Cheltenham Festival: key Saturday races and contenders

Thistlecrack: favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) Cheltenham Festival:
key races and contenders By Bruce Jackson 4:00PM 23 JAN 2017

IT IS seven weeks on Tuesday to the start of the Cheltenham Festival, so the last chance to get practice at the course on Saturday takes on greater significance. Here are the key races and horses entered this weekend…

Festival race: Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Key trial: Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase (2.15 Cheltenham)
Key horses: Thistlecrack, Many Clouds, Smad Place, Silviniaco Conti

Colin Tizzard sends the Gold Cup favourite and King George VI Chase winner Thistlecrack back for more track practice ahead of his much- anticipated attempt to follow Coneygree as a novice to win the Gold Cup.

Connections are thinking of the Gold Cup again for Many Clouds, winner of this race before finishing sixth in the 2015 Gold Cup and winning the Grand National at Aintree. Silviniaco Conti could be back for more along with former Hennessy winner Smad Place.

Defi Du Seuil (Richard Johnson)

Defi Du Seui: a leading fancy for the JCB Triumph Hurdle

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

JCB Triumph Hurdle
Key trial: JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.00 Cheltenham)
Key horses: Defi Du Seuil, Charlie Parcs

With the feature for juvenile hurdlers not closing until the start of next month all Saturday's runners can put themselves in the picture but two of them are already the market leaders.

Defi Du Seuil has bragging rights having won the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas in completing his hat-trick.

Charlie Parcs made an impressive British debut at Kempton over the holiday period to get a single-figure Festival quote.

Unowhatimeanharry

Unowhatimeanharry (right) and Ballyoptic set to tackle each other

PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
Key Trial: Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (4.00 Cheltenham)
Key horses:Unowhatimeanharry, Ballyoptic, Cole Harden

Another ante-post favourite Unowhatimeanharry bids to justify that position against older rival Ballyoptic who still led him narrowly when falling at the last in the Long Walk at Ascot last month.

The 2015 World Hurdle winner Cole Harden, fourth to Thistlecrack last year, bids to step up on his Relkeel Hurdle third.

Wholestone

Wholestone (left) and West Approach could clash on Saturday

PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
Key trial: Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle (3.25 Cheltenham) & Albert Bartlett River Don Novice Hurdle (2.30 Doncaster)
Key horses: Wholestone, Give Me A Copper, West Approach

Can anything beat hot favourite Death Duty in the Albert Bartlett? Saturday could give more clues with 16-1 chances Wholestone, entered in both the Cheltenham and Doncaster Grade 2 features.

The expensive Give Me A Copper could head to Doncaster while West Approach is in at Cheltenham.

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