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Cheltenham Festival: Nube Negra is definite Champion Chase contender

Ante-post picks for the Cheltenham Festival

All eyes were on Cheltenham this weekend for their biggest meeting outside of the Cheltenham Festival.  

Connections of the winners will now be dreaming of a return to Prestbury Park in March and we take a look at who caught the eye over the three-day Open meeting in our ante-post Cheltenham Festival picks.

We have also looked at the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup with the season building towards the Cheltenham Festival.

Nube Negra – Champion Chase

Only half a length behind Put The Kettle On in the Champion Chase in March, Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old reversed that form with authority when scorching clear of his rivals to score by six lengths in the Shloer Chase.

Having travelled smoothly into contention in the hands of Harry Skelton, he cruised past the evergreen Politologue at the second last before storming up the Cheltenham hill.

He has been cut into 10/1 for March’s showpiece for the two-milers and looks to have a great chance of going one better than 2021’s silver medal.

Next up for the spring-heeled Spanish bred could be a real test of his mettle in the Tingle Creek at Sandown but there is no doubt his cup final will be back here at Cheltenham racecourse in the spring.

Third Time Lucki – Arkle

Also in the care of Skelton is this strapping son of Arcadio, who made it two from two over the larger obstacles with another faultless display at jumping HQ.

Fourth in 2019’s Champion Bumper and a competitive sixth in this year’s County Hurdle, all the signs are pointing towards a tilt at the Arkle in March.

He is the 8/1 second favourite in the Cheltenham betting for that opening day Grade 1 but it would be no shock if he was to skip what could be a red-hot contest for the Grand Annual, a handicap chase run on Ladies Day.

Sporting John – Stayers’ Hurdle

Philip Hobbs’ six-year-old has always looked a talented operator and Saturday’s victory offers hope he may be maturing into the star he has always threatened to be.

Having lost his way over fences last season, the Grade 1 winner looked much more comfortable reverting to timber on Saturday and showed his staying prowess by keeping on best to record victory.

He now looks set to remain over hurdles and could be aimed at all of the season’s Graded three-mile contests, which include the Stayers’ Hurdle back here at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The JP McManus-owned gelding is priced up at 14/1 for that contest and with Hobbs also having Thyme Hill stabled at his Minehead base, looks to have a strong hand in the staying hurdling division this term.

Threeunderthrufive – National Hunt Chase

Already with three chase runs under his belt, Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old avenged his only defeat over fences when staying on dourly up the Cheltenham run-in on Sunday.

The previously unbeaten Does He Know could only watch on as the son of Shantou made most in this three-mile contest.

An out-and-out stayer, the obvious Cheltenham Festival target is the National Hunt Chase on Champions Day and he is a 14/1 chance for that race in our ante-post picks.

Before a tilt at the 3m6f contest for novices, the six-year-old could have a Christmas date at Chepstow, where he is being lined up for a tilt at the Coral Welsh National.

He could be joined in the line-up for that marathon test of stamina by stablemate Yala Enki, who was also on the scoresheet at Prestbury Park on Sunday.

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