CHARM, PAINT AND FRINGE THE PROVEN FOXHUNTER OPTIONS
Tomorrow's £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is a pinnacle of the point-to-point season.
Once again it pulls together proven talent and exciting potential, and a stage on which point-to-point trainers challenge leading licence holders at the most prestigious Jump race meeting.
Anseanachai Cliste - 9yo b g - trainer Stephen McConville
On a roll, with eight consecutive wins, including two in hunters' chases, but he faces far tougher opposition in this race.
Asktheweatherman - 8 b g - Jack Barber
Another with eight consecutive victories to his name, and still largely unexposed, but form of two wins this year has taken a knock. There's more in the locker.
Aupcharlie - 11 b g - Jim Dreaper
Sixth last year behind On The Fringe, then further behind that horse at Punchestown. Stamina concerns in this race.
Balnaslow - 10 b g - Graham McKeever
Consistently placed, but poor win-ratio, and recent form does not suggest he will give Derek O'Connor another Festival first.
Barel Of Laughs - 11 b g - Philip Rowley
Won narrowly at Taunton last time out, but well behind Real Milan at Larkhill in December, and no match for Paint The Clouds at Doncaster last year.
Black Thunder - 10 b g - Warren Greatrex
Beaten 1/8 favourite when short-head second to Premier Portrait (rec 11lb) at Kelso, and needs to improve on that to win this. Sam Waley-Cohen keeps faith, leaving Paint The Clouds to Barry O'Neill.
Buckers Bridge - 11 b g - Mouse Morris
From same stable as last year's Grand National winner, and while a winner last time out his overall form leaves gaps at this level.
Current Event - 10 b g - Rose Loxton
Fourth last year, but making his seasonal debut this time. Rider Lisa O'Neill won Tuesday's NH Chase on Tiger Roll, and seeks a memorable double.
Cottage Oak - 14 b g - Joe O'Shea
Third to Salsify in this race four years ago, and has shown his wellbeing with recent wins at Bangor under young Henry Crow, son of former champion Alastair, and now getting a dream opportunity in first season.
Dolatulo - 10 b g - Ben Pauling
Won by 20l at Ffos Las last month, but runner-up (conceding 8lb) not up to this level. This is tougher, and hard to see him winning.
Grand Jesture - 9 b g - Jim Dreaper
Second in the Ultima Handicap Chase two years ago, but has three times refused to race since in races under Rules, while angelic in point-to-points. The Festival is no place for faint hearts.
Grand Vision - 11 g g - Colin Tizzard
Rated 142 at his peak, but this season's win over Pearlysteps at Warwick, and defeats by Pacha Du Polder and Black Thunder, suggest he will fall short.
Lets Get Serious - 11 b g - Callum Miller
Was 50/1 when beating Doctor Kingsley at Fontwell two years ago, and no show in two races since.
Mendip Express - 11 b g - Philip Hobbs
No match for On The Fringe in this race last year, nor at Aintree and Punchestown, but should give owner/rider David Maxwell another fun round.
Minella For Value - 11 b g - Declan Queally
A trio of point-to-point wins this season, including when beating First Lieutenant at Aghabullogue, but no match for rising young Irish star Sweet As A Nut at Tallow in February.
On The Fringe - 12 b g - Enda Bolger
Has completed the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown hunters' chase trebles in past two years, and hard to beat tomorrow. Fine seasonal debut and in-form Jamie Codd on board. No horse has won the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase three times, but he might.
Pacha Du Polder - 10 b g - Paul Nicholls
Nothing like the fanfare this time because Victoria Pendleton is not in the saddle, but his close fifth 12 months ago was a fine effort. Won nicely under Bryony Frost when they teamed up at Bangor.
Paint The Clouds - 12 b g - Warren Greatrex
Close third last year, then won at Stratford under tomorrow's rider, Barry O'Neill. Gave 13lb and a beating to a top pointer at Doncaster, and drying ground is a plus.
Pentiffic - 13 b g - Phil Turner
In form of his life, although close second to Wonderful Charm (conceding 7lb) latest was flattering. Fun ride for Lucy Turner.
Premier Portrait - 10 b g - Charles Levinson
Reigning British champion pointer whose crown had slipped until righted with victory at Kelso. This race in another league, but what a spin for Gus Levinson.
Salsify - 13 b g - Rodger Sweeney
Winner of this in 2012 and 2013, and, although a teenager, ran well on season's debut when fourth, two places behind On The Fringe. Expect a hold-up ride, and might sneak a place.
Sweet As A Nut - 7 b g - Michael Barry
Limerick maiden hunters' chase win in December not franked by runner-up, but still unexposed and could be very good. Bookies aware of him - one to note.
Warden Hill - 9 b g - Helen Connors
Rated 137 at his best, and that is no longer quite enough in this race. Thorpe Lodge win, then second to Carlton Ryan (eliminated from this race) at Fakenham leave him short of this standard, but a memorable opportunity for owner's son Tom Chatfeild-Roberts.
Wonderful Charm - 9 b g - Paul Nicholls
Champion trainer, top rider in Katie Walsh, and two easy-peasy wins in hunters' chases - plus a 153 rating - give this horse a winner's profile (although they said similar about Douvan).