SOME of racing's biggest stars go on Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday.

It's the track's massive Festival Trials Days meeting – and there are some mouthwatering clashes in store.

We take a closer look at three of the biggest head-to-heads at the home of jumps racing this weekend.

1.20 Clarence House Chase (Grade 1)

Reigning champion chaser Energumene goes head-to-head with last year’s top two-mile novice Edwardstone in the rearranged Clarence House.

The pair’s clash was postponed by a week after Ascot’s card was frozen off – but it’s great for the game that both horses have turned out again for less prize-money.

Energumene’s only defeat in his last 11 starts was a narrow one, when he went down fighting to Shishkin in the Clarence House 12 months ago.

When that rival bombed out at the Cheltenham Festival last season, the path was left clear for Energumene to run out a ready winner of the Champion Chase.

He returned in fine style in the Hilly Way Chase at Limerick last time out and he is a warm favourite to continue his winning streak.

Edwardstone, meanwhile, bagged the Arkle at the Festival last March and was a hugely impressive winner of the Tingle Creek first time out this year.

He had a blip when unseating jockey Tom Cannon at Kempton over Christmas, but he is a top-class performer and is consistently underrated.

It wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world were he to upset the favourite.

Verdict: Edwardstone


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12.40 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase

On his last visit to Cheltenham, Delta Work downed the dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll. 

He’s back for more and has another Aintree hero in his sights, this time in the shape of Minella Times.

The pair will lock horns in the Cross Country Handicap Chase, which acts as a trial for the same contest at the Festival in March.

Delta Work is proven around the unique course and he will have the weight edge on his big rival, thanks to the 7lb claim of top amateur Rob James.

Minella Times, meanwhile, has rather gone off the boil since his heroics in the National under Rachael Blackmore in 2021.

In fact, he has only completed once in five subsequent starts.

He shoulders top weight of 12 stone and has his first crack at the cross country course, so on paper Delta Work looks to have the upper hand in this head-to-head.

Verdict: Delta Work

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2.25 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade 2)

Noble Yeats has his eyes on a place in the history books.

This year he will try to become just the third horse EVER to win both the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup after Golden Miller and L’Escargot.

He is arguably in the form of his life this season and was a hugely impressive winner of the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on his last start.

He faces a new rival this time, and a good one at that in the shape of Protektorat.

The Dan Skelton-trained chaser was third in last season’s Gold Cup and took a huge step forward when bolting up in the Betfair Chase in November.

He is arguably Britain’s best chance of winning the big one at the Festival in March, alongside King George hero Bravemansgame.

He could have more raw ability that Noble Yeats, but Emmet Mullins stable star has stamina to burn.

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It will be a close-run thing but Noble Yeats could just get up the Cheltenham hill that little big stronger.

Verdict: Noble Yeats


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