Cheltenham Festival Day One: King charge looks right play in the Champion

Trainer Willie Mullins Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
Trainer Willie Mullins Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
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THE roar of the Cheltenham Festival returns today.

It is the Olympics of National Hunt racing and the four-day spectacle attracts hundreds of thousands of race-goers to Prestbury Park, as well as millions more watching on TV.

Today’s feature is the Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) and it looks a wide open affair.

The race lacks its usual quality with Willie Mullins’ duo Faugheen and Annie Power both missing the race due to injury.

But, Yanworth looks to tick all the right boxes to take advantage of their absences.

Unbeaten this season, the son of Norse Dancer wasn’t entirely convincing last time out for many in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. But, the Devon circuit suits speedier-type horses whereas Cheltenham plays to his stamina strengths.

Yanworth will enjoy the quick gallop that is likely to be set and he was second to Yorkhill in the Neptune Management Novices’ Hurdle last year when he gave up vital ground turning for home.

The opening race of the day is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm). Mullins has dominated this race recently having won three of the last four renewals and Melon could be all the rage in the betting. However, the five-year-old has won just once over hurdles at Leopardstown in January and the horse back in second has come out and done nothing.

River Wylde looks a solid each-way bet in the race after producing a decent performance at Kempton last time, where he did all of his best work in the business end of the affair.

Altior took the Supreme last year and he’ll be poetry in motion in the Arke Chase (2.10pm). But, Charbel looks best of the rest and has always been held in the very highest regard by trainer Kim Bailey.

In the Mares’ race, Ruby Walsh chooses to ride Limini as opposed to Vroom Vrrom Mag, but don’t underestimate the chances of Apple’s Jade. She was beaten by Limini last time, but Bryan Cooper gave Apple’s Jade an easy time and may have kept plenty in hand.

Tips for each race

1.30 - River Wylde each-way

2.05 - Charbel (betting without Altior)

2.50 - Buywise each-way

3.30 - Yanworth

4.10 - Apple’s Jade

4.50 - Martello Tower each-way

5.30 - Foxtail Hill