13.30 SUPREME - see separate preview
14.10 ARKLE - it's Edwardstone vs the Irish here. Alan King's 8yo would be the first of his age group to win for over a decade but he's lightly raced and flying since he switched to fences. Three G1/G2 wins on the bounce, he has recorded an RPR of 164 each time - so is that his level? He's good but not infallible, so this all comes down to price. I reckon bookies will be prepared to take him on so 11/4 or 3/1 I'm prepared to back him, but 2/1 or 9/4 I'll be against. The Irish contingent are closely matched. In the Irish Arkle last month, there wasn't much between Blue Lord, Riviere d'Etel, Saint Sam and Haut En Couleurs in the betting, and they ran 1st, 2nd (unlucky, beaten 1/2L), third (beaten 4.5L) and fell early. Blue Lord just seems to do enough, Riviere D'Etel is always keen and on an occasion like this I fear she'll get fizzed up before the start, while Saint Sam might have more scope for improvement.
EDWARDSTONE (11/4 or better), Saint Sam, Blue Lord
14.50 ULTIMA - here we go with the impossible handicaps! A plethora of chances as always but have narrowed it down to a handful. Frodon adds a touch of class to this race, a multiple Grade 1 winner carrying 9lbs more than any rival and effectively compressing the weight spread for all the others. He beat Gold Cup 2nd fav Galvin in the G1 Champion Chase at Down Royal in October, but has since underperformed in the King George and Irish Gold Cup. If there's any of his best form left, he'll go very close here. He has four handicap wins here including two carrying this weight. Corach Rambler has been popular at the preview nights and for good reason. He looked a great chance in the Reynoldstown behind Does He Know before a mistake and dropping the rider five out. Meets that winner 9lb better here. He didn't stay the Classic Chase trip at Warwick (extra half-mile) but won over this trip at Aintree and Cheltenham earlier in the season. Our Power seems to have been conservatively campaigned, reaching a mark to get into this field but without overdoing it. Finished third in the Coral Trophy at Kempton last time and seems to prefer undulating tracks. The blowout pick could be One More Fleurie. He won the Novices Champion Handicap Chase at Ayr last April recording the sort of figure needed to win here, at the end of a great string of form with four wins split by a fall in the middle. Has been awful this time in but he might just be a spring horse. At 100/1 with seven places with several bookies, I think he's worth a nibble.
FRODON (14/1), Corach Rambler (11/1), Our Power (12/1), One More Fleurie (100/1)
15.30 CHAMPION HURDLE - Honeysuckle is a machine, winning all 15 of her starts to date. She doesn't smash rivals by 20L but she wins, including nine consecutive Grade 1s. Don't waste too much time on this one. Last year's Supreme winner Appreciate It hasn't run since. That's a massive ask to win this race fresh. Two five year olds for the plaings, Teahupoo is still improving and might be the one for this next year, while Zanahiyr keeps running placings in good races.
HONEYSUCKLE (4/6), Teahupoo (10/1), Zanahiyr (25/1)
16.10 MARES HURDLE - tricky race this. Telmesomethinggirl had been favourite for weeks despite not winning this season while the stable confidence in Queens Brook has pushed here into equal favouritism. Echoes In Rain seems to have been overlooked a bit - she's the one who has been running in open company, most recently third in the Irish Champion Hurdle behind Honeysuckle and Zanahiyr. Tends to run a bit keenly but I'm hoping that's often due to small fields and a slow pace. A bigger field here should suit, hopefully the extra half-mile does as well. Not convinced about the form of Telmesomethinggirl despite Rachael Blackmore being aboard, while Queen's Brook was beaten by Burning Victory last time. Both those horses came in off a break last time and will be fitter here. The latter won the Triumph here two years ago and dropped back successfully from the 3m of the Leopardstown Xmas Hurdle to win last time. She's a much better price than QB and the weight turnaround is negligible. Martello Sky as the best of the British hopes.
ECHOES IN RAIN (9/1), Burning Victory (10/1), Martello Sky (16/1)
16.50 BOODLES JUVENILE - rah rah rah Gaelic Warrior wins this on his ear. Or so they'll have you believe. He hasn't won a race yet! His form lines up through the best juvenile hurdlers at that stage of last season in France, but different obstacles (jumping wasn't perfect either), nine months off, 9/4 in a 22 runner handicap - leave me out of that. If he wins, then I hope he brains them and the hype is genuine but backing these types will send you broke. If you're against the fav, then this becomes wide open and I'm inclined to throw a couple of absolute darts here. Swinging London has Irish form through Iberique Du Seuil and Champion Green, was then sold to UK interests and won a maiden against older horses without much effort at Fakenham. Scrapes in at the bottom of the weights and give a good sight at around 66/1 with six EW places. Forever William ran third here (beaten 9.25L) in the Triumph Trial behind Pied Piper at level weights - there's now 17lbs between them. He also finished the same distance behind Porticello in the Chepstow G1 Juvenile, now he gets his chance at the bottom of the weights. HMS Seahorse was bred to be a star on the Flat but never quite made it. He took three attempts to win his hurdle maiden and finally got it right at Fairyhouse last month. Previously he'd been beaten by The Tide Turns who took on Teahupoo last time so they obviously have a massive opinion of him.
SWINGING LONDON (66/1), Forever William (28/1), HMS Seahorse (9/1), The Tide Turns (7/1)
17.30 NATIONAL HUNT CHALLENGE CUP - very disappointing to see a field of just six here in the amateur jockeys' race. The best three amateurs ride the Irish chances so take your pick from Run Wild Fred, Stattler and Vanillier. I'll side with Stattler simply because of his better strike rate over fences but think I'll leave this one alone (easier said than done at the Festival!).
STATTLER, Run Wild Fred, Pats Fancy