Tuesday March 16
1.20 Supreme Novices Hurdle - Appreciate It
Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It must be the percentage call in the traditional Festival opener, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
It was surprising to hear a lukewarm consensus reaction to the seven-year-old’s third successive hurdles victory, and second Grade One, at Leopardstown last month.
Appreciate It did not show an electric change of gear there, yet he was still well on top. He is unlikely be the fastest Supreme winner on record but already has fine Festival form - albeit as a beaten favourite when second in last year’s Champion Bumper - and in what does not look a vintage renewal, he may well prevail this time.
1.55 Arkle Chase - Shishkin
Shishkin is a more obvious, and yet probably marginal, choice in the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase.
Henderson’s 2020 Supreme winner has been exemplary in his three runs over fences - but so too has Allmankind, who is capable of setting him his toughest task to date.
The absence of Mullins’ fellow unbeaten novice Energumene, after a late injury setback, detracts from what had appeared to be a cracking renewal but has reduced to a select field of just six.
2.30 Ultima Handicap Chase - AYE RIGHT (NAP)
There will be no more deserving winner throughout the four days than if Aye Right can cap his admirable season with a breakthrough success on the biggest stage, in the Ultima Handicap Chase.
Harriet Graham’s eight-year-old is winless since January last year, and could manage only a distant fifth as a huge outsider in the Grade One staying novice chase at the Festival 12 months ago.
He has progressed throughout the current campaign, though, finishing on the heels of or in front of a series of very notable performers in each of his four attempts.
3.05 Champion Hurdle - Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle can rise to the sternest of challenges as she bids to extend her unbeaten career record in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Henry de Bromhead’s mare has won all 10 of her rules starts since making her debut in November 2018 - and a point-to-point for good measure, the previous spring.
She was impressive as well as consistent on her rise through the ranks to the top level, until twice having to dig deep, in last year’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and then to retain her Hatton’s Grace crown at Fairyhouse this season.
3.40 Mares Hurdle - Roksana
4.15 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Chase - Homme Public
Homme Public is of interest in the ultra-competitive Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
4.50 National Hunt Chase - Snow Leopardess
The consistent Snow Leopardess should appreciate the longer trip in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
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