The Champion Bumper has often proved a graveyard for punters but more recent renewals have seen the tide turn against layers and we will take a look at how the race may unfold.
(Wed, 14th March)
Willie Mullins has landed this eight times but the market and jockey bookings have not always been a reliable guide.
English trainers are gaining a fairer share of the spoils having won four of the last eight renewals, despite this being a race which Nicky Henderson tends to avoid with the better prospects from his outstanding team of young horses.
The going promises to be a major factor and one which could swing this back in favour of bookmakers in 2018. A winter of testing conditions will have hampered preparations for many and there is a risk recent form may have little bearing on the outcome if the track is in perfect condition as planned.
Rhinestone to win @ 9/1 - BET NOW
The bumper at the Dublin Festival looks the strongest Irish trial for this and saw a few reputations shattered as the Mullins' camp struck with Blackbow. The unbeaten five-year-old took advantage of a fine piece of riding from Patrick Mullins to score that day having caught his rivals napping when kicking off the home turn. Conditions were soft, but he won his point-to-point on good ground and that versatility makes him less of a liability to ante-post punters.
The stable also have Hollowgraphic. The son of Beat Hollow split a useful pair on his debut last year and then beat two subsequent winners by a wide margin on his return. He was immediately put away for this and he is another who would not be considered ground dependant.
It is a different story with Rhinestone who chased home Blackbow at Leopardstown, but there are sound reasons to suspect the outcome will be different come March.
His Flat pedigree and action tell us he wants good ground so this winter's exploits are highly commendable. Having made short work of a Mullins' hotpot to score at Thurles, he gave Blackbow too much rope next time under a less positive ride. He stuck gallantly to the task despite hating the mud and reduced the deficit in a manner which suggests the Cheltenham hill will suit him well.
Joseph O'Brien's charge was formerly based at Balydoyle where he was held in high regard and considered at least Listed class. In anticipation of better ground by March 14 and the chance to improve from an already impressive base, Rhinestone is expected to shine.
Didtheyleaveuoutto to win @ 12/1 – BET NOW
Two of the leading British contenders are Acey Milan and Didtheyleaveuouttoo. The former took the Newbury bumper which Ballyandy also captured en route to landing this in 2016. The four-year-old spread-eagled a strong field that day and he has also won at Cheltenham.
The big question marks for him would be his ability to produce that form on ground that would be expected to be quicker than he has raced on so far and the poor record of his age group in this contest.
Didtheyleaveuoutto will be a popular choice of both form students and statisticians. Five-year-olds, unbeaten horses, runners absent since Christmas and a proven ability to win in fields of more than 13 runners are all pointers to finding the winners of this race.
Barry Geraghty faces the challenge of choosing between him and Rhinestone so that decision could be a significant pointer. Geraghty is well-acquainted with Nick Gifford's runner as he was on board when he showed a good turn of foot to beat a strong field at Ascot in December. To quicken like that off a slow pace is the sign of a very good horse and we are probably still to see the best of him.
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