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The Irish certainly aren’t renowned for their army, but Willie Mullins may change that perception this week at Cheltenham as he sends over a battalion of runners to do battle at Prestbury Park. The training maestro has amassed squad of equine talent equivalent in footballing terms to the superstars of Real Madrid and Barcelona combined. Naturally he saddles the favourite in the first race, the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and his runner Min definitely sets a high standard. Is he the bet though at the prices? We take a look.
1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
Mullins had a few contenders for the opening race on Tuesday, and he picked Min to try and maintain his excellent record in the race (has won the last 3 renewals). A four time raced 5 year old son of Walk In The Park, the gelding has created a very favourable impression with two electrifying performances in Ireland. Jumped slickly and showed a real engine when powering away on debut, and repeated that feat in Grade 2 company next time out. The one concern that day was that the horse was inclined to pull hard – something that he will struggle to get away with up the hill at Cheltenham. With that being said, the horse was in a small field and he is likely to get a better pace and more company which should help him settle. Has very solid claims on the form of those two victories in Ireland, but this does look like a hot renewal, with horses such as Altior and Buveur D’Air in opposition. The former has been ultra-impressive in racking up 4 wins in a row, and his best performance came last time out when routing a field at Kempton. That was only a novice hurdle but he did it in emphatic fashion. Looks the each-way bet in the race, and punters should take advantage of all the crazy offers and free bets available with the bookmakers.
3.30 Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle really does look like a sub-par renewal this time around. Willie Mullins’ superstar Faugheen (The Machine) was not able to make the festival, and this contest would surely have been at his mercy. Mullins has substituted that runner with his superstar mare Annie Power – a runner up in the World Hurdle. Her ideal distance is probably two and a half miles, but such is the lack of depth in this contest, she goes there with a favourites’ chance.
Nichols Canyon is more of a staying type and one suspects he may get outpaced before finishing with a flourish. The New One hasn’t seemed to have reached the heights of a few years ago, despite winning last time out, and the solid each-way bet in the race looks like Identity Thief. An unexposed winner of the Fighting Fifth hurdle at Newcastle last year, he was beaten by Nichols Canyon last time out in heavy ground at Leopardstown, but that ground would have most definitely suited Nichols Canyon (by mud lark Authorized) more. On better ground, he could well turn the tables and could still be improving.
Altior to win the Supreme Novices Hurdle – Each Way
Cheltenham, 13:30 GMT
Odds: 4/1 5.00 +400 4.00 4.00 -0.25
Identity Thief to win the Champion Hurdle – Each Way
Cheltenham, 15:30 GMT
Odds: 15/2 8.50 +750 7.50 7.50 -0.13