Talking Horses: Flooring Porter has staying power for Cheltenham repeat

Defending champion has been freshened up since Christmas and should do well in soft conditions in the Stayers’ Hurdle

Wednesday’s rain should ensure that the Stayers’ Hurdle is a suitably thorough test, and popular former winner Paisley Park is among those who will keep on up the hill as rivals cry enough.

The overall quality of the Irish stayers looks slightly ahead of their British counterparts, however, and the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting could be the key piece of form.

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Flooring Porter (3.30), the defending champion, was two lengths behind Klassical Dream there but the winner stole a soft lead at the start and is unlikely to be so fortunate on Thursday. Gavin Cromwell’s six-year-old has also been freshened up since Christmas and is an excellent bet at around 7-2 to retain his crown.

Cheltenham 1.30 Just four runners but an intriguing head-to-head in prospect all the same, as Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs face off for the first time. It could go either way, but at this stage of their chasing careers, Galopin Des Champs has achieved slightly more and looks worth an interest at around 6-5, if he remains the slight outsider of the pair.

Cheltenham 2.10 Gordon Elliott has won three of the last four renewals of this race and has a strong hand again with six of the 24 runners, including dual winner Sire Du Berlais. Just one 10-year-old has won in the last 39 years, however, and stable companion Tullybeg, who was put away after running a solid fifth in the qualifier here in October, makes more appeal at 14-1.

Cheltenham 2.50 Allaho was as impressive as any of the winners at last year’s Festival and while Conflated, the surprise Irish Gold Cup winner, is an interesting contender back at this shorter trip, his overall form still gives him plenty to find with the odds-on favourite.

Cheltenham 4.10 Fergal O’Brien has already set new personal records for winners and prize-money earnings this season but a first Festival success remains elusive. Imperial Alcazar, whose slick jumping belied his novice status on the way to a win over track and trip last time, could be the one to break his duck.

Cheltenham 4.50 Willie Mullins lost his iron grip on this race last year but he landed the first five runnings from 2016 and should reassert his dominance with Dinoblue. She won with any amount in hand on heavy going at Clonmel in January and should relish the rain-softened ground.

Cheltenham 5.30 Mister Fogpatches is more exposed than several of his rivals but he is a thorough stayer who will go on the ground. He was only five lengths behind the winner in the ultra-competitive Thyestes Handicap Chase last time, runs from a 4lb higher mark here and Patrick Mullins is an eye-catching booking for the ride.