13:30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle
We start the week with the eagerly anticipated Supreme Novices' Hurdle and it looks a potential cracker to get us underway.
The Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins partnership has won the last three renewals of this race and they have the favourite to do so again in Min. He has been super impressive in his two starts to date, winning both extremely comfortably. This will be much tougher obviously due to the larger field and much higher calibre opposition. He beat Ball D'Arc at Punchestown by over ten lengths and Ruby hardly had to get him going, Ball D'Arc has since won a Listed hurdle and a Grade 2 to give the form a really solid look to it.
Altior for Nicky Henderson has won his last four races including here at Cheltenham and looks certain to pose a big threat to Min. He looks like he will easily get further than two miles later on in his career so will sure to be staying on up the hill. He looks to hit a bit of a flat spot around half a mile from the finish in his races so far, and if that happens today he may well find himself outpaced and with two much ground to make up.
14:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
Another Ricci horse is going to start a very short price in the Ankle, and it is impossible to look past Douvan for the win. He is unbeaten in seven starts to date, including three over fences, and he was massively impressive when beating Sizing John by 18 lengths on Boxing Day where he was unextended. Douvan looks the banker of the festival, although he is a very skinny price, he does not look beatable unless putting in a big mistake and coming down. His jumping so far has looked very profficient however and I can see him taking this before going on to be a chasing star.
SizingJohn re-opposes again and I think he is the best of the rest. He will appreciate the better ground here at Cheltenham and looks sure to give a good account of himself. For those of you not wanting to take the short odds of Douvan, a straight forecast of him to be Sizing John could be the play to make.
15:30 Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
The absence of Faugheen and Arctic Fire leave this year's Champion Hurdle looking short of real top class horses, however, there is still plenty to go at and it means there could be some good value to be had.
Annie Power will start as favourite and I think she is a bit of a weak favourite on what she has done so far. She also had the Mares' and Long Walk hurdles as alternatives to this, and they are ran over two and a half miles and three miles respectively. This will be run at break neck speed over two miles and I have a feeling she will be found at this distance.
Nicholls Canyon looks sure to set the pace and try and make all, the same way he did when defeating Faugheen at Punchestown in November. Connections said they ran the race the wrong way when suffering a reverse against Faugheen at Leopardstown, where he was also well beaten by Arctic Fire, and looks sure to make sure there is plenty of pace in the race. I think he could be vulnerable to a fast finisher however and may get collared up the hill.
The New One has been off the radar for a while despite winning a few lower grade events, however I think he has an excellent chance if Nigel Twiston-Davies has got him back to his best. I think he would have won this race two years ago if he wasn't badly hampered and last year he fell victim of trying to go toe to toe with Faugheen, meaning he inevitably ran out of steam when it mattered most. If he can stay close enough to Nicholls Canyon and not lose touch when they come down the hill, then I think when the ground starts to rise he will really come into his own and power away up the hill.
16:10 OLGB Mares' Hurdle
Vroum Vroum Mag has won all of her starts in the UK to date and she can add to a brilliant first day for the Willie Mullins team. Although not quite on the level of her stable mate Annie Power as yet, she looks to have plenty in hand over this field and unless there is a similar blunder to what Annie Power put in last year, she should be too good and take this.
13:30 - Min - 2 points @ 9/4 (Most firms)
14:10 - Douvan - 5 points @ 2/5 (Racebets)
15:30 - The New One - 1 point @ 11/2 (Most firms)
16:10 - Vroum Vroum Mag - 3 points @ evens (Most firms)