The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival 2021 is upon us and OTB's resident racing nerd Thom Malone has done some of the hard work so you don't have to.
The first race of the festival is the Supreme Novices Hurdle, going to post at 1.20. The Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It looks like a bombproof favourite.
"Historically, Ireland would be lucky to have a handful of winners, now we're having the majority..."
Will Irish domination of the Prestbury Cup continue?
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He is a short price, but deservedly so, as a dual grade one winner this season from just three starts over hurdles.
Appreciate It brings strong Cheltenham Festival form to the table having just been touched off in the 2020 Champion Bumper. The threats in this race don't look as strong as Ferny Hollow did in the bumper last year.
Willie Mullins mares' benefit race
In the Mares Hurdle at 3.40, it has historically been difficult to oppose Willie Mullins, but what Concertista has achieved is not accurately reflected in her price. The second-favourite Roksana was highly fortunate to win this race two years ago when capitalising on the fall of Benie des Dieux.
Her form since then is at a higher level than that of Concertista, having finished within two lengths of Paisley Park and beating Apples' Jade.
Willie Mullins could easily win this race here for the tenth time, but Roksana looks the bet.
In the National Hunt Chase at 4.50, connections of Royale Pagaille have taken the sporting decision to give him a run in the Gold Cup rather than here changing the market in the last couple of days dramatically.
Traditionally the weakest in terms of quality but also most physically demanding of the novice chases the winner needs stamina in abundance. One horse who has stamina and a touch of class is Next Destination.
This horse was formerly trained by Willie Mullins and won a grade one at Punchestown in 2018. He has since moved to Paul Nicholls' yard and been successful on two of his three starts.
Next Destination was a strongly staying-on winner of the Hampton Novices chase at Warwick when last seen. Strangely, the same route as his former stablemate Black Hercules took to Cheltenham glory in 2016 for Willie Mullins.
Catch the Cheltenham Festival Show every morning on OTB Sports from 10.30.