Picking the winner of the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival is always a great way to start and can often set the tone for the remainder of the four days.
The runners are greeted with a deafening roar from excited punters, with the Irish and English contingents usually lumping on a horse from their own country.
The race is open to horses aged four or older, and runners must jumps eight hurdles in the two-mile trip.
The last ten renewals have been won by five 5-year-olds, four 6-year-olds and one 7-year-old. Ruby Walsh has won four of those ten races, two each for trainers Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins. Willie Mullins has won three of the last ten renewals, whilst Walsh and Mullins have teamed-up to win the race for the last two years.
Read all our analysis and horse racing tips below.
A 5-year-old trained by Willie Mullins and the likely mount of Ruby Walsh. Has looked mighty impressive in two runs so far, and his owner Rich Ricci has said he’s the most impressive horse they’ve ever took to the festival – which is a big statement seeing as he owns Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen.
L’ami Serge 4/1
A 5-year-old trained by leading most Cheltenham trainer Nicky Henderson who has won the race twice before in past decades. Unbeaten in three runs in Britain and absolutely trounced recent impressive winners Kilcooley and Violet Dancer, and could be anything.
A 6-year-old trained by the up and coming star Harry Fry and believed to want good ground. Lost his unbeaten record last-time to Garde la Victoire; who was an impressive winner of the Greatwood Hurdle earlier in the year.
A 6-year-old trained by Willie Mullins and another who would relish good ground after impressing in finishing second in last year’s Cheltenham bumper and winning the Punchestown equivalent.
Alvisio Ville 16/1
The subject of a huge gamble for this prior to his last run in Ireland, but disappointed there. Likely mount of AP McCoy.
Rated in the 100s on the flat, and the 5-year-old opened his jumps account in style recently at Newbury for trainer John Ferguson. Should have the speed to travel well and is an unknown quantity.
Silver Concorde 33/1
7-year-old who won last year’s Cheltenham bumper but has shown little over hurdles so far in two runs. Hates soft ground though and could prove a revelation come the festival granted good ground.
Come the big day, if both Douvan and L’ami Serge arrive in one-piece, I’ll be having a reverse forecast on the two of them as they look top-class on all evidence so far. However, at this stage, I can’t resist an each-way bet on Silver Concorde who has been brought along with one day in mind, and I love horses that have proved themselves already at the Festival.
1 point each-way Silver Concorde @ 33/1 (Coral)