Getabird in full flight for Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham
Mullins-trained Footpad will face maximum of eight rivals in the Arkle Trophy
Paul Townend on Getabird. The six-year-old is unbeaten in four starts,and was a brilliant winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Trainer Willie Mullins has won the festival curtain-raiser three times in the last five years, and a record five times overall. His last two respective major hopes, Min and Melon, both finished second.
This year’s assault is headed by Getabird, who is unbeaten in four starts and was a brilliant winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January, a race Mullins inmates Vautour and Douvan claimed en route to Supreme glory.
The Closutton handler has whittled his potential team down to three, with Sharjah and Whiskey Sour his other potential representatives.
Gordon Elliott has left in Mengli Khan and the much-vaunted Samcro, although the latter appears likely to contest the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday.
The home team includes Amy Murphy’s Betfair Hurdle hero Kalashnikov, Tom George’s Tolworth Hurdle winner Summerville Boy and Claimantakinforgan, who is Nicky Henderson’s only challenger.
The Mullins-trained Footpad will face a maximum of eight rivals in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy. The six-year-old is three from three since having his attentions turned towards chasing, and is a hot favourite to add to his tally at the chief expense of old rival Petit Mouchoir, trained by Henry de Bromhead. Mullins has also left in Kemboy and the only mare in the field Asthuria.
Henderson’s Brain Power and Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados are also in contention, along with North Hill Harvey (Dan Skelton), Robinshill (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and the Elliott-trained Tombstone.
Last year’s winner Apple’s Jade is the headline act in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Elliott’s prolific six-year-old is odds on across the board for the 2½-mile Grade One, and is one of 17 confirmations.
Despite the retirement of 2016 Mares’ Hurdle heroine Vroum Vroum Mag, Mullins still has a strong hand as he bids to win the prize for a ninth time.This year’s team is headed by Benie Des Dieux, who, like Vroum Vroum Mag, reverts to hurdles having kicked off her Irish career by racing over fences. She could be joined by Augusta Kate, last season’s Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle winner Let’s Dance, Meri Devie and Pravalaguna.
Other hopefuls include the Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi, and Henderson’s pair of Kayf Grace and Verdana Blue.
Gold Present heads 43 horses going forward for the Ultima Handicap Chase. Leading fancies include Coo Star Sivola and Singlefarmpayment.
Jury Duty, Dounikos, No Comment and Rathvinden are all on a list of 28 confirmations for the National Hunt Chase.
The concluding handicap on day one of the Festival is the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, for which 52 have stood their ground. Ramses De Teillee heads the weights, and the likes of De Plotting Shed, Any Second Now, Movewiththetimes and Barney Dwan all remain in the mix.