The long wait is nearly over and we’re now climbing up the famous hill in so far as the build-up to this year’s Cheltenham Festival is concerned.
What awaits us at the finishing post?
Yes, there will be the Roar, a collection of opening day plot lines and some plot horses too no doubt.
But arguably more intriguing is just how wide open Champion Day appears to be.
For the first time in a while, the customary opening day battering dished out to bookies by Irish trainer Willie Mullins is by no more means a certainly.
Even the Closutton handler’s assault on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a race he’s won six times before and on four occasions in the previous five years, is open to question.
Impressive debutant Melon is well worth taking on with Mullins second-string Bunk Off Early and last year’s Champion Bumper hero Ballyandy just two other leading candidates.
The Arkle Trophy is another race that looks likely to elude Mullins with the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior almost unopposable.
But it’s the Champion Hurdle that’ll likely hurt the Festival’s reigning Top Trainer the most.
Deprived of Faugheen and Annie Power, the 60-year-old will have to watch on as the market principals duke it out.
Of those, Christmas Hurdle winner Yanworth and the Henderson pairing of Buveur D’Air and Brain Power appeal the most.
The latter has been the talking horse in the past week although Irish Champion Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir also has to enter consideration.
Mullins’ Footpad, runner-up at Leopardstown, will probably have to be content with minor honours at best.
However, the Mares’ Hurdle could provide some recompense.
This year’s renewal is being billed as a duel between the Rich Ricci-owned Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag but it’d be unwise to completely rule out Apple’s Jade given the fact that she ended VVM’s unbeaten run at Fairyhouse.
In terms of the handicaps, Festival favourite Holywell is worth an each-way dabble in the 14:50 while Nigel Twiston-Davies’ worthy market leader Foxtail Hill is our selection in the 17:30.
Here’s our full list of tips for day one of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival:
13:30 – Ballyandy
14:10 – Forest Bihan (Betting w/o favourite/Altior)
14:50 – Holywell EW
15:30 – Brain Power
16:10 – Limini
16:50 – A Genie In Abottle
17:30 – Foxtail Hill
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing