We are just a few hours away from that famous Cheltenham roar when the tapes go up for the start of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm).
It is the defining sound of the Festival. However, in recent years an even more deafening noise has erupted around four minutes later.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have combined to win the last three curtain-raisers, all in those unmistakeable Susannah Ricci pink and green silks.
Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan have all ensured punters have started the Festival firmly on the front foot. They may just do so again on Tuesday afternoon.
The Mullins/Walsh/Ricci contender this year is MIN and apparently the dogs were barking so loud during the summer that people at the Galway Festival were already asking Mullins about him.
Min hasn’t disappointed on his two hurdles starts to date, with two comfortable wins at Punchestown, although it’s fair to say that he’s been a shade keen.
His trainer has said that he probably isn’t quite in the same league as Douvan and Vautor. I’m not sure he has to be, though.
He has an excellent hurdling technique and you’d have to think a quicker race on better ground will help him settle.
The worry with Min over the past few months has been his price (as short as 11/8), but I think the bookmakers will try to get him this morning.
I can see quotes of 5/2 or 3/1 and, considering the opposition, that looks too big.
It’s true Altior has achieved more in his career so far, but you could argue the same for plenty of Nicky Henderson’s Supreme contenders over the years – and they haven’t won either.
I also have a nagging doubt he may be better on a flat track. He certainly wasn’t overly impressive when he beat Maputo at Cheltenham in November.
Buveur D’Air is two from two over hurdles, but he strikes me as another Henderson runner who will finish third or fourth.
Supasundae probably needs softer ground, while Silver Concorde wants it quick and that’s enough for me to strike a line through them.
Regular readers will know I’m pretty keen on Gordon Elliott’s TOMBSTONE, having put him up at 20/1 in January in our Road to Cheltenham box.
I’m not deserting the Gigginstown runner whatsoever, especially as they are planning to put a hood on him to help him relax, but there’s no point going in again at 12/1. I think a fast-run race over two miles is exactly what Tombstone wants, and I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t finish in the first three.
That said, there’s a little sprinkling of stardust with Min and if there’s a horse who’s going to produce a sparkling display, like those we’ve been lucky to witness in the past few years, it’s likely to be him.
The sponsors Sky Bet also have a very attractive offer in this race – if you lose you get your money back up to £25 as a free bet.
Min, 1.30pm Cheltenham
Tombstone e/w (already advised), 1.30pm Cheltenham