Irving can get punters off to a flyer on Cheltenham’s opening day
The famous Cheltenham roar will send the runners on their way for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 1.30 on Tuesday. The meeting begins with a clash between the unbeaten Irving and impressive Leopardstown winner Vautour.
The drying ground may just swing it in favour of the heavily-backed Irving who put up a brilliant display to win at Kempton last month. Nicky Henderson also has excellent prospects with Josses Hill and Vaniteux in a top quality renewal.
Champagne Fever heads the market in the Arkle Chase at 2.05 but faces formidable rivals in Dodging Bullets, Rock On Ruby and Trifolium. Preference is just for Rock On Ruby who thrives at this time of year and appears to have transferred his form from hurdles successfully.
Henderson is confident of a big run from Hadrian’s Approach in the Festival Chase at 2.40 but his jumping is still suspect in a big field. Alfie Sherrin is an interesting runner with just one outing over hurdles this season and Tony McCoy in the saddle.
There has been plenty of discussion about tactics for the Champion Hurdle at 3.20 and the supplemented Captain Cee Bee will set the pace. Hurricane Fly is bidding to win his third Champion Hurdle and has been impressive this season.
The main threat could come from The New One who was narrowly beaten by My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle. The latter has recovered from a minor setback last week but any injury so close to the race has to be a concern.
All eyes will be on the remarkable mare Quevega at 4.00 as she bids for a record sixth consecutive victory in the Mares’ Hurdle. She is the shortest priced favourite of the week and is officially rated more than a stone higher than her rivals.
Katie Walsh partners the strongly-fancied Foxrock in the National Hunt Chase at 4.40. Although he is a Grade 2 winner, he has not raced over this distance before and faces a smart opponent in Shotgun Paddy.
The closing Rewards4Racing Handicap Chase at 5.15 looks wide open and it may be worth taking a chance with last year’s third Ohio Gold. He has shaped promisingly in recent starts and has been aimed at this race all season.
Selections: 1.30 Irving (NAP), 2.05 Rock On Ruby, 2.40 Alfie Sherrin, 3.20 Hurricane Fly (nb), 4.00 Quevega, 4.40 Shotgun Paddy, 5.15 Ohio Gold