Outlander spearheads the Irish assault, and would appear to be our best chance, in what looks a difficult race.
The Willie Mullins-trained gelding is unbeaten over fences. He hasn’t generated as much excitement as many of his stable companions, but looks a key contender.
Black Hercules would be a perfect three from three over the larger obstacle but for a fall at the final fence at Navan.
While he is not without a chance, he was a bitter disappointment at the Cotswolds last season.
Zabana was second in a hot handicap hurdle here last season and is open to improvement over fences.
He was impressive in his beginners’ chase but has a bit to find with Outlander on their last meeting.
A sounder surface should see him in a better light, though.
Leave At Dawn will be carrying the hopes of the travelling Irish, in what has proved a difficult race for punters in recent years.
Charles Byrnes’ runner won easily at Prestbury Park earlier this season and put in an eye-catching performance last time out.
He runs off a nice racing weight and warrants massive respect for his shrewd trainer.
Aintree festival winner Taglietelle carries the burden of top weight, but promising conditional rider Jack Kennedy takes off a valuable five pounds, which should aid his cause.
Oscar Sam is an improver and could go well.
Leave At Dawn
A very strong Irish challenge which would suggest that the race could be won by the travelling contingent for the first time in its history.
Vautour looks to have a great chance of completing a hat-trick of wins at the Festival.
The former Supreme winner was imperious in the JLT Chase twelve months ago and, only just collared in the King George at Kempton in December, should be well suited by the drop in trip.
This high-class chaser is set to encounter good ground on a track he seems to thrive on.
He looks the one to beat.
Road To Riches was third in last year’s Gold Cup.
He disappointed in the Irish Gold Cup last month but should shape better here on a sounder surface.
A return to better ground could see Gilgamboa leave this season’s form behind.
He is not one to dismiss lightly.
Smashing was an impressive winner at Gowran Park last month, on what was his third win from as many starts this season and, if his jumping holds up, he could very well feature.
He would perhaps prefer a little give in the ground, however. Valseur Lido looked to have the Irish Gold Cup at his mercy before falling at the last.
He certainly warrants respect.
Road to Riches
Alpha Des Obeaux looks set to stake a big challenge for the visitors. Mouse Morris’ charge claimed a well-deserved victory at Gowran Park, after a series of good runner-up finishes at the top level.
The ground was softer than ideal that day and better ground could see him hit the target.
Martello Tower was a winner at the meeting last year and, with stamina assured, could outrun his odds.
Lieutenant Colonel was tenth in this last season and so faces a difficult task to feature at the business end of the race.
Alpha Des Obeaux
: Martello Tower
It seems a massive ask for an Irish horse to bring this one home.
Empire Of Dirt, who won well at Leopardstown, has plenty of experience in tough handicaps.
If he jumps well enough, then he could have a say. Buckers Bridge looks the next best for the visitors. He is relatively lightly-raced for a ten year old and could sneak a place.
Baily Green has run well at the Festival before but looks up against it.
Ballycasey was a high class novice a few seasons ago but it is hard to fancy him on recent form.
: Empire Of Dirt
Limini is one of the Irish bankers of the meeting. While she will have to get her jumping together, she does have some very good form in the book.
Her maiden hurdle win has worked out particularly well and she looks a very exciting mare.
Her class can shine through in the Festival’s newest race.
Whistle Dixie could step up on previous efforts, and could reach the frame.
Last year’s National Hunt Chase winner Cause Of Causes has a great record at Cheltenham.
He has been out of form this year but was runner up in this off a similar mark in 2014.
Six-year-old Sambremont is still unexposed and comes here on the back of a graded win, albeit a somewhat fortunate one.
He looks progressive enough to have a say and will thrive at the trip.
: Cause Of Causes