Here are four stories to follow…
Paisley Park’s win in the Stayers’ Hurdle two years ago was one of the great Festival feel-good stories, but, having looked set to dominate the division for years to come, Emma Lavelle’s stable star disappointed in the race 12 months ago and was subsequently found to have a heart issue.
Lavelle has worked wonders to get the nine-year-old back near his best and he is favourite to recapture his crown this afternoon.
A third instalment of the rivalry with Thyme Hill that has been one of the highlights of the British season so far – the pair claiming a victory apiece – is off the table after that horse suffered a minor injury, but the Irish bring a number of intriguing contenders, including two-time Festival winner Sire Du Berlais.
Best of luck with the Ryanair
The Ryanair Chase looks one of the most competitive – and most challenging for punters – races of the week.
The field is littered with a mixture of second-season chasers yet to prove their ability at the very highest level and horses of undoubted quality but with question marks next to their name after poor runs last time out. And then there’s Melon, the perennial Cheltenham bridesmaid who has finished second four times at the Festival without ever getting his head in front.
Willie Mullins’ Allaho has been at the head of the betting but looks easy enough to oppose. The question is, what with?
The beloved Irish banker
They say there’s nothing quite like that proverbial Irish banker going in at Cheltenham, even if crowds are missing this year, and it is probably Envoi Allen who shoulders that burden this year as he looks to maintain his unbeaten record in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and become a three-time Festival winner.
Preparation has not been ideal, the seven-year-old having been moved to Henry De Bromhead’s yard by his owners, Cheveley Park Stud, in the wake of the Gordon Elliott scandal.
If the late switch represents a reason to think he might be beaten, it may well be the only one.
Willie Mullins Benefit Race
Willie Mullins has won every renewal of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle since its inception in 2016, but will be left ruing the one that got away if Skyace lands the contest this afternoon.
The six-year-old ran three times for Mullins before being picked up for the bargain price of £600 by the Birdinthehand Syndicate and has been an eye-catching improver since being switched to John Hanlon last summer.