UK Horse Racing: Horses to Watch

There is always plenty of top-class racing in the UK, but it is inevitable that the upcoming Cheltenham Festival is now at the front of most people's mind.

The pinnacle of the jump racing season, it will feature Grade One races over hurdles and fences and some of the world's top animals will descend on Prestbury Park from March 14-17.

A glance at the My Racing tips for Cheltenham is always helpful in picking a winner but, in Douvan, punters might not need that much assistance.

Willie Mullins' charge made it 13 wins from 13 starts in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown over the weekend and the 7-year-old gelding is a short-priced favorite to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase next month.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has now confirmed Buveur D'Air will not run again before the Festival and will likely contest the Stan James Champion Hurdle after taking the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday in impressive fashion.

He is now back over the smaller obstacles having won two chases, but it is still unclear exactly what his target will be in Gloucestershire, and the 6-year-old is one to watch.

Nicky Henderson's Top Notch has been turning heads and was in the winner's enclosure once more at the weekend with a five-length Grade One victory at Sandown.

That made it four in a row for the 6-year-old gelding who is now likely to be aimed at Cheltenham's two-and-a-half mile JLT Novice Chase, with Mullins' Yorkhill set to go off favorite in that trace.

The Flat season will kick into gear later in the year and so most of the focus is now on Cheltenham preparation meetings, with races both in England and Ireland for trainers to gauge how their stars are performing.

However, many horses will now go straight to the Festival and it seems as though the Queen's rising four-year-old Forth Bridge will next be seen in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle after winning a Listed race at Musselburgh on Saturday.

The JCB Triumph Hurdle is another option for the son of Bernardini and he looks to be one that could see Her Majesty net another winner.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most coveted titles in the sport and this year's renewal looks set to be a cracker, with Thistlecrack a red-hot favorite at present.

While the final line-up has yet to be decided, Cue Card and Djakadam look likely contenders.

Cue Card was beaten into second place by Thistlecrack in the Grade One King George VI Chase on Boxing Day having claimed the Betfair Chase during the previous month, but who will handle the famous Cheltenham hill the best in mid-March?

The world's most famous steeplechase follows soon after and Haydock's Grand National Trial will give punters a look at what might be in the field at Aintree.

Bishops Road, Goodtoknow, and Vieux Lion Rouge are prominent in the ante-post market for the February 18 contest to try and gain a place in the prestigious Merseyside contest.

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