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Irish Pointers in action on day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Irish Pointers in action on day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Day one of the Cheltenham Festival features a team of no fewer than 29 horses who all begun their career between the flags, ensuring that they account for almost 30% of all the declared runners on the day.
There is strength and depth right across the card with many leading chances for the former point-to-pointers, beginning with the opening contest.

The roar of the crowd at the off the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle will signify the start of the most eagerly anticipated week of national hunt racing of the year. Irish pointers have enjoyed success in this race in the past, with former Quakerstown winner Champagne Fever being the most recent of these, when claiming this race in 2013.

Of the twenty declared runners for this year's renewal, five began their racing careers between the flags, all having similar starts having contested four-year-old maidens.

Ante-post favourite Getabird, who is the hope of many to get the Irish of to the best possible start, began his racing career with Colin Bowe when securing a four-year-old maiden at Largy in April of 2016.

Ridden to victory on the day by current champion point-to-point jockey Barry O'Neill, the Getaway gelding was subsequently offered at the Goffs April sales where the hammer fell at €200,000 when Harold Kirk and Willie Mullins secured the gelding who now runs in the well known silks of Rich Ricci, the same connections as the aforementioned Champagne Fever.

Claimantakinforgan is already a Grade-two winner and this Loughanmore maiden winner has definite each-way claims as does Tattersalls maiden winner Slate House. 

Kirkistown maiden winner Petit Mouchoir is expected to put up a strong challenge to favourite Footpad in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase for the Willie Mullins team. Now with Henry de Bromhead, the grey gelding began his racing career with Gordon Elliott and like so many of the Gigginstown House Stud owned youngsters that are bought as stores, he began his racing career in the pointing field.

Four ex-Irish pointers will line up for the Ultima Handicap Chase, with Ramses De Teille, looking to provide his trainer with a third successive victory in the race, following the successes of Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 and 2017.

The grey gelding won his four-year-old maiden at Ballyarthur for Barry O’Neill and Colin Bowe. Minella Daddy, who recorded two seconds and a fourth in his three pointing starts when with handler John Nallen, Cogry and Eamon An Cnoic complete the point-to-point quartet in this contest.

The feature race of the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy.The Willie Mullins duo of former champion Faugheen and Yorkhill are both needing to overcome mixed form of late. Faugheen, a winner of a four-year-old maiden at Ballysteen in April 2012 when in the care of Andrew Slattery will look to recapture his old sparkle to regain his champion hurdle crown.

Derek O'Connor steered Yorkhill to victory at Tattersalls Farm in December of 2014 in the colours of Wilson Dennison for Colin McKeever. Yorkhill has festival credentials with wins on both previous starts, however two very disappointing chasing defeats this season see him switch back to the smaller obstacles.

The four-mile National Hunt Challenge Cup see the biggest field of ex-Irish pointers, with ten going to post. Of the ten there are a number who look to hold the key what is sure to be a testing affair. Ms Parfois, the sole mare to be declared, was successful on her debut in Boulta in December 2015 for the Martin Hassett team. She was bought by current trainer Anthony Honeyball following her debut win and looks to hold a nice chance here.

Gordon Elliott’s Jury Duty who has strong claims for the top spot with recent graded form, was third at Boulta almost three years ago and will be the mount of Jamie Codd today. Rathvinden and Pylonthepressure, both from the Mullins camp, are others sure to have their supporters, whilst Duel at Dawn, All Kings, Clondaw Cian, Impulsive Star, Reigning Supreme, Robin Of Locksey are all pointing graduates.

This final race on day one is the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase. As with all the handicaps at the Festival, this will be a very competitive contest. First run back in 2005, it is a race that has been claimed by on three occasion by Irish Pointing graduates in its 11 runnings. De Plotting Shed who fell on his only points start seemed to suitably impress on the day and was snapped up by Tom Malone following that effort.

Testify kicked off his career with Co.Wexford based Colin Bowe when finishing runner-up to Red Rising at Monskgrange as a five-year-old. The Witness Box gelding comes into this race off the back of three consecutive wins and could go close. Barney Dwan, Report To Base and Livelovelaugh all hold strong each way chances here, whilst Markov and Ballyhill complete the Irish Pointing representative in the race.

To view a full list of Irish Pointers in action today, please CLICK HERE.

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