Winner of the Arkle last March, the Alan King-trained Edwardstone returned to Cheltenham attempting to become the third horse in six years to follow up in the Champion Chase.
We are taking a look at some of the horses expected to play major roles in the Cotswolds.
Both Altior (2017 & 2018) and Put The Kettle On (2020 & 2021) have managed to win the novice championship and then return a year on to take out senior glory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Edwardstone's final prep-race ended in defeat in the Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials Day, but it was an outcome that blew open the Champion Chase market, with the Alan King 6/4.
|What||Queen Mother Champion Chase|
|Where||Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire|
|When||3.30, Wednesday 15th March, 2023|
|How to watch||ITV Racing, Racing TV & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||Energumene 6/4, Edwardstone 6/4, Editeur Du Gite 6/1, Captain Guinness 20/1, Nube Negra 20/1, Greaneteen 28/1, Funambule Sivola 50/1|
Luckless on his chasing debut when he was brought down at Warwick in November 2021, Edwardstone would dismiss all challengers thereafter en route to winning the Arkle in March.
He made amends at Warwick soon after his debut and won three graded races at Sandown, Kempton and Warwick once more, enough to see him off the 5/2fav for the Festival's first chase in March.
Most of the leading players had turned up in a field of 11 and Tom Cannon's partner raced handily before coming up the hill well to see off Irish pair Gabynako and Blue Lord for the minor placings.
Less than three weeks later he was defeated at Aintree by the impressive Gentleman De Mee, the Willie Mullins inmate a fresher contender at the time and seemingly on the up, though Edwardstone has enjoyed some revenge since.
His first opportunity to showcase himself in open Grade 1 company came at Sandown in December's Tingle Creek and Edwardstone certainly grasped that in style.
The likes of Shishkin and Gentleman De Mee faltered, while Greaneteen had no answer when Cannon powered to the front coming to the penultimate obstacle.
They went on for a nine-length success giving Barbury Castle handler King his first victory in the Sandown winter showpiece.
From that moment, Edwardstone was viewed as Britain's leading Champion Chase contender for 2023.
He has failed to win either of his starts since, unseating Cannon at Kempton over Christmas in the Desert Orchid Chase before then finishing second in the Clarence House Chase but, remarkably, his odds have shortened to 2/1 for the Champion Chase in that time.
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That Clarence House was delayed a week in late January after Ascot's card was frozen off, leaving it to be run instead at Cheltenham on Trials Day.
Energumene, the Champion Chaser, was the hot-favourite but he found a lot less than seemed likely as Gary Moore's Editeur Du Gite piled on the pressure from the front. When Paul Townend's mount bulldozed his way through the final fence, his goose was cooked.
Edwardstone meanwhile was arriving seemingly full of running to challenge the leader and traded very short in running. He hit the front but Editeur Du Gite battled back and got a slender win.
It all means that Energumene has gone from odds-on out to 6/4 to defend the Champion Chase, while Editeur Du Gite is into 6/1 following his game Clarence House win.
There were times in that race when Edwardstone didn't appear to be travelling as kindly as the other pair. He still moved to a dangerous position at the final jump and his connections will be very hopeful he can do better next time.
"He was a little bit fresh," King noted in the aftermath, before adding: "I'm happy. I needed to get this into him to try to get him ready for the March meeting."
As has become the norm for these Grade 1 jumpers, the target is mid-March and all things tend to work backwards from that point.
What was perceived as a Champion Chase procession for Energumene now looks a fascinating race. Edwardstone is right in the mix and has a fine chance of becoming the third recent Arkle winner to make the graduation move to Champion Chaser an immediate one.