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Cheltenham Festival: Paddy Power Plate hope Imperial Alcazar heads Fergal O'Brien's select team of local runners

Imperial Alcazar (8/1 for the Paddy Power Plate) and Allaphilippe (8/1 for Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle) leading hopes for local trainer Fergal O'Brien; unbeaten Poetic Music to feature in Champion Bumper

Imperial Alcazar could head back to Cheltenham in March after getting off the mark over fences for Fergal O'Brien
Image: Imperial Alcazar is set to head back to Cheltenham after getting off the mark over fences for Fergal O'Brien last month

Imperial Alcazar heads local trainer Fergal O’Brien’s small but select team for the Cheltenham Festival.

His Ravenswell Farm base is just 10 miles from Prestbury Park, and a win at jump racing's biggest meeting would cap what has already been his best ever season with 110 winners.

Imperial Alcazar has four entries, with the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase favoured over the Ultima Handicap Chase, the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase and the Turners Novices' Chase.

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"We're looking towards the Plate on Thursday. That seems to be where we are heading at the minute," said O'Brien.

"Fingers crossed he's in great form. He had an away day yesterday (Monday) and we're very pleased with him."

A 10-length winner at Cheltenham on Trials Day in January, Imperial Alcazar is second-favourite at a best-priced 8/1 for the Plate.

O'Brien has another leading fancy the same day in Alaphilippe, who is similarly an 8/1 chance for the Pertemps Network Handicap Final.

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He booked his place by finishing fifth in a qualifier at Warwick in January, on his first start since he was fifth in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival.

Fergal O'Brien
Image: O'Brien has already enjoyed his best ever season for winners

"He's going for the Pertemps. We're very happy with big Phil," he said. "He's only had the one run this year, but hopefully that will have brought him spot on.

"He was just a little short. Paddy (Brennan) said he blew up on the turn into the straight. We were happy with the run, it got him qualified and it was job done so we're looking forward to running him."

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Paul Nicholls is keen to let Bravemansgame do the talking as the star novice chaser prepares to lead Team Ditcheat's challenge at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

O'Brien is also keen on the prospects of Poetic Music, who puts her unbeaten record on the line in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

"She'll go for the Bumper. She gets a great allowance and stuff so we're looking forward to her as well," said O'Brien. "We are very pleased with her."

Poetic Music won over a mile and three-quarters at Cheltenham on New Year's Day to make it three from three.

"We only have a small team. Hopefully Gumball will go for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual. Everything else probably won't get in the handicaps," O'Brien added.

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