THE Paddy Power meeting gets under way at Cheltenham tomorrow afternoon, as the jump season continues to hot up with the emergence of more of the sport's well-known names.
HOWEVER, this weekend, between Cheltenham and Punchestown, is a good one for a rare and hidden gem of the winter scene, and by that I am referring to cross country chases.
Both racecourses will stage their first action over the banks this weekend, beginning with Cheltenham tomorrow where, as always, there is strong Irish representation.
Champion jockeys tend to watch these sort of races from afar and as successful as JP McManus has proved in them as an owner, it hasn't been the type of contest AP McCoy has set his stall out to win.
However, Davy Russell isn't going to miss out on this particular adrenalin kick. Russell is due to ride the top weight in tomorrow's Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham as Another Jewel bids to win for the third time over this type of course.
Denis Murphy's 10-year-old has travelled far from his Wexford base in search of honours in Cross Country Chases and a bold showing can be expected from him once again tomorrow afternoon.
Willie Mullins' Uncle Junior won last year's renewal of this race and bids to follow that up after running in the crème de la crème of all Cross Country races, the Velka Pardubicka, last month.
He was a respectable sixth, albeit beaten a long way in that race which really is the biggest test of a racehorse's jumping and staying ability that you are likely to get and is not one for the faint-hearted.
Uncle Junior has also been on a bit of a global tour to take in some of these unique races and is more than likely going to be prominent enough in the betting.
Enda Bolger, as always, has to be respected with anything he runs as he really and truly is the king of the banks, while Outlaw Pete could be an interesting one for Josh Halley as connections bid to forget about the agonising manner in which he left the Cork National behind him recently.
The Crystal Cup is the name of the series that includes all the Cross Country Races, and the next stop on that tour is at Punchestown on Saturday where Grade One winner Bostons Angel is a notable entry as connections try to rejuvenate his love for the game.
Also included at Punchestown is former Cheltenham winner Sizing Australia, who has had a couple of runs over hurdles, the last a very decent one, since he last ran over the Cross Country course at the Punchestown Festival.
In actual fact, Sizing Australia, should he line up on Saturday (he is also entered in the Glenfarclas), would be looking for a first win over the Punchestown Cross Country course after a luckless run there saw him finish no closer than fourth in three attempts, while he has been a winner and placed four times from his efforts around Cheltenham.
There is no doubting the real quality of racing on offer this weekend, but for those who love jump racing and something different, the Cross Country races are a must as National Hunt racing is brought back to its roots.