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The countdown to The Festival continues today with the unveiling of the latest acceptors for the championship novices' chases and novices' hurdles, following yesterday's scratchings' deadline.
Favourite Getabird (Willie Mullins IRE), rated 164p with Timeform, heads 53 confirmations for The Festival curtain-raiser, the £125,000 G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2m) on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13.
Unbeaten hurdler If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry) and G1 Tolworth Novices' Hurdle victor Summerville Boy (Tom George), both rated 163p, also go forward alongside impressive G3 Betfair Hurdle scorer Kalashnikov (Amy Murphy, 162 with Timeform).
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Sky Bet odds (Non Runner, No Bet): 15/8 Getabird; 6/1 Apples Shakira, If The Cap Fits, Kalashnikov; 8/1 Next Destination; 10/1 Laurina; 12/1 Duc Des Genievres, Mengli Khan, Summerville Boy; 14/1 Claimantakinforgan; 16/1 Paloma Blue, Sharjah; 25/1 Farclas, First Flow, Real Steel, Vision Des Flos; 33/1 Destrier, Early Doors, Hardline, Mitchouka, Scarlet Dragon, Simply The Betts, Slate House, The Russian Doyen, Western Ryder; 40/1 Ainchea, Carntop, Debuchet; 50/1 And The New, Battalion, Knocknanuss, Lostintranslation, Makitorix, Michael's Mount, Mind's Eye, Theclockisticking, Trainwreck, Us And Them, Whiskey Sour; 66/1 Ballymoy, Brahms De Clermont, Dame Rose, First Figaro, Irish Prophecy, Shoal Bay, Suncroft; 100/1 Khudha, Play The Game; 200/1 Beleave, Diplomatico, Saxo Jack
Footpad (Willie Mullins IRE, 182p) is the standout novice chaser so far this season, following two facile G1 triumphs at Leopardstown, and features among 13 acceptors for the £175,000 G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase over two miles on Champion Day.
Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington), the impressive winner of the G2 Betway Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick, and last year's Champion Hurdle third Petit Mouchoir (Henry de Bromhead IRE) both have Timeform ratings of 175p.
Further spice is added by Sceau Royal (Alan King, 174p) who, like Footpad is owned by Simon Munir & Isaac Soude, and captured the G1 Henry VII Novices' Chase decisively at Sandown Park in December.
The longest race of The Festival is the £125,000 G2 National Hunt Chase (53 confirmations) over four miles on Champion Day. Irish handler Gordon Elliott, who has won three of the last seven editions, has Dounikos (168p), Jury Duty (163) and 2016 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle runner-up Fagan among his 10 contenders.
There could be fireworks in the opener on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14, with Irish star Samcro (Gordon Elliott IRE, 165P) squaring up against On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson, 164p) in the £125,000 G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (70 confirmations, 2m 5f).
Next Destination (Willie Mullins IRE, 163p), winner of a G1 contest at Naas in January, and Listed Sidney Banks Novices' Hurdle victor Vinndication (Kim Bailey, 156p) also remain engaged. All four horses are unbeaten over hurdles this season.
Irish-trained trio Presenting Percy (Patrick Kelly IRE, 175p), Monalee (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 173p) and Al Boum Photo (Willie Mullins IRE, 171p) headline 47 confirmations for the £175,000 G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase over three miles on Ladies Day.
The home challenge is led by Black Corton (Paul Nicholls, 172), who made it eight wins from his last nine starts over fences in the G2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot last weekend, and classy mare Mia's Storm (Alan King, 169p).
Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling, 167p), winner of what is now the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in 2017, and Invitation Only (Willie Mullins IRE, 171p) are among 46 going forward for the £150,000 G1 JLT Novices' Chase, run over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.
Benatar (Gary Moore, 167p) is unbeaten over fences so far this season and could warm up for Cheltenham at Kempton Park this weekend. Footpad, Petit Mouchoir, Monalee and Al Boum Photo also remain engaged.
Apple's Shakira (Nicky Henderson, 167p) heads 36 confirmations for the £125,000 G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle over two miles and a furlong on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16. She is three from three at Cheltenham so far this season, although no filly has won the race since Snow Drop in 2000.
The Irish-trained contenders include wide-margin Fairyhouse scorer Stormy Ireland (Willie Mullins IRE, 166p), plus G1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle one-two Mr Ajudicator (Willie Mullins, 165p) and Farclas (Gordon Elliott IRE, 163p).
Santini (Nicky Henderson, 162p) and Black Op (Tom George, 161p), who were first and second in the G2 Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle on Festival Trials Day, are among 63 acceptors for the £125,000 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over three miles on Gold Cup Day.
Nicky Henderson's hand is strengthened further by G2 scorers Chef Des Obeaux (159p) and Mr Whipped (158), while the Irish challenge is led by Next Destination and Cracking Smart (Gordon Elliott IRE, 160p).