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Cheltenham: Chantry House backed for Festival glory

In what is the last meeting at the racecourse before the Cheltenham Festival begins, Trials Day is the opportunity for many of the leading festival hopefuls to lay down a marker.

The Cotswold Chase is a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, while the Cleeve Hurdle is the next big prize in the stayers' hurdle division.

Henderson confident of big run from 'proper Gold Cup horse'

Chantry House gets the chance to showcase his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials when he lines up in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase on Saturday.

He is the 5/6 favourite to bounce back from his disappointing run in the King George VI Chase and prevail again.

Prior to his next appearance, his trainer Nicky Henderson has talked his horse up, labelling him a 'proper Gold Cup horse'.

The Seven Barrows man knows what it takes to win the Blue Riband event of the Festival, as he has been successful twice before, with Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013).

Chantry House scored in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2021. He powered up the hill to score by three lengths in that novice contest. That form at the course will give his connections a lot of confident ahead of his return to Gloucestershire.

The eight-year-old made a winning seasonal reappearance at Sandown (albeit beating just one rival) earlier in the campaign, but then failed to finish at Kempton on his latest outing.

The second season chaser is 16/1 to prevail in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. A good performance and victory on Trials Day could see those odds slashed for the feature race of the festival.

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Champ looking for more Grade One hurdles success

Former RSA Chase winner Champ had just two appearances over fences last season. He finished second on his opening start of the campaign at Sandown and then was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Connections opted to return to hurdles at the start of the latest campaign, and their horse rewarded them with a Grade One success in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. He will be looking for a second victory at the highest level this season in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Champ has an excellent record over hurdles. He has won six of his eight appearances over the obstacles.

Although he does still have an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is looking increasingly likely that he will appear in the Stayers' Hurdle, where he is a 7/2 shot, and has just Klassical Dream ahead of him in the betting.

Henderson's runner will take on Paisley Park again in the Cleeve Hurdle. The three-time Grade One winner won this race in 2019 and 2020.

His form since his last Cleeve Hurdle success has not been great as he has won just once in his eight outings.

Previous Trials Day Winners

Unfortunately, Trials Day was abandoned in 2021 due to a waterlogged course. That meant many trainers had to change their plans for their leading runners for their final preparation run before the festival.

Three horses have won the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day and then gone on to prevail in the Cheltenham Gold Cup just two months later.

The first to do so was Little Owl in 1981. Peter Easterby's horse had an incredible season, with success also coming in the Peter Marsh Chase during the campaign.

Master Oats completed the Cotswold Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup double for trainer Kim Bailey in 1995. The horse thrived on soft and heavy ground and was the highest rated staying chaser in Britain at the end of that season.

In 2000, Looks Like Trouble scored on Trials Day in the Cotswold Chase before returning to Prestbury Park to score in the most prestigious jumps race in the sport. Despite making a big mistake at the 10th fence, he justified going off as the 9/2 favourite for the Gold Cup, scoring by five lengths.

There have also been three winners of the Cleeve Hurdle who have gone on to score in the Stayers' Hurdle in the same season. The great Big Buck’s managed it in 2009 and 2012 during his dominant period in this division.

Thistlecrack enhanced his reputation with success in the 2016 Cleeve Hurdle. He then went off as the evens favourite for the Stayers' Hurdle. Colin Tizzard's runner made no mistake, prevailing by an impressive seven lengths in the feature race on day three of the meeting.

The latest horse to win the two big Grade One hurdle races was Paisley Park. He won the first of his two Cleeve Hurdles in 2019.

Not long after, he gave favourite backers something to cheer about at the festival, coming out on top after going off at 11/8.

There should be plenty of festival clues on offer once again on Trials Day, in what is one of the best jumps cards of the season in the sport.

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