Five things to look out for on day one of Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson: trainer seeks a sixth Champion Hurdle triumph
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Henderson seeks history as O'Brien gets going By James Burn 8:00PM 13 MAR 2017
We take a look at some of the potential headline makers on day one of the Cheltenham Festival
Champion record looms
Trainer Nicky Henderson has won five Champion Hurdles – a record he shares with Peter Easterby – but the master of Seven Barrows has three chances to take the outright honours in Tuesday's Stan James-sponsored showpiece.
Henderson, whose victories have come via See You Then (three times), Punjabi and Binocular, runs Buveur D'Air, Brain Power and My Tent Or Yours and seems to have all bases covered with an unexpected downpour suiting the former and drying ground a help to the other two.
Bookmakers favour Buveur D'Air, but Henderson is warming to the chances of old favourite My Tent Or Yours – twice second in the race – reasoning that people thought he was being a sentimental old fool before Sprinter Sacre's Champion Chase triumph 12 months ago.
Awesome Altior to march on?
Henderson will be on a high heading into the Champion Hurdle if red-hot favourite Altior justifies the hype just over an hour earlier in the Racing Post Arkle. Make no mistake, he would be a serious player in the Champion, but connections' decision to go over fences has paid off with a flawless record of four from four this term.
Comparisons with Sprinter Sacre, retired in the autumn, were inevitable, as was a push for Altior to take on Douvan in Wednesday's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but Henderson has stuck to the conventional route with his latest stable star.
He has some way to go to reach Sprinter Sacre's level but, as Henderson has noted, he is certainly on the right path.
Mullins the man in mares' hurdle
There have been nine runnings of the OLBG-backed Mares' Hurdle and, bar Donald McCain snaring the inaugural heat with Whiteoak, it has been a Willie Mullins benefit – and things appear unlikely to change this year.
Mullins' challenge this time round comprises market leaders Vroum Vroum Mag – last season's winner – and Limini, who have the ability to play a part in more prestigious races at the festival.
And even if that pair do not win, there may still be a Mullins link if third-favourite Apples Jade – who he used to train – triumphs.
O'Brien off the mark?
Okay, everyone knows Joseph O'Brien has trained a Cheltenham Festival winner in last year's Triumph Hurdle scorer Ivanovich Gorbatov.
Well, everyone that is apart from the record books, which show the gelding, who had been in O'Brien's care at his County Kilkenny yard, running in the name of the trainer's father Aidan as the former rider awaited his licence.
That came through not long after and O'Brien jnr, who won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes with Intricately on the Flat last year, fields his first official festival runner in Edwulf, among the leading contenders for the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase.
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