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TheScore.ie's Morning Line: everything you need to enjoy day one at Cheltenham -- and pick a winner

For racing fans, the next four days are as good as it gets.

Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh beats Our Conor ribbon by Danny Mullins and Captain Cee Bee ridden by Mark Walsh to win Hurricane Fly won a world record 19th Grade One at Leopardstown earlier this year -- but young pretender Our Conor chased him to the line. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Three big talking points

1. Champion once again – or farewell to the Fly? This year’s Champion Hurdle has rightly been billed as one of the great renewals, on paper at least, and come 3.20pm it will hopefully live up to comparisons with the early 80s classics between Night Nurse, Monksfield and Sea Pigeon.

As in previous years, all eyes are on Hurricane Fly who returns at the age of 11 in a bid to win his third crown. The champion has nothing to prove but looming over his shoulder are a string of young pretenders: the JP McManus-owned pair MyTentOrYours and Jezki, leading British novice The New One and Dessie Hughes’ ever-improving Our Conor.

Do not miss this race.

2. Queen Quevega: In the long and storied history of the Cheltenham Festival, no horse has won more times than Willie Mullins’ wondermare Quevega who needed her best finish yet to come from well off the pace and clinch a fifth straight OLBG Mares’ Hurdle in 2013.

Seriously, watch this.

Source: Racing UK/YouTube

The only other horse to achieve similar success was Golden Miller who the Gold Cup five times in the 1930s, admittedly against a higher calibre of horse than the 10-year-old will face today.

Last year’s runner-up Sirene d’Ainay will be out to spoil the party as will Cockney Sparrow and, unthinkable as it seems, defeat for Quevega would ruin a lot of Irish accumulators this week.

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Ruby Walsh celebrates winning on Quevega with trainer Willie Mullins Ruby will need a sixth finger if Quevega wins again today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

3. Rule Supreme: Before the famous Cheltenham roar goes up at 1.30pm, you’ll want to have a close look at the card for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. After all, what better way to start the week than with a winner?

Willie Mullins has three strong contenders — are you sensing a trend here? –in Wicklow Brave, Valseur Lido and Vautour, the latter of whom is disputing favouritism with Paul Nicholls’ Irving.

But it’s worth noting that favourites have a woeful record in this race with only one win in the last 10 years while four of the last five winners have been priced between 10/1 and 12/1.

Moral of the story? It could pay to work down through the card.

Ruby Walsh clears the last to win on Vautour Vautour: will Willie Mullins' novice go off as favourite? Source: Clive O'Donohoe/INPHO

Nap of the Day

Foxrock, a 4/1 shot in the National Hunt Chase (4.40pm) at the time of writing, can get the festival off to a flyer for Ted and Katie Walsh.

An each-way fancy

Look for the value in the Supreme Novices’ where two of Ireland’s lesser lights, Gilgamboa (12/1) and Western Boy (20/1), have every chance.

Gilgamboa ridden by Mark Walsh leads the field home to win Mark Walsh rode Gilgamboa to win at Leopardstown. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Accumulator

Willie Mullins had three winners on opening day last year and you could make a pretty penny if he wins the same three races again. A treble on Vautour, Hurricane Fly and Quevega should pay about 24/1.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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