Cheltenham: Mullins primed for Supreme win but not with Vautour

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The 2014 Cheltenham Festival will get underway to the famous roar of the masses with Paul Nicholls’ Irving and Willie Mullins’ Vautour battling for favouritism in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

A Grade 1 test of speed and stamina across two miles, the Supreme often acts as a crystal ball for the speedy stars of the future.

This year’s rendition looks wide open with the 6-yr-old Irving shading the favouritism at 9/4 with Mullins’ French 5-yr-old snapping at his heels at 11/4.

Having won this race in 2011 with Al Ferof, Paul Nicholls is looking for his third career victory in the Festival’s opener and stands a chance with Irving, who has a 100 percent record over hurdles from four starts.

All four of those victories saw the gelding ease away from his competitors after the last to win by four lengths or more although, having never ran at Cheltenham or in a Grade 1 race, his ticker has yet to be tested.

The same can’t be said of Vautour, who’ll have Ruby Walsh on board for the race, having comfortably seen off one-time ante-post favourite The Tullow Tank (now a non-runner) in Leopardstown’s Deloitte Hurdle over 2m2f last time out.

Both Pricewise’s Tom Segal and our very own news team have talked up the chances of Wicklow Brave, another Mullins entry, at 6/1, but it is the County Carlow trainer’s third, and longest priced, option that is one to keep an eye on.

Valseur Lido (16/1) was impressive when running on strongly to take his maiden hurdle outing by 13 lengths before following up with a four-length success in the Christmas Novice Hurdle at Navan.

Considering Irish-based trainers have won 12 of the 22 curtain-raisers since 1991, with Mullins the most successful trainer in the race since 1972 with three wins, an each-way punt on his third-string is by no means a bad opening gambit.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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