Ante-post favourite Getabird is one of 20 runners in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
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 January, a race Mullins inmates Vautour and Douvan claimed en-route to Supreme glory.
The Closutton handler has a second string to is bow in Sharjah.
Gordon Elliott’s Mengli Khan and Henry de Bromhead’s Paloma Blue are also leading hopes for the Irish contingent, while 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 representative.
The Mullins-trained Footpad faces just four 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 De Bromhead.
Henderson’s Brain Power, Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados and Robinshill from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard complete the small but select field.
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 two-and-a-half-mile Grade One and will face eight rivals including the Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux and Warren Greatrex’s star mare La Bague Au Roi.
Gold Present heads an 18-strong field for the Ultima Handicap Chase. Leading fancies include Coo Star Sivola and Singlefarmpayment.
Mossback, Jury Duty, No Comment and Rathvinden are all on a list of 16 runners in the National Hunt Chase.
The concluding race on day one of the Festival is the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, for which 20 runners plus two reserves have been declared.
Testify heads the weights and the likes of De Plotting Shed, Any Second Now and Barney Dwan are all in the mix.