Energumene and Edwardstone set for classic battle in Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Festival
After a thrilling opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, Day Two gets underway and it's all eyes on whether Impaire Et Passe can get the Irish off to a winning start in the opening race, the Ballymore Novices' Chase.
The Willie Mullins horse is the market leader at 13/8 having won his two hurdle starts in convincing style and by a combined distance of 24 ½ lengths.
His main rival comes in the shape of the Paul Nicholls trained Hermes Allen, and carries the hopes of former Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who part owns the horse.
He also comes into the race unbeaten from his three starts and was an impressive winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December.
The Irish dominate the 10-horse field, with no fewer than six of the first seven in the betting, and if either Impaire Et Passe and Hermes Allen are out of sorts, it could go the way of either Mullins' second string horses, Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely, who are available at 9/2 and 15/2 respectively.
It's going to be an intriguing opening encounter, and Virgin Bet are offering 'Money Back as a free bet' up to £10 if your horse fails to win*
It's another clash of the Irish in the Brown Advisory Novices Chase where Gordon Elliott's Gerri Colombe battles it out with Mullins' Sir Gerhard.
The former was successful in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at last year's Festival, and will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins at the course.
Run For Oscar heads the market in a very open Coral Cup where Virgin Bet are paying 6 places instead of 4, before the feature race of the day sees what could be one of the most epic Cheltenham Festival battles in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Energumene, owned by Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom, will come up against Edwardstone in a battle of Ireland vs Great Britain.
The former has previous at the Festival, winning this race last year, but did suffer a defeat on his last Cheltenham run in the Clarence House, and was behind today's main rival in that race.
Edwardstone, the winner of the Arkle at the Festival, does also have another blemish on his season though when unseating jockey Tom Cannon in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
Meanwhile, Delta Work will also look to go back-to-back in the Cross Country Chase, but will face a tough challenge against his stablemate Galvin and Virgin Bet are paying 4 places instead of 3 in this race.
The Irish dominate the betting in the Grand Annual, with four of the opening 5, and that is led by Mullins' Dinoblue.
Dinoblue's owner JP McManus had a 1-2 in this race back in 2013, and he has another leading chance in Andy Dufresne, and Virgin Bet are paying 6 places instead of 4.
Virgin Bet are offering your money back as a free bet if your horse fails to win the first race of every day of the Cheltenham Festival*. Click here to check out the market.
*Max Free Bet £10. Bet must be placed within 48hrs of 1st race each day - 1st cash bet on the 1st race each day of Cheltenham Festival (main market, ex antepost & specials). Win part e/w bet. Selection must lose. Free Bet: non-withdrawable, use in 7 days on sportsbook only. Stake not returned. T&Cs apply.
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