The Cheltenham Festival begins in earnest this afternoon with a whole host of star names and top-quality races.
Getabird, Footpad, Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade are the four good things on day one who could cost the betting industry an estimated £20m.
However, we think there could be a surprise in store for one of the fancied quartet thanks to the expected heavy ground at the Festival.
Find out which one, plus read our tips for each race, below…
1:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Kalashnikov (NB)
Getabird is highly-fancied for the Supreme. But we think that the progressive Kalashnikov could stick the knife in for trainer Amy Murphy. The five-year-old looked good when winning at Newbury last month and should relish the conditions afforded to him here.
He was authoritative in his victory that day and showed improvement from his second behind Summerville Boy on his only previous Grade 1 start.
That should continue this afternoon in a race where the favourite has triumphed just once in the past decade.
2:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase – Footpad
Only five runners will line-up for this year’s Arkle. And of those five it only looks as though three stand a realistic chance of victory – Footpad, Saint Calvados and Petit Mouchoir. Of that trio, it’s Footpad that gets the nod.
Willie Mullins’ star was a comfortable winner over Petit Mouchoir in a Leopardstown Grade 1 last time out. He jumps at speed and has been faultless over the bigger obstacles thus far.
That, alongside his experience at the highest-level, should be enough for Footpad to land this contest for Mullins for the third time in four years.
2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase – Gold Present
A wide-open field full of chances will contest the first handicap of the Festival. While Yala Enki should be considered to hit the frame, it’s Nicky Henderson’s charge Gold Present who is fancied to land the renewal.
The six-year-old has run well at Cheltenham before, finishing second in the Close Brothers’ Handicap Chase 12 months ago.
He comes into this looking for a three-timer and will take heart from Un Temps Pour Tout landing the race off an identical mark last year.
3:30 Champion Hurdle – Buveur D’Air
Buveur D’Air is the favourite for the Champion Hurdle for a reason. Henderson’s raider is nine from 10 over hurdles and has proven form on soft and heavy ground. Faugheen provides the danger.
If the 10-year-old can rediscover his form of old, we could be in for a Cheltenham classic.
4:10 OLGB Mares’ Hurdle – Apple’s Jade (NAP)
La Bague Au Roi, Benie Des Dieux and Apple’s Jade all come into this on the back of a hat-trick of victories. But it’s the latter of the trio that is the classiest operator at this level.
Gordon Elliott’s mare has swept aside all before her this season and will be boosted by a return to her preferred 2m 4f here. The six-year-old boasts unmatchable Grade 1 form and landed this contest in impressive style last year.
With such class and elegance, Apple’s Jade is the NAP of Day 1 at the Festival.
4:50 National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase – Ms Parfois
Jury Duty has disappointed on two of his last three starts at Graded level. So it’s down to the progressive Ms Parfois to continue that streak in the penultimate race of the day.
Anthony Honeyball is a trainer in form. His raider is a game stayer and will enjoy this testing slog while taking weight from her rivals.
5:30 National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase – Demi Sang (Lively Longshot)
Demi Sang has plenty of potential and can grab a place for connections. He blundered badly in his last race up against the likes of Footpad and Petit Mouchoir, but this one looks much easier for the five-year-old.
Extensive experience on very soft ground over in Ireland will only help his claims for a place at the very least.
Click here for the latest Cheltenham Festival 2018 odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.