Defending champions Paisley Park and Frodon headline the six-day confirmations for the two championship races - the £325,000 G1 Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle and the £350,000 G1 Ryanair Chase - on day three of The Festival™ presented by Magners, Thursday, 12 March.
Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle) surged to victory in last year's Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle (3.30pm, 3m, 18 confirmations) and is the 4/6 favourite with Paddy Power to retain his crown.
The eight-year-old, whose seven-race winning streak dates back to October, 2018, was last seen out over the course and distance in the G2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day, when he overcame Summerville Boy (Tom George) in decisive fashion.
Paisley Park is bidding to become the fourth multiple winner of the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle this century, following Baracouda (2002 & 2003), Inglis Drever (2005, 2007 & 2008) and Big Buck's (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012).
Trainer Emma Lavelle said: "Everything is fine with Paisley Park and he is on track for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle.
"We have had a good preparation with him really. It was a great relief to see him win at Newbury and then Ascot being off worked out well in the end.
"His Cheltenham performance in the Cleeve was excellent. He essentially handled a race where the others tried to beat him tactically.
"He is a huge talent and it is exciting to have a horse attempting to defend his crown in one of the championship races."
Other names to note include the 2018 winner Penhill (Willie Mullins IRE), last season's G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle victor City Island (Martin Brassil IRE) and Emitom (Warren Greatrex), winner of the G2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park last month.
Prolific Irish mare Benie des Dieux (Willie Mullins IRE) has been left in, although connections have indicated that she is more likely to run in the G1 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle on the opening day.
Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle, Paddy Power bet: 4/6 Paisley Park; 3/1 Benie des Dieux; 8/1 Summerville Boy; 10/1 Emitom, City Island; 12/1 Penhill; 14/1 Apples Jade; 16/1 Bacardys; 20/1 L'Ami Serge, Lisnagar Oscar; 25/1 West Approach, The Worlds End; 33/1 Ronald Pump, Death Duty; 40/1 Tobefair; 50/1 The Jam Man; 66/1 Donnas Diamond; 100/1 Ask Dillon, The Mighty Don
Non-Runner No Bet, E/W Terms: 1/5 Odds, 1,2,3 places
Frodon (Paul Nicholls) and jockey Bryony Frost raised the roof with a never-say-die victory in last year's Ryanair Chase (2.50pm, 13 confirmations), with Frost becoming the first female jockey to win a G1 race over obstacles at The Festival.
After an inauspicious start to the current campaign, Frodon was back on song last time out with a comfortable success in the G2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton Park in January.
Ireland holds a strong hand with its raiding party headed by A Plus Tard (Henry de Bromhead IRE), who bounded to victory in last year's Listed Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase, and multiple G1 scorer Min (Willie Mullins IRE).
Nigel Twiston-Davies, who landed the Ryanair Chase in 2009 with future Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander, is set to run G1 Ascot Chase victor Riders Onthe Storm.
The other G1 contest on day three is the £150,000 Marsh Novices' Chase (1.30pm, 2m 4f), with Itchy Feet and Allaho (Willie Mullins IRE) headlining the 21 horses going forward.
Itchy Feet provided trainer Olly Murphy with a first top level success in the G1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown Park last month and the six-year-old will attempt to give his handler a first winner at The Festival.
Murphy said: "I have been delighted with Itchy Feet's preparation.
"The ground won't be a problem for him if it comes up soft and I think he has been slightly overlooked after his Sandown win.
"I am not really sure why as the manner of his win was impressive; despite making a mistake at the second-last, he ran on strongly.
"It is very exciting to have my first G1 winner being a live player for a G1 at The Festival.
"I really think this race will suit and, while there are some interesting horses such as Samcro and Allaho in there, I wouldn't swap our lad."
Revitalised 12-year-old Faugheen (Willie Mullins IRE) comes in on the back of an unbeaten campaign over fences, six years after his first victory at The Festival in the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Promising mares Minella Melody (Henry de Bromhead IRE) and Floressa (Nicky Henderson) feature among 24 confirmations for the £90,000 G2 Daylesford Mares' Novices' Hurdle (4.50pm, 2m 1f).
The three handicaps on the card are the £100,000 G3 Pertemps Network Final (2.10pm, 3m, 32 confirmations), the £110,000 G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (4.10pm, 2m 5f, 74 confirmations) and the £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (5.30pm, 3m 2f, 62 confirmations).
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