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It always feels like an age for the Cheltenham Festival to return once the previous one finishes, but the greatest shown on turf is finally back on our television screens, and if you're lucky enough to go to the races this week, enjoy the occasion and soak in the atmosphere.

As always, the first race of the festival is the Supreme Novices' Hurdle Grade 1 which sees the best 2m novice hurdlers line up for their chance of kicking off the Cheltenham Festival as a winner. This could set your betting week up for a great start or put you on the back foot already. Siding with Nicky Henderson or Willie Mullins has been the route to take for this race in the last ten years, with those two stables saddling 7/10 winners.

Based on the profile of the horses who are turning up for this race, it's hard to get too enthusiastic that we're going to see another Constitution Hill, Shishkin, Vautour or Douvan, but let's hope it's a competitive race and all horses and jockeys make it back safe and sound.

Cheltenham 1:30 – Jerico Du Reponet 8/1 (0.5pt EW, WilliamHill)

The horse who is first on the card for this race is Asian Master and if you're doing a preview and not speaking about him then you're doing it all wrong. This would be some win for connections if this horse managed to win the opening race of the Festival. He is a 7yo, which makes it a tough ask on the stats for this race, with just one 7yo winning this race in the last 10 years, but also they are putting faith in the amateur rider (part of the family of the owners) and it's great to see that he keeps the ride, even without him being able to claim the 7lbs. We saw Sam Waley-Cohen win the National for his father on Noble Yeats a couple of years ago, so it goes to show if they're good enough, they deserve to take their chances in the big races. For me, he is a lovely horse, but his form is up for question. He was receiving a tonne of weight from his main rival last time out, he beat him comfortably, but he beat a horse rated 134 and was carrying 15lbs less.

Firefox did beat Ballyburn on that horse's hurdles debut, that horse was close to EVS for this race coming up to the Festival until Mullins moved him to the 2m 4f novice race. He jumped very nicely at the Naas but didn't quite see the 2m 4f trip out as well as you'd liked. He is 1/1 over hurdles at 2m, and has been beaten on his two runs over further, so maybe he really just needs 2m at this stage of his career. He was a well-respected, talented bumped horse from last year and the noise from the Elliott stable suggests they think he is a serious horse.

The horse who will be attracting a fair amount of support and attention for the opener is Mystical Power, owned by JP McManus and trained by Willie Mullins. This 5yo gelding is a son of the great mare, Annie Power. With that title alone he has always had a lot of attention shone on him and there is a bit of added pressure applied given that his mother was such a superb horse around Cheltenham, winning a Champion Hurdle and 2nd in a Stayers' Hurdle, before the obvious fall at the last in the Mares'. The problem with this horse is his jumping. I think you can see he has the raw ability, but from his showings so far, he has jumped like a snooker table, and that is enough for me to look past him.

My dart for the Supreme has landed on Mystical Power's ownermate, Jerico Du Reponet. When this horse was first talked about and was smashed in for this race in the ante-post market from 25/1 into much shorter I thought that was ridiculous. He did win nicely on his debut over hurdles but beat a load of tin cans. He won just as impressive on his second start, beating a better field, but still well off the level of horses he'd need to beat to win a Supreme. Last time out, he won a laboured Grade 2. At the time, I thought there was no chance he would win a Supreme on the back of that, but at the time Ballyburn was rumoured to be going for the Supreme. With the latter named horse running over the 2m 4f race, it has made this race wide-open. Looking back, it was still a decent effort by Jerico Du Reponet and he showed a lot of attributes you'd want for a Supreme horse. He showed his determination to win, by battling hard to win a close finish. But what I liked the most was his final furlong, that was by far his most impressive furlong by the way he was hitting the line hard, and I think you're going to need a strong stayer for this race. With it being the first race of the festival, the jockeys and horses are revved up and you normally get a good end-to-end gallop, which favours the horses with the best stamina, as we've seen Shishkin, Klassical Dream and Summerville Boy win this race, who have all proven they stayed 3m. Jerico Du Reponet is a 3m PTP winner, and he looked a strong stayer at Doncaster lto. The form looks better than it did at the time with the runner-up winning a Grade 2 at Kempton. Nicky has won this race 3x in the last 10 years, so he knows the level of horse needed to win or go close in this race.

Slade Steel will be another horse who will appreciate a strong pace. He was a close second for me in this race, as I do think the form tied in behind Ballyburn is arguably the best of the lot. This horse was a smart bumper horse and has done little wrong in his hurdling career so far. He was simply outclassed by Ballyburn at the DRF earlier this year but was plugging out nicely to suggest he will do better over further. Player.

Tullyhill will be in many punters opening day accumulators for the Willie Mullin's trebles/four-folds, as he gets Paul Townend on board him for the opening race and whatever Paul rides for Willie, it'll be strong in the market. Ballyburn would win this race, there's no doubt in my mind, so the fact they think they can send him to another race, they must be confident that they will win this race with the other horses they have left, and Tullyhill looks to be their main player. He was impressive last time out, which saw him make all again, and win by 9L to a decent Listed field. That recorded an RPR in the 150s, and he was supplemented for this race after winning in emphatic style. If they are going to go forward with him again (hope they do), he should get taken on for the lead, and it will ensure there is a good pace on offer. I'm not quite sure what he has beaten, but with Paul on top, he has to be highly respected.

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