The Cheltenham National Hunt Festival begins on Tuesday and as usual local connections are looking for winners at the home of National Hunt racing but success may be hard to come by with the strong entry from Ireland in many races.

Trainer Venetia Williams is no stranger to success at the Festival and this year the chaser Royale Pigalle carries her main hope of success in Friday's Gold Cup after the injury to her main hope L’Homme Presse .

A fortunate runner-up to Bravemansgame in the King George V  Chase at Christmas time the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which Royale Pigalle finished  fifth last year, is his next objective en route to a possible tilt at the Grand National for the stout stayer for whom current soft ground conditions are favourable.

Williams, with stable jockey Charlie Deutsch, also has a number of multiple entries from her Kings Caple yard during the week with Fanion D’Estruval and Cloudy Glen both possible in Tuesday’s Ultima Handicap Chase whilst her Funembule Sivola is  a possible runner in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Byton trainer Kerry Lee has outsider Atlanta Brave entered in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle on the  Wednesday  of the Festival  with the market headed by the Paul Nicoll’s trained Hermes Allen and the irish challenger Impair Et Passe

The Foxhunters Chase on Friday could see a local success with Ledbury owner Clive Hitchings having a strong chance with his hunter-chaser Secret Investor,  the mount of Natalie Parker, being prominent in the betting after two recent wins at  Bangor and Kelso, although his stamina will be stretched on the rain-softened ground against last year’s winner Billaway.

Much Marcle trainer Tom Lacey, whose stable are in good form at present, intends to send a small team to this year’s meeting.

“I’m delighted the way things are going, the horses are generally running well” and he confirmed at the weekend that they will be headed up by Tea Clipper, who will bid to go three places better than twelve months ago in the Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday ridden by Ledbury based Stan Sheppard.

The heavy recent rain has not helped his cause as Lacey confirmed: “The rain has ruined everything, it will be pretty dire out there, Tea Clipper would have been be our best chance but he is higher in the weights”

Glory And Fortune is likely to go for the County Handicap Hurdle, to be partnered by stable jockey Stan Sheppard and Luttrell Lad, who can be excused a poor run last time out at Kelso as his saddle slipped during the race, also entered

As for the feature Gold Cup race on Friday, Lacey can see no danger to Galopin Des Champs: “I can’t see the favourite being beaten” he commented, whilst he also can see the Gordon Elliot trained Three Card Brag running a big race in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on Friday and an ex-Lacey inmate is Dorking Cock who, now trained in Ireland , will take his chance in the Foxhunters Chase and Lacey confirms: “I’ll be watching with great interest how he performs”.