First Lieutenant can reverse Christmas form with Bobs Worth and grab the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup from the defending champion on the final day of the 2014 Festival.
Mouse Morris’ charge was a winner at the meeting when landing the Neptune back in 2011, but two return trips to the track have yielded only placed glory.
First Lieutenant had to settle for second behind Bobs Worth in the RSA the following year while last year’s Ryanair second probably just underlined the fact that he is more of a stayer than a two-mile-five type.
He went on to Grade One glory in the Bowl at Aintree and was not beaten far at Punchestown and they might be better events than his efforts this term on which to assess his chance.
The nine-year-old disappointed on his first couple of runs but posted an improved effort when just edged out by Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase, losing out in a slog to the line on what were far from ideal conditions.
Again the ground went against him when third in the Irish Hennessy, but conditions have certainly turned up in his favour at Prestbury Park.
Admittedly First Lieutenant has plenty to find on the official figures with Bobs Worth and in three meetings he has yet to get his head in front, but he seems to flourish in the spring and has been cutting down the distance between the two with every run.
He will have to improve again to beat the favourite, but for those who do not fancy taking a short price, First Lieutenant is a value bet now Morris finally gets his wish to have a crack at the main event.
Kings Palace has impressed in each of his three outings this term and can prove a worthy market leader in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old has some decent bumper form to his credit, but made an inauspicious start to his hurdling career when falling at Ayr last January.
David Pipe opted to draw stumps after that heavy tumble and the decision paid dividends as Kings Palace never saw another rival to score effortlessly at Fontwell on his seasonal return.
He followed up with an 18-length demolition job of the decent yardstick Creepy at this track before adding a Grade Two heat to his CV at Prestbury Park back in December.
His all-the-way success was really impressive and while he stayed every yard of the three-mile trip, he also has some gears which could prove crucial in this Grade One heat.
Broughton’s Flat pedigree can come to the fore in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
A son of Teofilo, he was far from top class for the Maktoum family during his time with Mark Johnston but he won a decent three-year-old handicap at Goodwood and has made a smooth transition to the National Hunt ranks.
Pitched into Grade Two company on his debut, he was only just beaten at Doncaster back in December with John Ferguson waiting for better ground before unleashing his charge at Musselburgh last month.
Soft conditions prevailed that day but he made short work of his rivals in winning by five lengths and a repeat of that kind of performance should see him make the frame at least, particularly as better ground works in his favour.
Une Artiste is another former Festival winner and is worth a shout as she returns to the smaller obstacles in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The six-year-old struck gold in the Fred Winter back in 2012 and it is interesting Nicky Henderson reverts to hurdles here after concentrating on chasing through the winter.
Lac Fontana was a winner on Festival Trials day on vastly different ground but he is also proven on quicker ground ahead of the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.
He was smart as a juvenile, finishing eighth in the Triumph last year, but reportedly suffered from stomach ulcers which were blamed for his sound beating at Cheltenham before Christmas.
Treated for the problem, he roared back to form on his handicap bow, winning by five lengths and while he has been hiked 12lb in the weights, he was hardly all out in winning that day.
Harbour Court is the choice in the CGA Foxhunter Chase having been trained specifically for this event by Alan Hill, while Claret Cloak can round off the Festival with victory in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap.
Grade One company proved beyond him at Sandown on his most recent outing in December but back on his favoured sound surface, he has to be respected on what just his fourth chase start.
CHELTENHAM: 1.30 Broughton, 2.05 Lac Fontana, 2.40 Kings Palace, 3.20 FIRST LIEUTENANT (NAP), 4.00 Harbour Court, 4.40 Une Artiste, 5.15 Claret Cloak.