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Cheltenham - Racing: Festival plotlines to look out for

The Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday, with all the anticipation, previews and countdowns done, as the 'greatest show on turf' finally arrives.

Four days of unmatched equine excellence in the Cotswolds is ready to unfold, with answers to the questions that National Hunt fans have been mulling over all winter finally on offer.

All the Cheltenham action is available on our Sports Live Streaming platform and you still can get some pre-Festival tips from our Upping The Ante team.

Ahead of The Festival, we look at some of the key storylines going into Cheltenham week.

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Can Britain fight back?

Ireland's 23-5 mauling of the British runners at The Festival last year was a high water-mark for the raiding party and all inclination is to suggest those coming across the Irish Sea will dominate again.

Ireland are 1/14 to win the Prestbury Cup, but surely 10/1 Britain won't go down to such a beating again?

With key contenders in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle on Tuesday before the Ultima - a race Britain has dominated since 2006 - the home side might even surge into an early 3-0 lead if things go to plan.

It's going to be an uphill battle for Britain this week, but the likes of Shishkin, Hillcrest and Thyme Hill are all major players in graded company and there's a general feeling the handicapper has been lenient towards the hosts, so it might not be another 'green-wash' this year.

Britain are 7/2 to hit double figures across the 28 races.

Tiger's last great roar

He's a Cheltenham Festival legend already with five wins under his belt, but if Tiger Roll leads home the Cross Country field on Wednesday afternoon, he might well generate the loudest roar of the entire meeting.

The durability of Tiger Roll is quite something. It's eight years this week since he climbed the hill to win a Triumph Hurdle and nobody could have predicted then what was still to come.

He's won three Cross Country races already at the Festival and has done more than any other horse to elevate that contest from novelty-factor to full-on Festival experience.

Tiger Roll is 13/8 to come home in front and his connections were seemingly thrilled with his recent racecourse gallop in Ireland.

He walloped Easysland last year and French import Prengarde has something to prove on his first Cheltenham visit for new trainer Enda Bolger.

Gigginstown have ruled out trying for a third Grand National next month at Aintree and so this will be Tiger Roll's final curtain call.

How better to sign off and how better than with a record-equalling sixth Festival win? You really wouldn't want to oppose him.

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Form now stable for top duo

The Cheltenham countdown featured plenty of angst for those willing to get pre-occupied with stable form - especially for two of Britain's leading lights.

Paul Nicholls endured a tough start to the year, with his Ditcheat string right out of form and the champion trainer openly admitting he wasn't sure what was wrong.

That poor form has been arrested and Nicholls' recent strike-rate is a healthy 27 per cent over the last month.

That will be music to the ears of those hoping Bravemansgame can land the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at 2/1 on Wednesday afternoon to maintain his perfect record over fences.

For Nicky Henderson, things were cut a bit tighter. Henderson went into Saturday without a winner in 20 days and having sent out 23 runners in that time.

The Seven Barrows supremo is known to have his biggest stars locked away in good time for Cheltenham, so perhaps that's not a complete surprise.

It was, though, of some concern going into the weekend for those of a weak disposition considering the hopes of Constitution Hill, Jonbon, and Shishkin et al.

Luccia got Henderson back into the winner's enclosure when absolutely routing a good field in a Listed bumper at Sandown on Saturday afternoon and, soon after, City Chief won at Hereford.

Henderson is 4/6 to be Top GB Trainer at the meeting, while Nicholls can be found at 9/2 in the market.

Forgotten pair in Champion Chase

Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase is of course being billed as Shishkin vs. Energumene II.

They served up a proper cracker in the Clarence at Ascot in January and deserve top billing for this second head-to-head engagement.

However, the two-mile Championship heat is also set to feature a pair of contenders very much filed under the 'forgotten horse' category.

Henry De Bromhead's Put The Kettle On is 33/1 to defend the crown she won last March. She hasn't fired in two runs this season, but her Cheltenham record remains impressive - November's Shloer Chase the only time she has been defeated in five visits.

She has more on her plate, but cannot be dismissed completely.

And then there's the case of Envoi Allen, priced at 25/1 for this race. He was the 'golden boy' of jumps racing coming here a year ago only to fall early in what's now the Turners Novices' Chase.

A miserable spring was compounded at Punchestown when he was pulled up, though seemingly all was not well that day. He has actually won two of three starts this season, including a Leopardstown Grade 1 at Christmas (albeit, a weak one).

And yet he comes here dropping back to the minimum trip as a complete outsider.

It's been said that Envoi Allen wasn't as good as he was made out to be coming to Cheltenham last March, and isn't as bad as some might say this year returning - those sentiments are hard to argue with.

Shishkin and Energumene rightly dominate thoughts going into the Champion Chase, but the likes of Put The Kettle On and Envoi Allen don't entirely deserve their 'also-ran' status.

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