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Five talking points from Day 1 of the Cheltenham FestivalPosted on Tuesday 15th March 2016 @ 19.56

Will Rooney picks out five of the key talking points from the opening day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival

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SWEET REVENGE FOR HENDERSON

There was so much negativity surrounding Nicky Henderson's record in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in the lead-up to the race.

Although the Seven Barrows trainer is a dab hand at training two-mile hurdlers, you had to go back to 1992 when Flown last won the Supreme for Henderson before racing kicked off on Tuesday.

Henderson has been unlucky in the race in recent years, and the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Josses Hill were forced to play bridesmaid to Willie Mullins, who'd won the last three renewals with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan.

When Yorkhill won the Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown for Mullins from O O Seven in January, Henderson jokingly teased the County Carlow trainer as he was unable to get the upper hand on his rival yet again.

However, all was to change when it really mattered and he gained sweet revenge.

Min was all the rage in the betting ring and went off 15/8 favourite for the race, with Henderson's Altior a solid 4/1 for most of the build-up.

Nico de Boinville sat patiently behind Min on Altior before delivering a killer blow two furlongs out. The gelding produced a deadly turn of foot to win impressively and finally end Henderson's 24-year wait to win the Supreme.

Altior has arguably been the most impressive winner of the Supreme in some time and he could well be over-priced at 8/1 for next season's Champion Hurdle.

HOW GOOD CAN DOUVAN BE?

Although the Tuesday of the Festival didn't get off to the same start it has done for the past three years for Mullins, Ruby Walsh and owner Rich Ricci, heartbreak soon turned to glorious triumph in the next race.

Douvan was a highly-impressive winner of the Supreme last year but has always been seen as a chaser in the making and he's in a different calibre over larger obstacles.

The six-year-old hadn't put a foot wrong in his career over fences before the Arkle and it was no wonder he went off 1/4 favourite. Victory was never in doubt and Douvan made all to win effortlessly by seven lengths from his long-time bridesmaid Sizing John.

The son of Walk In The Park was not stopping at the line and he has plenty of options ahead next season. Despite being Flat bred, he doesn't look short of stamina, and his owner and trainer feel he could well be a Gold Cup horse in time.

Mullins has trained some fantastic horses during his career, but he rates Douvan higher than all of them and his potential is vast.

WORTH FOLLOWING CLASS IN HANDICAPS

Big handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival can often be a headache for punters. They search for a horse who's well treated at the weights, look at past trends and for horses who they feel could be overpriced.

However, it's also worth keeping an eye out on the class horses in the race.

The Ultima Handicap Chase was the first big handicap of the meeting and the class angle took charge.

Un Temps Pour Tout was purchased for a significant price in France a few years ago. Although he hasn't quite blossomed into the sort of performer connections hoped, he was a French Champion Hurdle winner in his own right for David Pipe in 2014.

Holywell has plummeted down the weights this season following three lacklustre runs to a mark of 153. A former two-time Cheltenham Festival winner, including winning the same race in 2014, Jonjo O'Neill's charge won the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree two years ago and also finished a respectable fourth in last year's Gold Cup.

Coming up the home straight, the pair went stride for stride in attempt to claim victory. It was Un Temps Pour Tout who came out the victor under a confident ride by Tom Scudamore, but Holywell lost absolutely nothing in defeat carrying joint-top weight and finished second.

Throughout the rest of the Festival, it's well worth sitting up and taking note of horses who've run well in strong contests in the past as they may appreciate the drop down in competition.

NOBODY CAN KNOCK ANNIE POWER'S WIN

Annie Power broke the hearts of most punters last year when she dramatically fell at the last flight when well clear in front in the Mares' Hurdle.

Those who backed her, as well as connections, were left devastated when she looked destined to punish the bookmakers.

It was quite remarkable that Annie Power got up from her fall, never mind to bounce back and win the blue riband of hurdling, the Champion Hurdle, one year later.

The daughter of Shirocco was a late supplement for the race following Faugheen's injury a few weeks ago. It was a bold move from connections to enter her for the race, given she had been prepared to run over half-a-mile further and gain redemption in the Mares' Hurdle.

She's always been regarded as a mare of the highest class who could have likely won the race two years ago but Mullins wanted Hurricane Fly to try and take the limelight and she instead finished runner-up to More Of That in the World Hurdle.

Annie Power was given a peach of a ride by Walsh and he could not hide his delight when the mare crossed the line four-and-a-half lengths clear of My Tent Or Yours, celebrating ecstatically and the crowd could not hide their feelings either.

Even those who did not back her could likely not feel joyful for the mare who got the Cheltenham Festival win she deserved.

It was a fine training performance from Mullins, ensuring his charge had the speed to win the contest over the minimum trip and she wrote herself into history books by breaking the track record.

WHAT NEXT FOR CHAMPION HURDLE DISAPPOINTMENTS?

Take nothing away from Annie Power's victory in the Champion Hurdle, but there were a number of horses who registered lacklustre efforts.

My Tent Or Yours performed more than creditably to finish second after 703 days off the track and Nichols Canyon also ran a fine third.

However, The New One once again ran poorly in the Champion Hurdle. It was his third attempt at winning the race and Nigel Twiston-Davies was bullish about his charge's chances beforehand, but he ran flat at the business end of the race for a second successive year.

The New One looks crying out for a further trip. Now eight-years-old, he's likely to go for the Aintree Hurdle next month but will have to be aimed at the World Hurdle next season and his task will be easier given Thistlecrack is likely to go chasing.

Henderson must be scratching his head with his trio who led the field home in last term's Triumph Hurdle. Peace And Co's form has gone right out of the window and a wind operation could not help him improve after two poor runs this season as he was pulled up.

Top Notch looks much more effective on softer ground and he'll probably appreciate going up in trip next season. He could potentially go novice chasing next term given how efficient he is in his hurdling and Hargam looks a horse caught in limbo.

Article Posted on Tuesday 15th March 2016 @ 19.56

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