Cheltenham 2015: Expect Simply Ned to leave the old guard in his wake on sound surface
There is no room for sentiment in racing and while it would warm the cockles to see Sprinter Sacre regain his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, or even last year's winner Sire De Grugy win again, it is time to welcome in the new guard led by Simply Ned.
It would go down as one of the greatest training feats of all time if Nicky Henderson can nurse Sprinter Sacre back to anything resembling the form he was in two years ago.
In a five-week spell he won this race by 19 lengths, beating former winner Sizing Europe, stepped up to two and a half miles at Aintree to account for the Ryanair winner Cue Card and the great Irish hope Flemenstar and then went on to Punchestown to beat Sizing Europe again. It is no secret there have been countless issues since - heart trouble, rumours of breathing operations and the fact he bled after his comeback on that eagerly-awaited day at Ascot in January - and while there were flashes of his old self on his comeback, he folded rather tamely.
Sprinter Sacre could probably run a stone below his very best and still win, but the fact remains that at his unbelievable peak he would have beaten Dodging Bullets when 50 per cent fit and that one beat him comprehensively at the finish in the Clarence House.
Sire De Grugy, while impressive at Chepstow after his clumsy comeback at Newbury, has had only just over two weeks to recover from two quick runs and would prefer much softer ground.
Simply Ned is still unexposed. As a novice last season he was beaten only by Balder Succes at Aintree in Grade One company which sparked dreams for this campaign.
In three runs he has steadily improved. He gave lumps of weight to inferior rivals on his comeback before heading for vital experience of Cheltenham at the Paddy Power meeting where he finished second to Uxizandre, giving him 1lb and being beaten less than two lengths, with Dodging Bullets back in third.
Over here at Christmas he ran a cracker to finish third on ground much too soft behind Twinlight and Hidden Cyclone.
Mallowney was back in sixth and he has won a valuable handicap and a Grade Two since, franking that form.
The key thing is the ground. His resurgent trainer Nicky Richards remains convinced he is a stone better on a sound surface and he looks set to get it.
Trailblazer Special Tiara could be the biggest threat.
A cracking RSA Chase is in store but the statistics are all against Don Poli. It is a long time since any six-year-old has won, and throw in the fact he has not run since Christmas and those who follow that type of thing will be getting excited.
Kings Palace is likely to set a searching gallop and The Young Master holds claims having progressed through the handicap ranks, but Southfield Theatre looks sure to go well and is the value call. Last season when narrowly beaten in the Pertemps Final proved he stays, and there are very positive vibes coming out of Ditcheat.
Paul Nicholls can then double up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase with Sire Collonges.