The Cheltenham Festival is here and the opening afternoon is set to feature four short-price favourites four punters to weigh up.
With the declarations in, how will the day one hot-pots fair up and are there any value alternatives to get us started?
First out will by Getabird in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (13:30) in the famous Rich Ricci colours. He represents the powerful Willie Mullins yard and has the festival’s most successful rider Ruby Walsh for company.
He’s the 7/4 favourite mostly on account of his win in the Moscow Flyer in Ireland last time out. His connections have a solid record in this race but Getabird doesn’t appear as classy as the likes Champagne Fever, Douvan and Vautour and a field of 19 rivals is enough to make him opposable.
Kalashnikov can get Britain off to a winning start. He swatted aside a field of experienced rivals to win the Betfair Hurdle last month and was most impressive in doing so. That form, and experience, will stand to him and he will be at home in the prevailing ground ensuring 4/1 appeals in the curtain-raiser.
Second off is the Arkle (14:10) where only four rivals have turned up to take on 5/4 favourite Footpad, again for Mullins and Walsh.
Favourites have an excellent recent record in this race, with six of the last seven obliging and Footpad can go in for punters.
He jumps fast and accurate and can put pressure on the main rivals Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados by doing so. That cost the former when they met last time at Leopardstown and it is the Kingmaker winner Saint Calvados that is feared most in what will be a cut-throat contest up front.
Reigning Champion Hurdle champion Buveur D’air is a strong 4/7 favourite to hold onto his crown and he is very hard to oppose.
Nicky Henderson’s charge hasn’t put a foot wrong since last year and while he hasn’t beaten much this season, he has done it with sheer ease of effort. He’s in his prime, whereas former winner Faugheen must defy a 37-year-old trend to win at 10.
He’s got bigger questions to answer on his recent form too and stablemate Melon, priced at 16/1, is offered up as the each-way value in the race.
Second in the Supreme a year ago, he’s still unexposed after only four more runs over timber and can put his course form to good use under the excellent Paul Townend.
The final shorty for punters to work out is the outstanding Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle (16:10) for last year’s leading trainer at the meeting Gordon Elliott.
She won this race a year ago in gutsy fashion and can be relied on if a battle ensues. At six, she also appears to have improved again this season and will be a very tough nut to crack. She’d probably be favourite in the Stayers’ Hurdle and should win this race at odds of 4/7.
Given that Benie Des Dieux has been chasing since arrive from France, she’s passed over in the list of dangers despite Mullins’ exceptional track record with mares.
La Bague Au Roi has improved this season for Warren Greatrex but might be wanting three-miles and so 14/1 chance Jer’s Girl, who fell in this race when moving well last year, is the each-way alternative to the favourite that appeals most.
Gavin Cromwell’s runner got within two-lengths of Apple’s Jade at Navan earlier in the season and is a pretty useful performer in her own right.