D-Day for the Festival hopes

It is D-Day for a number of Cheltenham Festival hopes this week as some of the leading contenders face the acid test at Prestbury Park and Leopardstown.

It is D-Day for a number of Cheltenham Festival hopes this week as some of the leading contenders face the acid test at Prestbury Park and Leopardstown.

Brave Inca, Our Vic, Macs Joy and Black Jack Ketchum are just a few of the big names pencilled in for two big days of action on either side of the Irish Sea.

Our Vic is likely to be the star attraction in the Letheby And Christopher Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The race has been nominated as a likely target for David Pipe's Gold Cup hopeful and he will certainly get a good sight of the fences in the extended three-mile-one-furlong event.

Master Oats won this traditional Festival trial in 1994 before going on to take the blue riband and connections of Our Vic will be hoping he can follow suit.

The Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle is set to feature Black Jack Ketchum, Jonjo O'Neill's short-priced favourite for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

O'Neill pulled him out of his last intended run and this three-mile feature could see him clash with Mighty Man, another leading chance for the satyrs' championship.

The Classic Novices' Hurdle, the Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices' Hurdle and the Ladbrokes Trophy are all worth keeping an eye on for Festival pointers.

On Sunday, reigning champion hurdler Brave Inca is set to go toe to toe with Macs Joy once again in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Colm Murphy's charge beat Macs Joy on no less than five occasions, including this race and the Champion Hurdle itself, before suffering a rare reverse at Punchestown.

Brave Inca already has two Grade One wins under his belt this term, while Macs Joy will be making his seasonal reappearance, although they will not have it all their own way with the likes of Iktitaf also in the frame.

The Baileys Arkle Perpetual Challenge Cup Novice Chase is on the same card, guaranteeing an exciting afternoon of top-class action for Irish racegoers.

Away from the two headline-grabbing fixtures, Southwell have plenty of prize money on offer in the Skybet Chase, a three-mile event formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase.

For those who are marking time before the beginning of the Flat, take a look at Lingfield's fixture on Saturday where the lingfieldpark.co.uk Handicap offers £18,000 in prize money.

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