The wait is finally over, as the 2016 Cheltenham Festival is set to propel into the limelight on Tuesday afternon, and we preview all the action on day one here, as Annie Power aims to bound to Champion Hurdle glory, while Min, Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag are another triumvirate of Willie Mullins' stars aiming to sparkle on Prestbury Park. Bring It On!!
Annie Aims To Shine In Dazzling Dozen In Champion Hurdle
Annie Power's final flight tumble in the Mares' Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival still remains fresh in the mind, but the top notch eight-year-old has the opportunity of making amends in the showpiece event of the opening day, and having breezed to a facile win at Punchestown on her comeback run, she will be the one to beat in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, which takes centre stage at 3:30pm on Tuesday afternoon.
Reigning champion Faugheen's absence from the Grade 1 event has certainly left the door ajar for a successor to sparkle at GL50, but while Annie Power may spearhead the Irish charge the likes of her stablemate Nichols Canyon and Henry de Bromhead's Identity Thief will add strength in depth to the Emerald Isle challenge.
However, the home brigade will veer towards The New One, who is hoping it will be third-time lucky in the Champion Hurdle, while My Tent Or Yours will return from a 703-day absence to take his chance in a race he finished second in in 2014, and should he reproduce his best form should go close.
Douvan Set To Dominate Arkle, As Min Aims For Supreme Win
Douvan is arguably the hottest equine property heading to Cheltenham all week, and last year's emphatic Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner is a red-hot odds-on favourite for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, and on paper it would appear that the Closutton phenomenon will just have to jump round to land the seven-runner contest at 2:10pm.
A magnificent seven wins out of seven under Rules have catapulted him into the limelight, and while the likes of Vaniteux and Sizing John will make him work for his success, he appears to be in a different stratosphere, and will be many punter's banker heading into the four days.
While the love for Douvan shines brighter than ever, Min, who has been clear favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for several months, could be the Mullins' hotpot that punters look to take on in the curtain-raiser at 1:30pm, and the exciting youngster will face some progressive novice hurdlers in the race that will be greeted with the famous Cheltenham roar when the tapes go up.
Nicky Henderson's duo of Altior and Buveur D'air will be two of the liveliest challengers to Min in the Supreme, while Bellshill, Silver Concorde and Tombstone are another star Irish-trained duo lining up in a race blessed with astonishing potential.
Mag Ready To Show Va Va Vroum And Could Star On Rest Of Day 1 Card
The Mullins multiples could be totting up as Tuesday's racing progresses and if the aforementioned trio of Min, Douvan and Annie Power were to win then all eyes will be fixed firmly on Vroum Vroum Mag, who is hovering around the Even money mark for the Mares' Hurdle at 4:10pm, and if she can blossom on her first visit to Cheltenham then is the one to beat.
Minella Rocco will be among a competitive batch of staying novice chasers aiming to feature prominently in the National Hunt Chase at 4:50pm, but Noble Endeavor and Pont Alexandre will be two of the Irish challengers aiming to launch to the fore, while Colin Tizzard, who will aim to kick off what could be a fabulous week in style, will saddle Native River, who has to come into calculations.
A brace of handicap events will also feature on the opening day of the Greatest Show On Turf, and Out Sam will be one of the premier contenders for the Ultima Handicap Chase, which is run at 2:10pm, while the ultra-progressive Aloomomo, who sparkled over fences on Hennessy Gold Cup day, will aim to figure at another big National Hunt meeting, and is the one to beat in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at 5:30pm.