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Today at the Cheltenham Festival: Day One preview

High class racing, top quality horses and the famous Cheltenham roar; racing fans will be greeted to all of this and more on what promises to be a fantastic opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The action gets underway at 1.30pm with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a race which for many punters will herald the start of their Willie Mullins’ accumulators.

Mullins himself will be hoping to oblige his backers and get his Festival off to the perfect start with Douvan. This son of Walk In The Park is unbeaten since moving to his yard and has notched up two facile victories in Ireland.

Although he has yet to face horses with the quality of L’Ami Serge and Jollyallan, he has a huge reputation at home and deserves the utmost respect.

On to the second race the Arkle Challenge Trophy, and the familiar figure of Mullins could be gracing the winners enclosure once again, this time with Un De Sceaux. A hugely progressive seven-year-old who remained unbeaten over hurdles before switching to fences.

After falling on his seasonal debut over the larger obstacles he returned to winnings ways with two emphatic victories, the last of which was particularly impressive. If he can put in a clean round of jumping, his class could well demolish this field.

The bookies may well be looking for the handicaps to provide respite, but sadly, in the form of Pendra, they could be put to the sword once more in race three, the Ultima Handicap.

Seemingly laid out for this contest after one run this season at Newbury, the jockey/trainer pairing of AP McCoy and Charlie Longsdon look to have a strong chance of success.

Tuesday’s feature race is the Champion Hurdle, and this year’s renewal promises to be a fantastic event. Reigning Champion Hurdler Jezki will relish the return to Cheltenham, good ground and a truly run race, but may well fall to the hooves of the potential superstar Faugheen.

Last year’s winner of the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle has continued to progress this season over hurdles since dropped back in trip. Some will question what he has achieved in his two victories this season, but Faugheen has despatched his rivals with ease and looks potential-laden and a coming force in the division.

Race five is the Mares’ Hurdle, and it looks to revolve around last year’s World Hurdle runner-up Annie Power. Despite not being seen this season due to a set-back, she comes here as the one to beat and will prove difficult to do so if back to anywhere near her best.

The concluding two contests on the opening day focus on Novice Chasers with the Toby Balding National Hunt Chase for Amateur Riders and the Chaps Restaurants Barbados Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Whilst, the first-named will be a gruelling, stamina-demanding contest and the latter will be a thorough test of jumping ability, both could be saving graces for bookmakers.