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Cheltenham Clues: Bravemansgame ticks another box

It might not have been the all-conquering Saturday that champion trainer Paul Nicholls dreamed of at Newbury, but the winning start from Bravemansgame certainly was a major plus-point for Team Ditcheat.

There was also a sparkling display from Edwardstone in the Kingmaker at Warwick, ensuring Britain's novice chasing team looks quite strong, though the Champion Bumper could be a benefit for Ireland after Willie Mullins unleashed another star on Sunday at Punchestown.

Here's our look at some of the weekend's performances and how they impact on the Cheltenham Festival markets.

Nicholls rising star has Game

The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase on 16th March now looks to be the next destination for 11/4 hope Bravemansgame after he won at Newbury on Saturday.

Given the poor form of Paul Nicholls' string entering the weekend - he'd not sent out a single runner all week as he attempted to get to the bottom of some laboured efforts - it was a tense opener as Bravemansgame and Harry Cobden went about conceding a stone and more to some useful rivals in that novices' handicap chase.

Just the merest semblance of a mistake at the third last, where Bravemansgame brushed through the top of the fence, allowed Pat's Fancy to gain a slender advantage and - briefly - must have left Nicholls fearing a major setback.

But his improving seven-year-old didn't let anyone down, pushing back to the lead and clearing the final two obstacles with aplomb for his fourth win in as many chase starts.

Each of his wins this season has had something meritorious about it but the biggest challenge awaits Bravemansgame in the Cotswolds where he's likely to be meeting 11/10 chance Galopin Des Champs from the Willie Mullins camp.

They made the running on Saturday but Harry Cobden talked on Sunday of how he believes Bravemansgame should be better tracking a lead, tactics he intends to deploy at Cheltenham. He's the best of the British novices over fences and, at the three-mile trip, Bravemansgame might just prove himself the best of the lot come Cheltenham.

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Arkle favourite set in Stone?

After the drubbing that was handed to British runners last March by the raiding Irish, there's almost a sense of trepidation going towards the Festival for the home team this time around. It would be churlish to simply expect another green-clad conveyor belt of winners this year, however.

Edwardstone is now clear 2/1 favourite for the Arkle on 15th March after his Kingmaker win at Warwick on Saturday. With the likes of Constitution Hill and Jonbon prominent in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle market, the Prestbury Cup could see Britain into an early lead on day one if Alan King's charge obliges in race two of the meeting.

He made it four wins on the spin under Tom Cannon on Saturday, comfortably repelling old foe Third Time Lucki having taken up the running at the fourth last. Dan Skelton's runner was pushed out to 20/1 for the Arkle post-race and that could be a value price, especially if there's a decent turnout on the day and a fast pace for Third Time Lucki to go after.

Edwardstone however has been flawless in recent months and his ability to shine at tracks like Sandown and Warwick certainly bodes well for Cheltenham, where he twice ran well at the Festival in 2020 and 2021 over hurdles.

Irish Arkle winner Blue Lord is his closest pursuer in the betting for the Arkle at 3/1, though his recent Leopardstown win was far from convincing and many will feel runner-up Riviere D'etel at 4/1 might avenge that Dublin Racing Festival reverse next month.

James' Gate could be bumper value

Willie Mullins has won the Champion Bumper a whopping 11 times already, including three of the last four with Relegate, Ferny Hollow and Sir Gerhard - with only Envoi Allen in 2019 narrowly denying Blue Lord a win.

He's had the first two home in the last two years, as Appreciate It and Kilcruit were denied as favourites.

Facile Vega has a similar profile to that pair after romping home at Leopardstown last weekend is now 1/1 favourite for Cheltenham.

Mullins confirmed on Sunday that eight-length Punchestown winner James's Gate would be heading to the Cotswolds for the Champion Bumper on 16th March and perhaps the 12/1 on him could be some each-way value considering the recent domination of the race, and the placings, from the Closutton maestro.

He is one of three intended runners right now and he did things very easily in his debut at the Co Kildare venue.

Royale Pagaille not cast aside

Though beaten by Eldorado Allen in Saturday's Denman Chase around Newbury, it is still worth considering 33/1 chance Royale Pagaille as an outsider of note for next month's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Newbury race didn't really play to his strengths in terms of being an out-and-out stamina test, but Charlie Deutsch's partner made a decent fight of it, unable to peg back Eldorado Allen having jumped the last fence three-lengths in arrears.

They were some ten-lengths clear of Clan Des Obeaux in third spot and the extra distance in the Gold Cup – more than two-furlongs - will surely suit the Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old.

He was well held in the Gold Cup last year but is a year older and more experienced now. His three runs this season do suggest he is still on an upward curve. It will require a massive effort to win, but he could certainly be some each-way value and his case will strengthen if conditions veer towards being soft on 18th March. You call follow all the action via our Sports Live Streaming platform.

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