Altior, Douvan and Min remain on course for a fascinating clash in the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30pm, 10 entries), the highlight at Cheltenham on the second day of The Festival, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14.
Altior (Nicky Henderson) has a 100 per cent over hurdles and fences, with his 12-race winning streak including dominant victories at The Festival in the 2016 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the 2017 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase.
The eight-year-old is the 4/6 favourite with Betway and comes into the two-mile chasing championship on the back of a comfortable success over Politologue (Paul Nicholls, 8/1 with Betway) in the G2 Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on February 10, his first outing since undergoing a wind operation in November.
Douvan (Willie Mullins, 4/1) started the 1/4 favourite for 2017 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase but could only finish seventh, after which it was discovered he had a pelvic problem.
Previously unbeaten in nine starts over fences, including an impressive display in 2016 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase at The Festival, Douvan encountered another setback in November and has yet to race this season.
Min (Willie Mullins, 5/2), who like Douvan is owned by Susannah Ricci, chased home Altior at The Festival in 2016. He has since won four of his five starts over fences and produced a career-best performance last time out when defeating Simply Ned by 12 lengths in the G2 Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month.
Bold front-runner Special Tiara (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 14/1) is going for back-to-back wins in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase after a head success over Fox Norton 12 months ago. He finished third behind Min on his latest start.
Prior to his defeat at Newbury, Politologue had carried all before him this season with victories in Exeter's G2 Haldon Gold Cup, the G1 Betway Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown park and G2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park.
Mullins has also left in Un De Sceaux (8/1), although he is set to contest the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.
Multiple G1 scorer Gods Own (Tom George, 33/1), Charbel (Kim Bailey, 25/1), Ar Mad (Gary Moore, 33/1) and Ordinary World (Henry de Bromhead, 50/1) complete the six-day confirmations.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - Betway prices: 4/6 Altior; 5/2 Min; 4/1 Douvan; 8/1 Politilogue, Un De Sceaux; 14/1 Special Tiara; 25/1 Charbel; 33/1 Ar Mad, Gods Own; 50/1 Ordinary World
Ladies Day gets underway with the £125,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (1.30pm), which has 38 confirmations headed by Samcro. The exciting six-year-old is unbeaten in six starts for trainer Gordon Elliott and heads to The Festival on the back of a facile win in the G1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 4.
Willie Mullins, the most successful trainer in the race with four victories, has 14 remaining entries including Next Destination and Getabird. Leading British-trained hopes On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson), a G2 winner at The November Meeting, and Black Op (Tom George), runner-up in the G2 Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham in late January.
There are 22 confirmations for the £175,000 G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (2.10pm) over three miles.
Last year's Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle winner Presenting Percy (Pat Kelly) is the ante-post favourite, having got to within a length of leading Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Our Duke in a G2 contest at Gowran Park on February 17. Also among the 13 Irish-trained acceptors is Monalee (Henry de Bromhead), a G1 scorer at Leopardstown last month.
The amazing Black Corton (Paul Nicholls) has won eight novices' chase already this season, including the G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, and is set to provide Bryony Frost with her biggest chance of success at The Festival this year.
Allyson Monterg (Richard Hobson) was a decent novice hurdler in the 2015/16 campaign, when he rounded off his campaign by taking sixth in the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at The Festival.
After missing most of last season through injury, the David Fox-owned eight-year-old returned to action at Exeter on February 11, when he was the comfortable winner of a novices' chase over two miles and three furlongs.
Hobson, who is based not far from Cheltenham at Little Rissington, said today: "I am just keeping an eye on the ground for Allyson Monterg.
"If it is looking more like it is going to be on the good side, he would go for the RSA, but if more rain comes, then we could look at the JLT Novices' Chase on Thursday for him.
"I have been at Cheltenham schooling for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Hobson has Chic Name engaged) and will just how things look nearer the time as Cheltenham can dry out very fast.
"Allyson Monterg is a horse that has had problems and hasn't had the chance so far to fulfil his potential, but he won well on his comeback at Exeter last month.
"He has also run well at Cheltenham over hurdles and should probably have won there a couple of years ago on New Year's Day when he just got checked."
Hobson also had news of two other contenders at The Festival: "Shantou Flyer is most likely to go for the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday, although we haven't ruled out having a crack at the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with him.
"Dame Rose will run in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Tuesday. She would have to carry a penalty in the G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle so with a 7lb mares' allowance, we think it is worth taking on the boys in the Grade One."
Nicky Henderson and Dai Walters won the 2014 renewal of the £100,000 G3 Coral Cup (2.50pm) with Whisper and the same trainer/owner combination have another leading contender for the two mile, five furlong handicap hurdle in William Henry.
The eight-year-old, successful in the Listed 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park in January, is 8/1 joint-favourite with Coral alongside Max Dynamite (Willie Mullins IRE), who has twice placed in the G1 Melbourne Cup on the Flat.
Leading contenders Bleu Et Rouge, Deal D'Estruval and Sandsend could also line up for Mullins, with Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton) and Sire Du Berlais (Gordon Elliott IRE) also featuring among the 87 acceptors.
Cause Of Causes completed a hat-trick of victories at The Festival 12 months ago when taking the £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (4.10pm) and the Gordon Elliott-trained chaser heads 20 horses going forward for this year's renewal. Elliott has also left in Bless The Wings, runner-up in both 2016 and 2017, and Tiger Roll, a dual winner at The Festival.
Enda Bolger has won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at The Festival five times and has four contenders headed by Josies Orders, successful in 2016, and Auvergnat, while classy staying-chaser The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey) could make his debut over the cross country fences.
French import Casa Tall (Tom George) and recent Fairyhouse scorer Mitchouka (Gordon Elliott IRE) head the weights for the £80,000 G3 Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50pm), which has 34 confirmations including Act Of Valour (Paul Nicholls) and Nube Negra (Dan Skelton).
Willie Mullins boasts a formidable record in the £75,000 G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.30pm) and the trainer has six remaining entries as he bids for a ninth success in the race, including Blackbow and Tornado Flyer.
Joseph O'Brien, who rode Shield to finish 17th in the 2013 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, could be represented by Rhinestone, with Listed winners Didtheyleaveuoutto (Nick Gifford) and Acey Milan (Anthony Honeyball) also going forward.
The going at Cheltenham remains: Soft, Good to Soft in places
There was 1.4 millimetres of rain overnight. Up to 12 millimetres of rain is forecast between today and Sunday (March 11).
Unsettled conditions are forecast for next week.