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Narrow the Field: The 19/1 double to get day one at Cheltenham off to a flyer

If you don't have a dream - how you going to make a dream come true?

by Sean Goff | March 9, 2015

It’s showtime! The Cheltenham Festival kicks off tomorrow and while we’ve narrowed the field for the Championship races – everyone wants to get rolling with a winner in the first.

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As always inside the sweet spot is all good – outside is still good but just needs that extra effort to make it into the winners enclosure. Use Dustin Johnson as a reference point.

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Ah. the Cheltenham roar. Matched only by the Cheltenham groan as the flat-track speedster takes one look at Cleeve Hill and decides he’s had enough.

Douvan has been the talking horse all winter and looks to give the Mullins/Walsh/Ricci combination their third win on the bounce after Champagne Fever (2013) & Vautour (2014).

But here’s the rub. Both of those had Grade One races at Leopardstown before heading to Cheltenham while Douvan has been under wraps since a Grade 2 stroll at Punchestown. He had earlier danced all over Sizing John (won 12 lengths) at Gowran Park before that one won the Grade One Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Christmas – so do the math.

On the bridle

Douvan still has to prove it but there’s not many runners at Cheltenham who could possibly still be on the bridle coming to the last.

One that has proven Grade One form though is Tolworth Hurdle winner L’Ami Serge – although trainer Nicky Henderson hasn’t won this race since 1992.

Seedling and Some Plan are closely matched on their 1-2 here last December. Soon-to-retire champ AP McCoy deserts Alvisio Ville but needs to have a stern word with Jollyallan to get his jumping together if he’s going to record just his second win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at his final festival.

Douvan’s stable companion Shaneshill was a late scratch from the Neptune Hurdle and could be the each-way play at 10/1. While he hasn’t lived up to expectations on winter ground he was second in the Champion bumper here last season before winning at Punchestown.

Selection: Douvan

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While speed and slick jumping is needed in the Supreme – oxygen masks and sat navs are usually required for the longest race of the Festival that restricted to amateur riders.

Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner Very Wood pitches up here as the 7/2 market leader but only four favs have won in the last 20 years.

Alan King’s Midnight Prayer won this last year and his Sego Success looks to follow up after winning the same prep race at Warwick. Former Gold Cup winning jock Sam Waley-Cohen has been booked to ride.

Graded contests

Theatre Queen has more on her plate than when winning a mares’ hunter chase by 33 lengths at this venue while Team Mullins relies on Perfect Gentleman who has been running in graded contests in Ireland over two and a half miles.

Return Spring is a strong stayer has won two handicap hurdles at the course although his form has trailed off a little since finishing third to Kings Palace.

The Job is Right was threatening to make a race of it behind Djakadam in the Thyestes before he tipped up at the last and ran Very Wood to a length and a half at Galway last October – giving him 2lb. They could finish in the shadow of each other.

Selection: Sego Success

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