We are just a week away from the start of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
In the first of a look at the big races, SAM TURNER (Robin Goodfellow) starts by looking at some race trends for races on day one and highlights some of the main contenders.
Paul Townend riding Al Boum Photo winning the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup last year
The last 11 winners were all aged either five or six while the past eight winners had all won a Graded novice hurdle. The last 11 winners had run a minimum of four times over hurdles.
Fell on his Newbury hurdling debut when well fancied but has made amends since at that venue and in a tidy Huntingdon event. Lacks a run at Cheltenham or a Graded win but appears to have the class to overcome those deficiencies.
Races in the same colours as Shishkin and impressed over the minimum trip when landing a Grade 1 Leopardstown event last month. Stays strongly and boasts plenty of class but may be more at home in the Ballymore.
Asterion Forlonge stays strongly and boasts class but may be more at home in the Ballymore
Chased home the imposing Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse before Christmas and wasn't hard pressed to beat three rivals in Grade 1 company over Christmas. Would appreciate better ground as he doesn't lack pace.
Ploughed through the mud to win at Sandown on his last two starts, including in Grade 1 company last time. Will arguably be better suited by further than this two-mile trip, but if the emphasis is on stamina he will prove a major player.2.10 Racing Post Arkle Trophy
Sixteen of the past 18 winners were successful in Grade 1 or Grade 2 company over hurdles or fences while the last 10 winners all won last time out Nicky Henderson has saddled eight horses with a hurdle rating in excess of 145; four won and three finished second.
Four from four over fences and little surprise he is excelling over the larger obstacles given the size of him. Battled on gamely to see off Cash Back at Leopardstown in the Arkle Chase after bolting to the start. Had previously powered to an impressive success at the expense of Fakir D'oudairies and has the size and scope to keep progressing.
Notebook (L) is four from four over fences and no surprise he is excelling over larger obstacles
Would arguably have beaten Samcro on his penultimate outing at Fairyhouse when that rival departed but found Notebook too strong at Leopardstown when he couldn't dominate. The softer the ground the better and his precise and enthralling jumping should ensure he is in the mix.
Two from two over fences with both wins coming at right-handed tracks and his fourth place in the Ballymore last year confirms he has the temperament for the Festival. Inexperience over fences remain a slight concern but boasts plenty of class.
Required that Notebook pull out all the stops in Grade 1