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That's a very frustrating scenario for those who believe the very best horses should contest the Festival's very best races. And, whatever happens next week, the absence of Annie and her stablemate Un De Sceaux would leave the Champion minus not one but two horses who would have added a huge amount to the mix.

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If only we knew. Assuming dope tests come back clear which seems a formality they will either clear him to travel or rule that the potential threat to the image of racing demands that he should be barred.

Maybe last week's visit to Ireland yielded something persuasive that the public doesn't know about. But if it didn't then my feeling is that Last Instalment should be allowed to take his chance and let justice take its course as and when the Irish courts see fit.

Taking on Bobs Worth at Cheltenham has been a very expensive business over the years. That said, Silviniaco Conti was moving powerfully when he came down three out last year and looked better than ever when running down the mighty Cue Card in the King George.

It's tough to know exactly how this saga has panned out but it looks like Messrs Mullins and Walsh have gradually held sway over owner Rich Ricci's natural desire to aim high.

There is still time for a surprise development and the market over the next week will probably centre around people trying to find value among the longshots.

will now die wondering whether Annie Power was good enough to win the 2014 Champion Hurdle in receipt of 7lb from the boys.

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Vibes coming out of Lambourn suggest he is "working the house down" but it's essential to remember that Triolo D'Alene's Newbury win came off a BHA mark of just 147.

Few will envy Paul Bittar as he addresses one of the knottiest problems of his turbulent time at the BHA, but I'm instinctively against policy based on how something looks as opposed to how it actually is.

Connections will be hoping he can emulate Rough Quest by running a blinder before going on to Aintree glory and there will be plenty prepared to take big prices on the back of his Hennessy success back in November.

And, in the absence of such information, the rest of us can only speculate.

Last Instalment does have a good ground Grade 1 success on his dance card though the time suggested conditions were softer but he jumped New Balance Purple Trainers

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That's understandable, but the number of horses who are genuinely capable of running to a mark of 175 plus in this year's race looks small.

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4: Cut to the chase. Who wins the 2014 Gold Cup?

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New Balance Orange Spikes

The decision will look sound if the Fly wins a third Champion and the Power beats Big Buck's in the World Hurdle.

5: What plans for the mole who kept saying the Champion Hurdle was the plan for Annie Power?

However, Ricci and the rest New Balance On Feet

The nightmare scenario for the BHA is that Fenton will lift the Gold Cup on March 14th only to be found guilty of possessing steroids in an Irish court the following week.

3: What's the logic behind Triolo D'Alene limbering up for Aintree in the Gold Cup rather than a handicap?

´╗┐Horse Racing Features

The question of whether he would have beaten Bobs Worth last year will never truly be answered. But Conti comes back to the Festival at the peak of his powers. And, although 3 1 is hardly the bargain of the week with the Last Instalment riddle yet to be solved, it's easy enough to see him giving Paul Nicholls the fifth Gold Cup win of his career.

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New Balance Orange Spikes

superbly when winning the Irish Hennessy and it was fascinating to hear a wily old judge like Barry Geraghty mentioning him in the same breath as Kicking King and Denman on RUK last week.

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In conclusion, I don't have the inside track as to whether the BHA will allow him to run. But if he does take his chance Last Instalment will warrant maximum respect. And the fact that Cue Card is now out of the picture could make his freewheeling tactics even more dangerous.

His stablemate Bobs Worth gained his 2012 Hennessy success off 160 and has clearly improved again since, while it's also worth noting that Triolo D'Alene's two previous visits to Cheltenham were hardly inspiring. All in all, he has much to prove despite those positive vibes.

1: What will the BHA do about Last Instalment this week?

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And the nightmare scenario for Last Instalment's owner Michael O'Leary is that the gelding will spend Gold Cup day in his box only for the case against Fenton to collapse when finally aired in public.

First, an industrial sized dose of

On the minus side, his connections admit he has "legs New Balance Orange Spikes of glass" and drying ground on his first visit to Cheltenham would pose him a very different question than he has faced before.

I doubt they will provide much detail as to what Philip Fenton told them about why steroids were allegedly on his premises when the Department of Agriculture swooped in 2012.

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2: How big a threat Is Last Instalment if he does get the all clear?

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