With one eye on the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, Betfred’s Owen McMahon picks out some horses that caught his attention over the last week.

There’s plenty to unpack, so I’m adopting a new approach for this column. Instead of mentioning all of the horses that impressed me over the past seven days, I’ve ranked my five standout performances with that week in March in mind.

Coming in at fifth is Noel Meade’s THEDEVILSCOACHMAN, who won a competitive G3 novice chase at Naas on Sunday.

Despite not finishing first past the post, the seven-year-old was awarded the race in the stewards’ room and you’d struggle to say it wasn’t deserved.

Without that interference, I think he’d have won pretty easily which makes him excellent value at 14/1 for a not-so-vintage looking Brown Advisory – which is the only race he’s entered in at the Festival.

Next up is WESTERN DIEGO, who won the bumper later on the card in impressive fashion.

Willie Mullins’ six-year-old travelled powerfully and was eased to a 6½ length success, likely booking his ticket for the Champion Bumper. 12/1? That’s good value, with his form tying in somewhat closely with that of stablemate It’s For Me, who comfortably heads the betting.

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In third place I’ve put THREE CARD BRAG for Gordon Elliott.

After placing in a couple of Graded contests earlier this season, the son of Jet Away was dropped back into novice company at Fairyhouse on Wednesday where he was an emphatic winner, beating Willie Mullins’ highly-regarded Spanish Harlem by a widening 12L.

Three Card Brag is our antepost favourite for the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, but I think this is a proper stayer who is crying out for three miles. Connections are loyal to jockey Adrian Heskin too, who wouldn’t be able to ride in Festival finale, and have suggested the Albert Bartlett is the target.

He’s 8/1 for that race, which for me is a very fair price.

The runner-up position goes to another Elliott horse – TEAHUPOO, who rocketed to the top of the Stayers’ Hurdle market (9/4 NRNB) after bolting up by 15L on his first attempt at the three-mile trip in the G2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thursday.

This was a serious performance. Not only was he giving away 9lbs+ to his five rivals, but the six-year-old travelled powerfully, jumped well and showed a wicked turn of foot to put the bed to race with ease.

He’ll be up against much, much tougher opposition in March, but for me he’s confirmed not just that he gets three miles well, but that the Hatton’s Grace form – where he beat both Klassical Dream and Honeysuckle – was no fluke.

Is he ground dependent? That’s the one concern at this stage, but if it does come up soft on that Thursday at the Festival, I’d make Teahupoo exceptionally hard to beat.

My performance of the week – which I must stress is with the context of the Cheltenham Festival in mind – was actually a losing one.

DELTA WORK‘s third in the Cross Country Handicap Chase makes him, in my opinion, the strongest antepost favourite for those four days in March.

Factoring in Rob James’ seven pound claim, the 10-year-old was giving 16lbs to the winner Back On The Lash and 18lbs to the second Deise Aba, and was only beaten by about four lengths. When they meet again in just over six weeks, they’ll be off level weights – and Delta Work will have a certain Davy Russell in the plate.

I strongly advise putting that 5/4 about him winning the Cross Country Chase into any multiples you may be considering for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.

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