Lalor leads 12 contenders for Arkle honours at Cheltenham

Glen Forsa in opposition on the first day of the Festival

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Lalor and Glen Forsa feature in a field of 12 runners for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor leapt to the head of the betting for the two-mile Grade One with a brilliant display at Prestbury Park in November, but returns with questions to answer after suffering an odds-on reverse in testing ground at Sandown the following month.

The Mick Channon-trained Glen Forsa, on the other hand, lines up at the top of his game after three successive wins – completing his hat-trick with a wide-margin success over Kalashnikov – also in the Arkle line-up – in the rescheduled Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

A strong Irish challenge includes the Willie Mullins-trained Duc De Genievres, Gordon Elliott’s Hardline, Terence O’Brien’s Articulum, Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Ornua and Paloma Blue and Us And Them from Joseph O’Brien’s yard.

Clondaw Castle (Tom George), Knocknanuss (Gary Moore) and Slate House (Colin Tizzard) are the other hopefuls.

The Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux will face 14 rivals when she defends her crown in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

Her trainer has claimed this prize nine times in 11 years and this year’s leading candidate is widely regarded as one of the bankers of the week.

Benie Des Dieux will have plenty of back-up, with Mullins also declaring Elimay, Good Thyne Tara, Limini and Stormy Ireland.

The home team includes the supplemented Jester Jet from Tom Lacey’s yard and Phil Kirby’s admirable mare Lady Buttons.

A maximum field of 24 runners plus two reserves have been declared for the first handicap of the Festival – the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Grand National hope Lake View Lad is at the top of the weights for Nick Alexander – while leading ante-post fancies Give Me A Copper, Minella Rocco and Mister Whitaker all feature.

Highway One O One heads a 20-strong field for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, with De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard and Tom Taaffe’s Riders Onthe Storm disputing favouritism.

The Mullins-trained Ballyward and Henderson’s Ok Corral are the two headline names among 18 hopefuls in the National Hunt Chase.

Other fancies include Paul Nolan’s Discorama and Impulsive Star – trained by Neil Mulholland.

Lalor leads 12 contenders for Arkle honours at Cheltenham
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