Altior left in Champion Chase
Brilliant first-season chasers Thistlecrack and Altior feature among the latest acceptors for the six non-novice Grade One championship contests at the Cheltenham Festival after the latest scratchings stage.
Altior retains his entry in the Champion Chase
Timeform, the Halifax-based ratings experts, has Thistlecrack top of its weight-adjusted ratings on 186 for the feature £575,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, narrowly ahead of last year's runner-up Djakadam and stablemate Cue Card (184+).
The 29 Timico Gold Cup confirmations also include Hennessy Gold Cup hero Native River (178p), Lexus Chase scorer Outlander (180) and Sizing John (179), who relished the step up to three miles in the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday.
Besides Outlander, Gordon Elliott and owner Gigginstown House Stud also combine with Don Poli (178), last year's third, Irish Gold Cup runner-up Empire Of Dirt (178) and Roi Des Francs.
Willie Mullins-trained stars Douvan (193p), unbeaten in 13 starts including twice at The Festival for Ireland's champion Jump trainer, and Un De Sceaux (183), the 2016 second, head Timeform's ratings for the two-mile chasing championship, the £350,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (20 acceptors).
Unbeaten novice chaser Altior (178p) has been left in after his dazzling display at Newbury, but is more likely to contest the £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase.
Impressive course and distance scorer Fox Norton (177+), 2014 champion Sire De Grugy (177) and locally-trained God's Own (176), last year's fourth, remain engaged.
Douvan, Djakadam and Un De Sceaux are also among 34 entries going forward for the £300,000 Ryanair Chase over an extended two and a half miles.
The 2015 scorer Uxizandre (178), who returned from almost two years off the track with a good second on Festival Trials Day, is on course for the race along with Irish Gold Cup runner-up Empire Of Dirt (178), who was an impressive winner in handicap company at The Festival last year.
Leading owner J P McManus holds a strong hand in the £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle with 2014 victor Jezki and Yanworth heading Timeform's ratings on 178.
Another McManus-owned contender Buveur D'Air (176p) is ante-post favourite with most bookmakers after a smooth return to hurdling at Sandown Park on February 4, while stalwart The New One (177x) could run in his fourth Champion Hurdle after finishing fourth (2016), fifth (2015) and third (2014).
Petit Mouchoir (175) is among eight Irish-trained confirmations and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old is much improved this season following a brace of top level triumphs at Leopardstown.
McManus is also responsible for Timeform's top three rated contenders going forward in the £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle, headed by Unowhatimeanharry (180). The nine-year-old has won his last eight races over hurdles including the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The 36 confirmations also include last year's Champion Hurdle third Nichols Canyon (174) and French Champion Hurdle scorer Un Temps Pour Tout (173), a winner over fences at The Festival in 2016.
Mullins has trimmed down his entries for the £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle to seven (from an initial 15) but the trainer still boasts a formidable hand as he seeks a remarkable ninth consecutive victory in the race.
Six of the seven top 10 mares according to Timeform are trained by Mullins and none are more popular than Vroum Vroum Mag (173) who captured this race impressively last year and has won 13 of her 14 starts since joining Ireland's champion trainer.
Mullins has also left in exciting novices Airlie Beach (165), Augusta Kate (158p) and Let's Dance (160p) while Vroum Vroum Mag also retains entries in the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup, Ryanair Chase, Stayers Hurdle and Champion Chase.
Last year's leading juvenile hurdler Apple's Jade (170) defeated Vroum Vroum Mag by a short-head in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December and could re-oppose.
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