Lee Sobot’s Cheltenham tips: Day One

DOUVAN is a confident selection to bring the Cheltenham Festival house down in today’s highly-anticipated Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm).

Trainer Willie Mullins with Ruby Walsh on the gallops at Cheltenham Racecourse.

The bookmakers are fearing a day one bashing – and with four Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh hot-pots on the agenda they might just get it.

Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and Annie Power all represent Mullins and Walsh with Douvan the biggest priced of the quartet at around 2-1.

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Un De Sceaux is around 8-11 for the Racing Post Arkle (2.05pm) while Faugheen is 5-4 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.20pm).

Annie Power is around 4-6 for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (4pm) and thousands of punters up and down the land will have all four horses in an accumulator that pays around 16-1.

There’s a general consensus that given the competitiveness of the Cheltenham Festival they surely can’t all win. Can they? After all, as Coral spokesman David Stevens admits: “The school of thought is they all can’t win, but they can.”

Annie Power certainly looks a good thing in the Mares’ race as she has 12lbs in hand of her rivals and could run well below par – which she probably won’t – and still win.

Similarly, Un De Sceaux is the top-rated horse in the Arkle – let alone given the scope for more improvement – and he should gallop his rivals into the ground by making all.

It will be hold on to your hats stuff given his million mile an hour free-going running style but quite simply if he jumps he wins.

It’s less straight-forward with Faugheen and Douvan who are not even clear of their rivals on the figures but Faugheen has won nine out of nine and he has looked a monster in demolishing whatever has been put in front of him.

A tenth win and a new Champion Hurdler awaits as part of a memorable day which Douvan can begin with a bang.

Nicky Henderson’s L’Ami Serge is actually the highest rated horse in the Supreme and warrants a saver at 7-2 but Mullins says the progressive Douvan is “as nice a horse as we’ve ever had going to Cheltenham.”

Mullins has had 33 winners at the Festival and that’s good enough for me.

At bigger odds, recent Wetherby winners Ned Stark (2.40pm) and Horizontal Speed (5.15pm) should have sporting chances in their respective races while the re-routed Very Wood is fancied for the 4.40pm.

But day one is all about the Mullins big four and expect an extra loud Cheltenham roar as the Supreme tapes go up at half past one.