Willie Mullins’ gelding has been imperious thus far, and yet to be extended in his races.
Quite what he could achieve if forced to do so is something we are unlikely to find out this afternoon, as he looks head and shoulders above the opposition, and should coast to victory.
At the odds he is not a betting proposition for most punters, but horses of his class and authority attract the purists, and another near-capacity crowd should enjoy watching a star of this generation strutting his stuff.
God’s Own shouldn’t be able to lay a glove on him, but looks the one to follow him home.
Long Call can take the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for Tony Martin and Davy Russell.
A decent sort on the flat, when with Charlie Appleby, there was a degree of promise in his first three starts over hurdles, but he took a considerable step forward when winning at Hereford.
A slick round of jumping allowed him cruise around behind the pace, before easing clear for a facile success.
While the form didn’t look much at the time, runner-up Quids In won next time, to earn a mark of 124, and third-placed Buckle Street did likewise, to earn a figure of 120.
Long Call was vastly superior to both, and was far from disgraced trying to concede 7lbs to Triumph Hurdle fancy Master Blueeyes on his next start, at Ludlow. He should appreciate better ground, and supporters can expect an improved effort.
While this is, undoubtedly, one of the toughest races of the week, there are few trainers more adept than Martin at solving such puzzles, and this promising sort can score at the expense of Dolos.
The latter is trained by Paul Nicholls, who does particularly well in this race, and the gelding will find this easier than when taking on his elders last time.
Cause Of Causes can land the Cross-Country Chase for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd.
A winner at each of the last two Cheltenham Festivals, he had his first taste of competitive action over these unique obstacles when a never-dangerous but eye-catching fifth behind Urgent De Gregaine.
He has been back since to school at the track, and reported to have done well. As a horse who can be peaked for this meeting, his class can see him through.
Auvergnat is an improving sort who may have been unlucky in that race won by Urgent De Gregaine, but he gained some compensation when winning next time, at Punchestown. He should have plenty more to give, and can give Cause of Causes most to think about.
The remainder of the card looks more puzzling, though Tombstone could be streets ahead of his mark of 149 and that will make him hard to beat in the Coral Cup.
Trainer Gordon Elliott considered supplementing him for the Champion Hurdle, though whether he would have the pace for that race or not, is in question.
His lenient-looking handicap mark has swayed connections to run here, and that looks a wise move.
In last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he kept on well to take fourth place behind Altior, and the fact it won’t all be happening as quickly over this trip should help bring out the best in this horse. If he settles early, he will be very hard to beat.