The 2019 Cheltenham Festival kicks off today where the feature race of the day is the Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30).
Ireland have a very strong hand with two of the top three in the betting in the shape of Apple’s Jade and Laurina, both exceptionally talented mares.
Apple’s Jade has had a stunning season, winning her four starts this term by a combined total of 73 and Gordon Elliott reports her to be in superb shape ahead of her biggest test to date. She is the current favourite with most firms.
Laurina was a wide-margin winner at last year’s festival but, although unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, she has to take on the boys this time so is entering unknown territory under Ruby Walsh.
And don’t forget the Gavin Cromwell-trained Espoir D’Allen who could surprise a few at a big price.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have had the favourite for the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle (1.30) for the last five years on the trot and they could have the market leader again as money has been pouring in for Klassical Dream.
Six of the 12 runners in the Racing Post Arkle (2.10) are trained in Ireland and the Gordon Elliott-trained Hardline is the shortest price of them under Davy Russell.
For many, the Irish banker on day one will be Benie Des Dieux in the OLBG Mares Hurdle (4.10). She won the race last year and will be odds-on to repeat the feat for Mullins and Walsh.
First Race: 1.30pm (7 races)