HAT-TRICK OF NAPS: SHAMROCK heads into the Cheltenham Festival on a hat-trick of NAPS. The Irish challenge looks strong at Prestbury Park on the opening day.

The Very Man landed the SHAMROCK NAP on Sunday to make it 21/43 winning NAPS so far in 2020 and it’s now three in a row.

Now for the Cheltenham Festival and it looks a great card, on paper at least, for the Irish challenge on day one.

Asterion Forlonge might well have most to fear from Shiskin who runs in same silks of Mrs Donnelly in the opening Supreme. The unbeaten Asterion Forlonge, trained by Willie Mullins, is favourite and after his effortless Grade 1 win at Leopardstown last time out it’s easy to see why. He’s very hard to fault and the scary thing is that he is still likely to improve.

Abacadabras finished a length and a half behind Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond and came out since to win a Grade 1 of his own at Leopardstown in December. He looks the value call in the race and certainly doesn’t deserve to be twice the price of Asterion Forlonge.

It looks a wide open Champion Hurdle this year and it looks ripe for a big priced winner. Again, there is a strong Irish challenge but nothing that stands out for me.

The Mares’ Hurdle provides what could be the biggest head to head battle of the week as Benie Des Dieux takes on Honeysuckle in a race where it is 12/1 the front two and the first three in the betting are all Irish trained. They are very hard to split but ‘Benie’ had this race at her mercy before falling at the last 12 months ago and she’s done everything right since suggesting compensation awaits.

For the day one nap I’ll go with Carefully Selected (pictured) for Willie Mullins in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at 5.30pm. The race is now condensed to 3m 6f but even with the reduction it will still be new territory for Carefully Selected who comes into this bidding for his fourth win on the bounce after successes at Fairyhouse (2m 5f), Punchestown (2m 4f) and last time out at Naas where he won over 3m.

NAP: Carefully Selected (5.30 Cheltenham)
NEXT BEST: Abacadabras (1.30 Cheltenham)

2020 NAPS: 21/43 +69.23 (to a 10 unit daily level stake)

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