THE Supreme Novices hurdle gets the Cheltenham Festival into full swing today, writes ARTHUR SHONE.

Over the years the Betfair hurdle form has always been rock solid and a good form guide for punters, despite the race being run at a different venue this year at Ascot.

The race was won impressively by the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Al Dancer, the Al Namix gelding won off a mark of 141 to beat Magic Dancer.

Angels Breath, trained by West Berkshire's Nicky Henderson, had been the ante post favourite for the race for a long time, before he was beaten by Southfield Stone in the Dovecote at Kempton.

Henderson’s other leading contender is Mister Fisher and I was at Haydock when he ran out a very impressive winner.

Irish maestro Willie Mullins has won this race in the past with the likes of Douvan, Vautour and Champagne Fever and he has a strong hand again this year with Klassical Dream and Aramon.

The feature race on the card is the Champion Hurdle over two miles.

Henderson, based at Seven Barrows near Lambourn, has won this race four times over the last 10 years, including the last two with Buveur D’Air.

And he says Buveur D’Air is in tip-top condition as he bids to become the sixth horse to record three successive victories in the Champion Hurdle.

Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq have all achieved that feat, and Buveur D’Air could add his name to that exclusive list.

“I think I would be comfortable to say he is as good as we have had him all year,” said Henderson, who has maximum respect for the opposition, in particular Apple’s Jade and Laurina.

“It would be great if he could do it as he would join history if he could. I do think it is more competitive than last year, but I don’t think he was right last year.”

But I think it is difficult to see another with Henderson’s horse giving away 7lbs to the mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina.

My selection will be the Gordon Elliott trained Apple’s Jade, who was mega impressive when beating the useful Supasundae in the Irish champion hurdle by 16 lengths.

Mullins is another trainer to win this race four times with Hurricane Fly twice, Douvan and Annie Power.

His charge, Laurina is definitely the main threat.

The Arkle chase does not look the strongest race this year and the Kayley Woollacott trained Lalor will be a strong contender while Mick Channon has a very live contender in Glen Forsa.

My selection will be the Irish raider Paloma Blue from the shrewd yard of Henry de Bromhead.


1.30 AL DANCER (MISTER FISHER E/W); 3.30 APPLES JADE; 2.10 PALOMA BLUE Trish’s star turn THE Mixed Open feature race on the Flint and Denbigh Hunt point to point card at Bangor-on-Dee was won by the dual area champion horse Garde Ville.

Winning Llangollen trainer Trish Rigby said: “The race at Ludlow last time took a lot out of him, but the next day he came out bucking and kicking on the gallops. He is a star.”

The first ever running of a bumper in the North Western Area, resulted in the race being divided three ways.

Division One went to the Philip Rowley-trained Bleue Away and Rowley and his jockey Alex Edwards completed a double in the third division with Whenhellbrokeloose.

The second division went to the Ben Pauling trained Granny’s Secret while Rowley and Edwards completed a treble with Optimised in the Confined.

The Open maiden was split into two divisions. The first division went to Enery Higgins under the champion lady rider Gina Andrews and the second division of the Maiden was won by Terrirman.

The Restricted race went to Haven’t Time, Edwards completed a four timer aboard the Diana Ralph trained Captain Von Trappe in the PPORA Conditions race and the Hunt Members race was won by Port Melon.