The highlight of the first day of the Chelentham Festival is the Grade One Champion Hurdle and it’s hard to look past Hurricane Fly or even make a solid case for any of his eight rivals.
The superstar of Mullins’ stable, Hurricane Fly is bidding to join an elite band of horses including Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq that have won three championship hurdling crowns.
Already a winner of 19 Grade One races, Hurricane Fly has won all three races this season.
Despite his awesome record there are still plenty who will pick holes in the horse: he certainly isn’t one for the distance betting and for those who say he isn’t as good around Cheltenham, two wins and a third after an injury-hit season suggests otherwise.
The New One may start at favourite but was beaten last time out at Kempton and has only run at two miles once.
Quevega, meanwhile, will be crowed the undisputed queen of Cheltenham if she can win at the festival for an unprecedented sixth consecutive year when Ruby Walsh partners her in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at 4pm.
The Mullins inmate equalled the great Golden Miller’s record of five wins on the bounce when prevailing by at length and a half over Sirene D’ainay 12 months ago.
Golden Miller dominated the Gold Cup from 1932 to 1936 and even won a Grand National.
Quevega only appears on the track twice a season and is unbeaten since May 2009.
The 10 year old’s last outing was at the Punchestown Festival when she beat Reve de Sivola in the Grade One World Series Hurdle.
The French-bred star faces 15 rivals and while likely to start odds-on should rate the proverbial penalty kick for another famous victory.
The festival starts with the competitive Supreme Novices Hurdle and looks a battle between Paul Nicholls Irving and the Mullins duo Vautour and Wicklow Brave, while the Arkle looks one of the most open renewals in recent years.
Ciaran’s Cheltenham Tips: 1.30pm Irving; 3.20 Hurricane Fly (banker); 4pm Quevega.