Timeform’s Three things to look out for on Cheltenham trials day

Timeform's Tony McFadden highlights three things to keep track of on Saturday.

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Is Iceo a Triumph Hurdle contender?

Iceo was a winner on his only start in France and he created an excellent impression on his British debut at Kempton last month, bolting up by 17 lengths in the style of a smart prospect. Paul Nicholls was initially lukewarm about a Triumph Hurdle bid – he views Iceo as a chaser of the future – but it’s worth noting that no juvenile this season has achieved a higher Timeform rating than the figure of 140p Iceo earned for that Kempton success.

An emphatic win in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday might persuade Nicholls to let Iceo take his chance at the Festival, and he certainly holds strong claims on Saturday. He is at least 9 lb clear of his rivals on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings.

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Can Champ enhance his Stayers’ Hurdle claims?

Champ was cut to favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle on the back of Klassical Dream’s disappointing effort in the Galmoy Hurdle on Thursday, and he will have the opportunity to press those claims in the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday. It won’t be a formality for Champ, though, as 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park heads the opposition.

Champ had Paisley Park five lengths back in third when winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas, but this is a ‘home fixture’ for Paisley Park, who has also won two editions of the Cleeve Hurdle as well as the Stayers’ Hurdle over this course and distance. Champ should prove up to the task but this will be a good test.

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Will the giant Hillcrest take another step forward?

The imposing Hillcrest is every inch a chaser but he has exceeded expectations over hurdles, winning all three starts this season, including in a Listed contest over course and distance last time. That two-length defeat of I Am Maximus is a strong piece of form and only five novice hurdlers this season have earned a higher Timeform rating than the figure of 143p earned by Hillcrest.

He sets the standard in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle and, given his size, likely has more to offer. He has to give weight to all his rivals on Saturday but may be up to the task.

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