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Cheltenham clues this weekend at Wincanton, Sandown and Navan

Paul Nicholls will saddle some smart horses this weekend
Paul Nicholls will saddle some smart horses this weekend

We preview Saturday's action at Wincanton, where the Elite Hurdle is the feature, while we look at Sandown and Navan's National Hunt action on Sunday, where we could be handed some Cheltenham Festival clues...

A stellar weekend of National Hunt racing will see an abundance of class acts take to the track in both the UK and Ireland, with Wincanton racecourse providing the most attractive action on Saturday afternoon, with the Elite Hurdle and Rising Stars Novices' Chase, alongside the Badger Beers Handicap Chase serving up a real treat. 

On Sunday we take in a quality Jumps card from Sandown Park, which should see a few smart performers, while Navan's card over the sticks will see some potential Cheltenham Festival bound contenders taking their chance, and we point you in the right direction as to what races are set to provide some potential clues for the Prestbury Park extravaganza in March.

Elite Hurdle - Wincanton 15:00 Saturday

Paul Nicholls has kicked off the new campaign in sensational fashion, notching up a hatful of winners to propel him to the top of the National Hunt Trainers' Championship, and the Ditcheat handler will unleash a dual-pronged attack on Saturday's Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. Solo, who was a really smart juvenile hurdler last season, will look to throw his name into the Champion Hurdle picture this term, while Diego Du Charmil has become a solid performer over both fences and hurdles and is well fancied to go close in the Grade 2 contest.

Of the pair, Solo appears to be the most likely contender from the Somerset yard, and the four-year-old, who is 66/1 for Champion Hurdle, has to be a leading player, but it's former winner of the race Sceau Royal that will line up as the race favourite and will take the world of beating. Alan King's stalwart was victorious in the 2016 Elite Hurdle, and having recently won the Welsh Champion Hurdle emphatically, he will look to make it back-to-back wins this season, and a victory for the Barbury Castle in-mate could see his current 40/1 odds for the Champion Hurdle contract.

Rising Stars Novices' Chase - Wincanton 14:25 Saturday

Another exciting runner the Nicholls team will unleash at Wincanton on Saturday is Grand Sancy, who will face two rivals in a disappointing renewal of the Rising Stars Novices' Chase. With his novice status expiring soon, Grand Sancy, who won at Chepstow last month, will look to land another victory over the larger obstacles and potentially push his place into the Champion Chase picture. Available at 25/1 for the two-mile Championship showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival, Grand Sancy will face a lively opponent in the shape of Ga Law, who has recorded excellent wins at Fontwell and Exeter and is now sent into Graded company. Hurricane Harvey completes the trio and kicked off his chasing career with a win at Uttoxeter, and Fergal O'Brien's charge will look to continue his fine form in an intriguing, but poorly supported renewal of the Grade 2 event.

Future Stars Intermediate Chase - Sandown 14:25 Sunday

Won by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini last season, the Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown can often attract some smart performers, and the 2020 running on Sunday continues that theme, with the exciting Harry Fry-trained If The Cap Fits lining up. Yet again, it's a poorly represented contest over the larger obstacles over the weekend, with only three taking their chance, but If The Cap Fits has already made a fine start to his chasing career, and heads to Sandown as a 16/1 chance for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 2019 Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle winner started life over fences in the best way possible as he eased to victory over two smart performers in Fiddlerontheroof and Emitom, which earned Fry's charge a quote for the RSA. Warming to his jumping task that day, If The Cap Fits will benefit for that experience, but will not only have the fences to contend with, but faces a smart performer in the shape of Nicky Henderson's Pym, who was last seen pulling up in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival. Oliver Sherwood's Dominateur completes the line-up, but it's If The Cap Fits is the main attraction, and an easy win will see his RSA Chase price shorten further.

Lismullen Hurdle - Navan 13:00 Sunday

An exciting Jumps card will light up Navan on Sunday, and while punters will be attempting to decipher the Troytown Handicap Chase, the classiest contest on offer is the Lismullen Hurdle, which takes place at 13:00. The 2m 4f Grade 2 contest has been won by some big stars down the years, with Limestone Lad and Apple's Jade just two of the big name winners. A race that can provide some vital clues for the Stayers' Hurdle should be no different this year, with the Gordon Elliott-trained Sire Du Berlais taking on the likes of Ronald Pump, Supasundae and stablemate Cracking Smart

Having retained his Pertemps Final crown at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Sire Du Berlais could look to venture out of the handicap sphere this year and tackle the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle. Available at 16/1 for the three-mile Grade 1 at the festival, at the time of writing, Sire Du Berlais has shown that he lights up in the spring, so this could certainly be an event to blow the cobwebs away, but he has shown he is a real class act in his Pertemps wins, so has to set the standard. Having shown his best work over three miles, the drop back to 2m 4f could see him struggle, and it's Supasundae that could make most appeal as his optimum trip in recent times appears to be over 2m 4f and he has to be respected, as does Ronald Pump, who put up a career best when second in the Stayers' Hurdle in March.

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