First run in 2011, it’s noticeable that Willie Mullins has done rather well in this 2m4f Grade 1 novice chase saddling no fewer than four of the nine winners, so it makes plenty of sense to pay special attention to his entries from an ante-post stance.

First port of call has to be Faugheen, who rolled back the years in superb fashion at the recent two-day Dublin Festival, thus thrusting himself in to automatic favouritism for this contest. However, despite his second Grade 1 chase success on the spin in the Leopardstown feature, there’s still an element of doubt as to whether he will be asked to come to Cheltenham again, an argument which gathers even more pace if you factor in that no 12-year-old has won a novice chase at the Festival since the fixture was formed back in the 1920’s. This is Faugheen ‘The Machine’ are dealing with, though, and if any horse can buck the trend, he can, despite all the stats suggesting otherwise. If the son of Germany is to miss the Festival and stay on home soil for either Fairyhouse or Punchestown, then who from the Closutton ranks is likely to take his place? The logical deputes would appear to be ALLAHO (best price 10-1) and Easy Game, and of the pair, the former makes the most appeal.

One of the top staying novice hurdlers from last season, the son of No Risk At All produced a tremendous effort when a keeping-on third to Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett and he followed that up by chasing home his old rival in the Punchestown equivalent two months later. On each occasion, however, he left the impression that a well-run contest over three miles at the very highest level just stretched him to limit and that’s one of the main reasons why the intermediate trip may well suit him better over fences. On the evidence of his first two attempts over the larger obstacles, that view has certainly been endorsed and even though he got beaten on his chase bow at Leopardstown, he jumped and travelled like the best horse until lack of a previous outing, rather than stamina issues, took its toll late on. Sent to Fairyhouse for his latest start, the six-year-old was once again ridden extremely positively from the front but this time he had no trouble seeing out the trip with that initial run under his belt. Always in command, he beat a useful field by 21 lengths and in the process, he clocked a very smart time figure for a beginners’ chase – numbers that strongly suggest he’s a Grade 1 winner in waiting over fences.

Very similar to a couple of his trainer’s winners of this race, Vautour and Yorkhill, in the sense they both scored with attacking rides from the front, Allaho seems to be cut from the same cloth, and for that reason, it would appear logical he was sent down that particular route rather than take on his old adversary, Minella Indo, in the RSA Chase that he may find too severe a test at this stage of his career. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to try and second guess connections and play him for this race now in the hope that they will come around to the correct decision when they sit down and weigh up all the options nearer the time.

Of the rest, Itchy Feet booked his ticket for the race with a smooth success in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on his most recent outing and he has to rate a major player given he already has Festival experience courtesy of his fine third in last season’s Supreme.

Mister Fisher also come into the equation on the basis of his progressive profile over fences and if he gets his favoured good ground come Festival time, he has the class to figure. Moreover, he one of the few in the entries with proven C&D form and that has to be seen a huge positive. He also has a Arkle entry.

Taking a look at a few others towards the head of the market, Fakir D’Ooudairies is still most likely to contest the Arkle on day one of the Festival, especially as he hasn’t too much to find with the favourite there, Notebook, while Brewin’upastorm looks booked to join him according to all the vibes coming from the Olly Murphy camp. Black Op may be saved for Aintree, Reserve Tank hasn’t been seen out since disappointing at Newbury back in November (said to have been suffering from ulcers), while Simply The Betts may be sent down the handicap route against the older brigade in the 2m5f Plate.

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Allaho - 1pt @ 10/1