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Cheltenham: What this weekend means for the Cheltenham Festival

We are going to get some big clues this weekend for the Cheltenham Festival as it is Trials Day at Prestbury Park.

There are also three Grade Two contests at Doncaster, as well as the Sky Bet Handicap Chase.

Chantry House Looking to Put Himself in Gold Cup Mix

Nicky Henderson has always spoken very highly about his chaser Chantry House. Last season's Marsh Novices' Chase winner will get the chance to prove he is a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup contender when he lines up in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase (2.30 Cheltenham) on Trials Day.

The JP McManus-owner horse is 4/5 to prevail in the 3m1½f contest. He is the highest rated horse in the field, and he has proven form at the racecourse.

After making a winning seasonal reappearance at Sandown, connections of the eight-year-old will have been disappointed with his performance in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He was pulled up by jockey Nico de Boinville at the 12th fence. He came under pressure very early into that race.

Chantry House is a 20/1 shot for the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup. A big performance in this trial race will see him move much closer towards the market leaders for the Blue Riband event of the meeting.

Champ Remains in Stayers' Hurdle Division

Henderson and McManus also have the odds-on favourite in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle (3.05 Cheltenham) in Champ.

He switched back to hurdles at the start of the campaign and was successful in the Long Walk Hurdle. That victory in the Grade One contest has convinced his connections he should remain in the 3m hurdles division.

The talented 10-year-old has just four rivals to beat in the Cleeve Hurdle, including former Stayers' Hurdle winner Paisley Park.

The Seven Barrows runner is the 9/4 favourite for the Championship race on day three of The Festival. A victory here can see him cement that position at the top of the market.

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Novice Hurdlers Also Have Chance to Impress on Trials Day

Unbeaten hurdler Hillcrest tops the betting for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.40 Cheltenham) on Trials Day. Henry Daly's runner is 14/1 for the Ballymore at the Festival.

Earlier in the afternoon at Cheltenham, Gordon Elliott is represented in the JCB Triumph Hurdle (12.45 Cheltenham) by Pied Piper.

He prevailed on his debut at Punchestown. The Irish-trained horse is 14/1 to win the Triumph in March. Third Time Lucki Expected to Bounce Back at Doncaster

Arkle Trophy contender Third Time Lucki is back in action at Doncaster in a Grade Two novice chase (1.35 Doncaster).

Dan Skelton's runner suffered the first defeat of his career over fences in the Tingle Creek where he had to settle for third place of seven.

The seven-year-old was impressive in both of his chase victories at Cheltenham. He is 10/1 for the 2m novice chase contest at The Festival later this season.

Fusil Raffles Tops Betting for Competitive Sky Bet Chase

The Sky Bet Handicap Chase (3.20 Doncaster) is always one of the most competitive handicap chases on the National Hunt calendar.

Henderson is represented by Fusil Raffles who tops the betting at 7/2. With four wins from nine starts, the seven-year-old has been in good form over fences.

Last season's Marsh Novices' Chase runner-up is a 50/1 outsider for the Ryanair Chase. B

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