Here are five stories to follow…
A monkey off Mullins’ back?
Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, having saddled 72 winners since 1995, but remarkably he has never won the Champion Chase.
The Irishman looks to have as good a chance as ever of ending that hoodoo this year, with Chacun Pour Soi the short-priced favourite for this afternoon’s feature.
The nine-year-old’s career has been plagued by injury and he was dramatically ruled out on the morning of last year’s race when a leading fancy but, touch-wood, his preparation seems to have been ideal this season, with three wins from three including two Grade 1s.
No Altior – but plenty of challengers
Of course, Chacun Pour Soi was not the only horse ruled out at short notice last year, with four-time Festival winner Altior another late casualty and, sadly, history has repeated itself, with Nicky Henderson withdrawing his charge on Monday morning following a dirty scope.
So just who might put it up to Chacun? Nube Negra inflicted Altior’s first two-mile defeat over fences at Christmas last time out, while the defending champion Politologue is looking to retain his crown, but must reverse the form of his Clarence House defeat to another contender First Flow.
Throw in last year’s Arkle winner, Put The Kettle On and Sceau Royal, who would relish decent ground, and there’s plenty to take a chance on for those out to topple the favourite.
It could well be a memorable day for Rich and Susannah Ricci, who not only have Chacun Pour Soi carrying their colours, but another Mullins hot-pot in Monkfish.
Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner goes into the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – previously known as the RSA – as an odds-on favourite having won all three of his chase starts so far.
A commanding victory will no doubt set tails wagging with a view to next year’s Gold Cup even before this year’s has been run.
Can Tiger roll back the years?
Tiger Roll is perhaps the most famous Jumps horse in training, courtesy of his two Grand National wins, and millions around the country will no doubt be willing the 11-year-old on to a fifth Festival triumph in the Cross Country Chase this afternoon.
However, he must show a marked improvement on this season’s form if he is to have a chance of avenging his defeat to French raider Easysland in this race twelve months ago.
Star trio headline Ballymore
Before all that, the action gets underway with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, a race which has been won by multiple Festival winners Samcro, Envoi Allen, Faugheen and Yorkhill in the last decade alone.
This season’s renewal looks, at the head of the market at least, the best quality of the novice hurdles at this year’s Festival, with a trio of Grade 1 winners in Bob Olinger, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame set to clash.