Our Duke can provide last year’s winning trainer Jessie Harrington another famous victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30).

Victorious with Sizing John 12 months ago, Harrington has had racing’s blue riband in mind ever since Our Duke comfortably landed the Irish Grand National last April off a mark of 153, jumping his rivals into submission one-by-one before cruising clear.

It’s fair to say this season hasn’t gone to plan, indeed he’s a bigger price now for the Gold Cup than he was back in September, but there’s plenty to be positive about heading to Cheltenham.

There was a clear excuse for Our Duke’s early-season flop at Down Royal and has since undergone surgery to correct a kissing-spine which resulted in that defeat.

Although open to interpretation, I thought he was bang there with every chance on reappearance in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown but a bad mistake two out put paid to his chances. Harrington took the brave call to run again just 13 days later at Gowran Park and his jumping was bold and efficient – the hallmark of Gold Cup winners – as he stayed on the better to edge out Presenting Percy on the run-in.

There’s an argument – a credible one at that – to suggest the eight-year-old will struggle to reproduce another big performance just four weeks later, but I’m of the other opinion that Our Duke is coming to the boil just at the right time, is lightly raced over fences and remains unexposed over staying trips relative to his main rivals, of whom there are plenty of doubts.

Native River will enjoy the rain-softened conditions but perhaps lacks the touch of class truly required to win the big one, while Might Bite would prefer better ground, has shown quirks at the track and must be opposed at around 3-1.

Robbie Power rides, the soft ground poses no problems and if able to get Our Duke into a prominent early position, maintaining his focus throughout at his fences, he must go very close and he rates a serious bet at 7-1. I absolutely loved his performance when landing the Irish National and can’t have him beaten if reproducing that sort of display, given his profile is ideal as a younger, lightly-raced second-season chaser.

Steering away from those at prohibitively short odds, he’s my nap of the meeting.

The final day kicks off with the Triumph Hurdle (1.30) where Willie Mullins’ filly Stormy Ireland must have a serious chance if able to run close to the level of her debut success at Fairyhouse.

The four-year-old was expected to win over two miles on heavy ground that day – sent off a 2/7 shot – but the manner of her 58 length win certainly had an element of ‘wow factor’ about it, something backed up by some smart timefigures in her closing sectionals, despite being hard on the steel turning for home.

Not seen on the track since, Stormy Ireland has clearly been impressing Mullins in her homework, given the glowing terms in which he has spoken about her at two recent press days. A slight setback which ruled her out of the Dublin Racing Festival is a small concern but the likes of Ruby Walsh and Patrick Mullins have been far from effusive regarding her chances and she’s the bet at 9-1.

In the Albert Bartlett (2.50) over three miles, Alan King’s Talkischeap, who was available at a massive 40-1 with Hills at the start of the week, still makes appeal at 20-1 on the rain softened ground.

I tend to look for an improver with plenty of race experience for this contest, as it can become a real slog and often falls apart at the front end, which could be ideal for King’s hold-up performer, who was really impressive on his most recent start last month at Newbury, cruising up to the leaders on the run-in and ridden clear under Wayne Hutchinson for a commanding success.

Talkischeap landed his first two starts over hurdles at Fontwell and Warwick (a track which can often be an excellent learning-curve for potential Cheltenham runners) before being beaten by a decent-sort of Emma Lavelle’s at Doncaster in December, at a time when the yard weren’t firing.

However, King is now flying (operating at a 35% strike rate over past fortnight) and only last week he nominated the Bartlett as Talkischeap’s intended option at the Festival, despite being entered in the Coral Cup. He looks a massive player each-way in a wide-open contest.

1.30: Stormy Ireland

2.10: Chesterfield

2.50: Talkischeap (nb)

3.30: Our Duke (nap)

4.10: Burning Ambition

4.50: Flawless Escape

5.30: Rock The World