his biggest test yet and he looks more of a long-term prospect than the selection, who is a precocious juvenile. Trust in Townend to have made the right call in a race where Willie Mullins could easily saddle the first three home.
SELECTION: LOSSIEMOUTH. ALTERNATIVE: BLOOD DESTINY
Irish-trained novice hurdlers have often been worth following in this £100,000 affair but a change to the qualification rules this season mean it is more difficult for unexposed youngsters to have a crack at big handicaps like this. That has diminished the visiting challenge in this race, and it could leave the door open for well-handicapped novice Pembroke to collect for the home team. Trained by Dan Skelton, he has every chance of being better than his rating and dropping in distance looks a wise move on the basis of his latest second here over further. Of the Irish challengers, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Path D’Oroux has an attractive profile and should be on the premises under Keith Donoghue, who has already got on the scoresheet this week.
SELECTION: PEMBROKE ALTERNATIVE:PATH D’OROUX
J.P. McManus has already hit the target through one of his pre-Cheltenham purchases this week, with A Dream To Share landing Wednesday’s Champion Bumper, and hugely exciting six-year-old Corbetts Cross looks another shrewd acquisition by the legendary owner. There was loads to like about how he coped with a sharp drop in distance last time and he looks the most talented runner in the line-up for Emmet Mullins. Another of McManus’ runners, Dawn Rising, looks a thorough stayer and could represent each-way value for Joseph O’Brien.
SELECTION: CORBETTS CROSS. ALTERNATIVE: DAWN RISING
It’s difficult to look beyond big-race favourite Galopin Des Champs for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. The big question mark is whether he will definitely stay the distance as he steps up to this trip for the first time, but connections appear to have immense confidence in his stamina. He could simply prove too good for his rivals if excelling at the distance. Plenty are in with chances, though, including last year’s runaway winner A Plus Tard. However, his stablemate Minella Indo looks much too big in the market from an each-way perspective at 22/1. His record at Cheltenham is superb as a former Gold Cup winner and runner-up.
SELECTION: GALOPIN DES CHAMPS. ALTERNATIVE: MINELLA INDO
A tricky affair in which Vaucelet can atone for his near-miss in this race last year when reeled in by Billaway. That rival, now an 11-year-old, didn’t look overly impressive on his winning comeback at Naas, whereas the selection has age on his side as an eight-year-old. Famous Clermont appears the best of the British challenge and shouldn’t be far away.
SELECTION: VAUCELET ALTERNATIVE: FAMOUS CLERMONT
Allegorie De Vassy is one of the strongest fancies of the afternoon as her trainer Willie Mullins bids to win this race for the third straight year since its inception. This will be the selection’s biggest test over fences and she heads to Prestbury Park with less chasing experience than ideal, but she might just be in a different league to her rivals. Impervious, another Irish-trained novice, should give her most to think about for Wexford-based trainer Colm Murphy.
SELECTION: ALLEGORIE DE VASSY ALTERNATIVE: IMPERVIOUS
Gordon Elliott can end the meeting on a high note with his six-strong team in the finale. Imagine, who looks well handicapped and has plenty of scope to improve now stepping up in trip, is the pick of his squad. Ben Harvey is one of the most experienced conditional riders in the line-up and looks a good booking. Cool Survivor is feared as another live challenger for the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, while Iroko looks the liveliest of the British team.
SELECTION: IMAGINE ALTERNATIVE: COOL SURVIVOR