Al Dancer is one of 28 still in Supreme

Leading fancies all stand ground in Festival opener

  • Wednesday 06 March
  • News
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Ante-post favourite Al Dancer is one of 28 remaining entries following the confirmation stage for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – the first race of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey leapt to the head of the betting for Tuesday’s traditional Festival curtain-raiser when extending his unbeaten record for the season to four with a dominant victory in last month’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

His likely rivals next week include Nicky Henderson’s pair Angels Breath and Mister Fisher, Colin Tizzard’s Elixir De Nutz and the Paul Nicholls-trained Grand Sancy.

Willie Mullins has saddled a record five previous winners of the Supreme, including three of the last six.

The Closutton maestro has whittled his potential team down to just two – with Aramon and Klassical Dream his only remaining contenders.

Gordon Elliott still has five possible runners – including Felix Desjy and Vision D’honneur – while the four-year-old Fakir D’Oudairies is a major player for Joseph O’Brien.

Grade One honours are also up for grabs in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle – a race Mullins has won nine times in just 11 years.

The remarkable six-time winner Quevega is joined by Glens Melody, Vroum Vroum Mag and Benie Des Dieux on the roll of honour – and the latter will be a hot favourite to successfully defend her crown next week.

She looks set to have plenty of back-up, with Mullins also confirming Elimay, Good Thyne Tara, Limini, Stormy Ireland and Laurina – although the latter looks set to run in the Unibet Champion Hurdle earlier in the afternoon.

The same comment applies to Apple’s Jade – who remains in a race she won two years ago but is primed to bid for Champion Hurdle glory.

Likely rivals to Benie Des Dieux, away from her stablemates, include Dan Skelton’s Roksana and the supplemented Jester Jet from Tom Lacey’s yard.

A total of 48 horses have stood their ground for the first handicap of the Festival – the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Sub Lieutenant is at the top of the weights for Henry de Bromhead – while leading ante-post fancies Give Me A Copper, Minella Rocco and Mister Whitaker remain in contention.

Highway One O One heads 47 remaining contenders for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, with De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard and Tom Taaffe’s Riders Onthe Storm disputing favouritism.

The Mullins-trained Ballyward and Henderson’s Ok Corral are the two headline names among 24 hopefuls in the National Hunt Chase.

Other fancies include Paul Nolan’s Discorama and Impulsive Star – trained by the bang-in-form Neil Mulholland.

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