As the National Hunt season gets ever nearer, we now have our second instalment of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival ante-post focus, and not only do we provide the thoughts of two more www.jumpsracing.co.uk writers, but we also get Channel 4 Racing's Tom Lee's predictions for the new campaign.
In similar fashion to the First Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Focus, which was published last week and certainly divided opinions with our readers, our two contributors Richard Smith (@RichOnRacing) and Russell Palmer (@rustyboy75) will pick out their early tips for the four Championship races at the 2016 Prestbury Park extravaganza, whilst Tom Lee (@TomsTips) will also provide us with a horse, jockey and trainer to follow.
2016 Champion Hurdle winner
Richard - It'd be stupid to say anything other than Faugheen, wouldn't it? Unbeaten in 10 career starts under Rules speaks volumes about how good this current champion is, he did everything right when winning the race in March, and the fact he's only seven-years-old and still improving, combined with the lack of alternatives, leaves me with no other option but to call for back-to-back victories for the Willie Mullins-trained runner.
Russell - It's difficult to see anything getting close to Faugheen, should he stay fit this season (13/8 to go unbeaten in 2015/2016). With Douvan likely to go chasing, Triumph winner Peace And Co is open to improvement, whilst My Tent Or Yours could be a bit of value ante-post at 33s should he return to his best after injury.
Tom - Faugheen. Unoriginal, but Willie Mullins has four of the front five in the ante-post lists and they don't call this lad "The Machine" for nothing.
2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner
Richard - Another really unoriginal pick, but Un De Sceaux was so impressive when landing the 2015 Arkle Trophy that it's hard not to see him continuing his upward curve with another season under his belt. For all Dodging Bullets was a worthy winner in March, it did illustrate that it's time for the changing of the guard in this division, with the likes of Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre seemingly past their best and Un De Sceaux should be more than capable of stepping into the limelight.
Russell - I have always liked backing Arkle winners to follow up 12 months later in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and I don't see any reason why Un De Sceaux won't be a very skinny price come March. Expect him to pick up the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chase en route.
Tom - I am not sure the winner is even in the betting, holes in all of them!
2016 Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner
Richard - There was a lot to like about the way Martello Tower won the Albert Bartlett in March. He has had four starts over three miles (three under Rules, one point-to-point) and won all four, proving he has the engine and battling qualities required to land the World Hurdle. There should be plenty more to come now that he steps out of novice company and providing that he stays hurdling, 20/1 could prove a tasty ante-post bet about this Irish raider.
Russell - Bit more open this and Annie Power's possible involvement will skew the betting all season. The last two winners can be backed at 12/1, but Liverpool Hurdle winner Whisper would be my pick IF he stays hurdling and WITH a clear season. Not a market I'd be getting too involved in ante-post.
Tom - Nichols Canyon. The possible congestion for Mullins-trained horses in the two-mile division means this lad, a Festival winner at both Aintree and Punchestown, will surely step up in trip. Was special at the latter and has time on his side.
2016 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup winner
Richard - When you have four starts over fences to your name, three of them wins with an average winning distance of 38 lengths, you have to sit up and take note, and that that is exactly what the racing world has done with Vautour since he landed the JLT Novices' Chase back in March. It's more a lack of alternatives that leads me to pick another Mullins/Ricci runnner, as I don't think Coneygree won a vintage renewal and the likes of Don Poli and Don Cossack have more questions to answer than the selection.
Russell - Big ask for Coneygree to win back-to-back Gold Cups. Vautour was mightily impressive when landing the JLT last season and it looks like being a vintage renewal, with the likes of Don Poli, Don Cossack and Djakadam all likely runners. I'd be all over there being an Irish-trained winner given a price!
Tom - Road To Riches. Dual Grade 1 winner who blossomed last year, shooting up the ranks after bagging the Galway Plate off 149. Could be even more to come from this ultra-tough horse.
Horse To Follow For 2015/2016 NH Season
Richard - Garde La Victoire is a horse I had in my notebook on the back of his win at the Open meeting, last November. The six-year-old was last seen winning a Listed race at Sandown in January before bypassing the Festival. He will be a novice chaser this season and in the hands of Philip Hobbs, whose young jumpers I always respect, I expect him to line up in a couple of races before Christmas before featuring in the discussions for the Arkle or JLT Novices' Chase.
Russell - I love seeing emerging horses from small stables and will be following Barters Hill closely for trainer Ben Pauling. An Aintree bumper winner and unbeaten in four starts, I'm quite tempted to take the 25/1 about his chances in the Neptune next March. He is also part of our Ten To Follow for this season.
Tom - Wait For Me. French bred novice hurdler for the Philip Hobbs team. Could take high rank in his first season over timber.
Emerging Jockey To Follow
Richard - Sean Bowen is a name that I think people should keep an eye on. The son of Peter, he won the conditional jockeys' title last season and the number of rides the 17-year-old is picking up has increased over the summer. He will obviously get the nod on a lot of his father's runners, but he has been riding for Paul Nicholls, too, so don't be surprise to see him become a more familiar name over the next six months.
Russell - Not quite a new kid on the block, but James Reveley continues to improve with his best season to date last year. Prolific in the north, Reveley has also been honing his skills in France, with an eye-catching ride for David Pipe on board Un Temps Pour Tout to land the French Champion Hurdle in the summer highlight.
Tom - Jack Kennedy. A 16-year-old who looks an absolute natural - booted Golden Spear home on the Flat at the Galway Festival, but surely his future lies over the sticks.
Emerging Trainer To Follow
Richard - Since leaving his role as assistant to Paul Nicholls to go solo two years ago, Dan Skelton has gone from strength to strength. He has established relationships with some great owners and has a yard which boasts some eye-catching talent. He should kick on again in 2015-16 and it would be nice to see him make ripples in graded company at some stage.
Russell - Keep an eye on Kerry Lee, as she takes over the reins from her father, dual Welsh National-winning trainer Richard this season. He dad boasted an 18% strikerate last season, with second season chaser Top Gamble one to follow this campaign.
Tom - Kerry Lee - Bred to do the job and already on the board with a winner in her first season with a license.