Excitement amongst National Hunt fans has reached fever pitch as the stage is set for the start of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, and what a mouth-watering opening day we have in store at Prestbury Park. We preview all Tuesday's action here.......
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have a sensational record in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, which will kick off the jumping extravaganza at 1:30pm on Tuesday afternoon, and the pair will join forces once again for the curtain-raiser with Melon, who is currently heading the betting for the opener.
However, last year's Champion Bumper hero and recent Betfair Hurdle winner Ballyandy will bid for more festival glory, while Bunk Off Early will be the second shot fired by the Mullins gun, with River Wylde aiming to hand Nicky Henderson more success in a race he won 12 months ago with Altior.
And it's that Seven Barrows inmate who is a red-hot favourite for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, which is the second race on the card at 2:10pm, and Altior is sure to be many punter's first-day banker, as he aims to maintain his unbeaten record over fences.
The highlight on the card comes at 3:30pm, and the Stan James Champion Hurdle is an extremely wide open affair, with the JP McManus-owned duo of Yanworth and Buveur D'air currently heading the betting, but they will face some stiff opposition from Irish raider Petit Mouchoir, with Moon Racer set to add more depth to the Championship showpiece after the David Pipe-trained star was veered down this route instead of tacking the Supreme earlier in the afternoon.
Often a race that struggles to capture the racing aficionados' imagination, the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at 4:10pm is an absolute crackerjack renewal with the Willie Mullins-trained duo Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag clash, while last year's Triumph Hurdle runner-up Apple's Jade adds more depth to arguably the finest renewal of this race, since its inception.
Elsewhere, on a sumptuous seven-race card, the Ultima Handicap Chase at 2:05pm will see an ultra-competitive field line up for glory, while the National Hunt Chase at 4:50pm will be another devilishly difficult betting conundrum for punters, with the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase rounding off the day-one proceedings at 5:30pm, and will be yet another punter head-scratcher on what is set to be a spectacular day's Jumps racing.