Espoir D'Allen was a surprise winner of the Unibet Champion Hurdle - recap the action from the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
1750: Sadly there are a number of horses being treated out on the track, including favourite Ballyward and the mare Atlanta Ablaze who came down two out.
Fingers crossed for all concerned and fingers crossed that the high winds miss Cheltenham and we're able to race again tomorrow! Until then...
1745: THE CODDFATHER
Jamie Codd claims his second National Hunt Chase success on the Ben Pauling-trained Le Breuil, who gives his trainer a second Cheltenham Festival success following the Ballymore win for the ill-fated Willoughby Court.
Pauling told Racing TV: "This is just the best isn't it? It was such a long race, I didn't think it would end!"
RESULT 5.30 Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase
1st LE BREUIL (14/1)
4th Clondaw Cian
1720: ROKS OFF
Roksana's success in the Mares' Hurdle was Dan Skelton's first at Grade One level.
The trainer: "Of course, winning your first Grade One here is very special. Last night it felt like Christmas Eve - the horses were in great form.
"I've won a couple of (Festival) races on the Friday, and you go into the fourth day and you get into the car park and you think 'I've only got a few chances left here'. To do it on a Tuesday, you can enjoy three days now."
Willie Mullins, of course, had decidedly more mixed feelings following Benie Des Dieux's last-flight fall.
He said: "She ran a cracker. She just slipped after the last unfortunately. She got out her landing gear, but she wasn't able to organise herself quickly after the last.
"We get lots of fallers during the year all the time - it is just part of jump racing unfortunately. It is disappointing (after being) that far in front in a Grade One race. We've had great luck already, so we will take what comes."
Benie Des Dieux's owner Rich Ricci was struggling to come to terms with a setback so evidently reminiscent of that which befell Annie Power in 2015 - but was heartened that his mare emerged unscathed.
He said: "That's the good news that she is up and well. I just don't know what to say - it has been a very difficult couple weeks. The mare is all right, and that's the most important thing."
1714: HATS OFF
Winning trainer De Bromhead said: "Rachael gave him a super ride and we're delighted. She's a brilliant jockey and we're delighted to be associated with her."
1708: FORM FRANKED
Blackmore told Racing TV: "When Dun Des Genievres won the Arkle that was my form franked and he was brilliant.
"Cheltenham has its own kind of atmosphere and pressure but Henry made it easy for me and let me go out and do it. It's unbelievable and I'm delighted. Henry has been fantastic for me.
"It's massive getting a winner here and it's what every jockey dreams about. I'm delighted to get the chance to ride a horse like him and steer him around."
1705: TIME TO REFLECT
A dramatic day at Cheltenham, it was ever thus. Matt Brocklebank, Ben Linfoot and David Ord have put their heads together to try and dissect the action...
1700: BRILLIANT BLACKMORE
A Plus Tard wins the Close Brothers and he wins it in style! After travelling like the dream of all dreams throughout, the 5/1 fav bolts up under Rachael Blackmore.
Blackmore is one of the leading Irish jockeys and can now celebrate a first Cheltenham Festival winner, the horse scoring in wildly impressive fashion from Tower Bridge, Ben Dundee and The Russian Doyen.
So an Irish one-two-three and a first winner of the week for trainer Henry De Bromhead.
RESULT 4.50 Cheltenham – Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
1st A PLUS TARD (5/1 favourite)
2nd Tower Bridge
3rd Ben Dundee
4th The Russian Doyen
5th Springtown Lake
6th Roaring Bull
1622: CLOSE BROTHERS
Not that race - that's still to come, folks - but Dan and Harry Skelton, who are now celebrating their first top-class winner.
Jockey Harry told ITV Racing: "You are never home until you jump the last and luck was on our side today.
"I was a lucky winner today but it is our first Grade One winner and she is a good mare in her own right, so we are delighted. So you have to take these when they come your way, because you get plenty of bad luck with you are a jockey.
“This is why I do it. It has been a tough, long year and all the tough times pay off on days like this. This is a dream job for me, I love going to work every day and days like this are the most wonderful and help drive you on."
It's happened again! Annie Power II as Benie Des Dieux falls with the race at her mercy. Last year's winner was tanking under Ruby Walsh but crashed out at the final flight.
Roksana was going to be a gallant second but picks up the pieces to win at 10/1 for Dan and Harry Skelton.
Willie Mullins takes second and third with Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara.
RESULT 4.10 Cheltenham – OLBG Mare’s Hurdle
1st ROKSANA (10/1)
2nd Stormy Ireland
3rd Good Thyne Tara
1610: Mares' Hurdle next up and Roksana looks reasonable each-way value.
1608: 2020 VISION
Sky Bet make Espoir D'Allen 5/1 for the 2020 Champion and they've clipped Klassical Dream to 9/1 given the time of the Sky Bet Supreme was slightly quicker of the pair.
1600: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
A delighted Gavin Cromwell told Racing TV: "On paper it looked a really good Champion but I thought we had a place chance. I was delighted to see the rain. He'll go on any ground but I felt it might inconvenience some of the others.
"He just kept improving through the year and I know five year olds don't have a great record in the race but I felt if we came here and could learn something then we'd come back next year.
"He was favourite for the Triumph last year around Christmas time but he didn't get here after things went bad for him. You've got to pinch yourself, it's unbelievable and amazing. It's a huge team effort."
1558: FENCES NEXT
Willie Mullins has reacted to Melon and Laurina's respective efforts. He told Racing TV: "It's probably a career best from Melon and he loved being up there with the pace. He jumped really well.
"It looked flat (from Laurina). Ruby was niggling her and that's not her. I don't think she's run her race and I suspect both horses will go jumping (chasing) next year."
It's the over-riding feeling in the SL office today. Fair play to Espoir D'Allen, who was given a nicely progressive campaign this year having been among the best juvenile hurdlers around last season.
Apple's Jade just didn't perform at all, unfortunately. It's hard to know whether Laurina has improved or not, while Buveur D'Air - who did make a costly mistake in the Christmas Hurdle - has taken a hefty tumble before halfway. Good news emerging that the 2018 champ it fit and well and up on all fours. In fact, he galloped on throughout the race and finished in front (despite being riderless).
1545: BIG SHOUT
Hats off to Simon Holt, whose tipping preview featured Silver Streak each-way at 100/1! The grey has run a might race in third, only just missing out on the runner-up spot.
1540: NEW NAME ON TROPHY
Well, well well... where to start with the 2019 Champion Hurdle? Buveur D'Air fell early, Laurina didn't go through with her effort having looked to have it handed on a plate, and Apple's Jade was never comfortable seemingly. She got unsettled by Melon up front on the first circuit and never looked like winning.
It's a breakthrough win for trainer Gavin Cromwell, a former farrier for Gordon Elliott and now a growing dual-purpose trainer.
It's also a massive day for winning jockey Mark Walsh, who told ITV Racing: "I was delighted to see the rain fall this morning as I know he runs so well in it.
“I’m lost for words. I was riding for a place to be honest but everything opened up and we took advantage of it. I couldn’t believe the lead we had but then I heard a horse coming up and started to worry until I realised there was no one on it and it was an incredible feeling when we crossed the line."
RESULT 3.30 Cheltenham – Unibet Champion Hurdle
1st ESPOIR D'ALLEN (16/1)
2nd Melon (20/1)
3rd Silver Streak (80/1)
1525: MELON WATCH
The market normally speaks volumes when it comes to Melon - last year's runner-up - and there's just a hint of support for the Mullins second-string. He's 16/1 and we'll be keeping an eye on him late on.
1515: HURDLING HEROES
The Unibet Champion Hurdle takes centre stage next up at 3.30 and it really is a race to savour. Plenty of punters will be struggling to split the top three in the betting and thankfully the rain we've had - turning the ground soft - won't be a hindrance of any of them, in theory.
Laurina is seriously strong in the betting as Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh seek a day one treble, but Buveur D'Air could be supported now with Nicky Henderson off the mark. How fickle we are.
Gordon Elliott, the leading trainer at the past two Festivals, saddled Apple's Jade who does look the one to beat lining up on the back of 16-length victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
1508: HEADGEAR A HELP
The signs were there with Beware The Bear when fourth in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in first-time cheekpieces and the switch to blinkers saw him back to winning ways at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
Bumped up 5lb in the weights for winning that nine-runner race, he's defied the handicapper in good style despite idling after the last fence.
1502: BRITAIN BITES BACK
The Willie Mullins treble was looking quite likely as Up For Review came down the hill but a bad mistake took the stuffing out of him and Beware The Bear has stayed on best to score under Jeremiah McGrath to hit back for the home team.
It's a first Cheltenham Festival handicap success for trainer Nicky Henderson since Call The Cops in the Pertemps Final in 2015.
McGrath told ITV Racing: "The blinkers have really helped him and made such a difference. He just jumped everything in front of him and jumped brilliantly.
"It feels so special (to get a second Festival winner). You can never take anything for granted and have to keep pushing until the end and I will really enjoy this one."
RESULT 2.50 Cheltenham – Ultima Handicap Chase
1st BEWARE THE BEAR (10/1)
2nd Vintage Clouds
3rd Lakeview Lad
4th Big River
5th Flying Angel
1450: Another false start. Just get them off, man!
1448: THEN THERE WAS ONE...
One player remains in the ITV7 at the halfway stage...
2.50 Mister Whitaker
3.30 Buveur D’Air
4.10 Benie Des Dieux
Best of luck!
1446: BETTORS BEWARE...
Can Britain strike back in the Ultima? The betting suggests that should be the case with Give Me A Copper, Coo Star Sivola and Mister Whitaker all trading around 8/1 at the top of the market.
There's late money for Singlefarmpayment and also Beware The Bear, who here on New Year's Day.
Sky Bet are paying SIX places - click here to place your bets.
1440: Dry ground all winter but now the rain has arrived the Mullins horses are clearly in their element.
He's got Up For Review in the next race - the Ultima Handicap Chase - while Melon, Sharjah and Laurina represent the yard in the Champion Hurdle.
The latter looks like going off a pretty short price in the day's feature now, while Benie Des Dieux could be long odds-on come the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, given the momentum building up.
1435: BIG FUTURE
Sky Bet make the winner 10/1 for next year's Queen Mother Champion Chase.
1430: WISE MOVE
Mullins told ITV Racing: "I thought Paul changed from the inside to the outside and I thought ‘what are you doing now?’ and then the two horses in front of him fell and it looked a genius move and everything went right for him after that.
"The horse jumped impeccably and Paul was with him all the way. He purred up the hill and the rain helped him too."
1428: A GREY DAY
Ireland 2-0 Britain. Two for Mullins, one apiece for Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend.
Probably not the hottest Arkle of all time but a wide-margin winner who clearly relished the conditions and, importantly, stayed out of trouble.
Glen Forsa, Ornua, Kalashnikov and Lalor all failed to finish while Paloma Blue and Hardline appeared to struggle in the ground.
Townend told Racing TV: "I couldn't believe how well I was going at the top of the hill, I got a dream run around. He was impressive last time and he put it together today. He kept going and he was foot-perfect."
RESULT 2.10 Cheltenham – Racing Post Arkle
1st DUC DES GENIEVRES (5/1)
2nd Us And Them
4th Clondaw Castle
1406: HARD AND FAST
It's the Arkle next! The money for Hardline has been pretty relentless over the past few days and he's now trading as the clear 4/1 market leader with Sky Bet, who are paying four places.
1400: CHAMPION IN WAITING?
Willie Mullins said of the 6/1 winner: "The rain came this morning and he ran a cracker. He got a bit wound up (at the start). I brought him away to gallop and he showed that he got a bit wound up but he showed he had a lot of ability too.
"The reason he wasn't too impressive at home was that the ground has been too quick for him. We could look at the Champion Hurdle next year but we don't know. He obviously has a bit of pace."
Click on the image below for the full report and all the reaction to the Sky Bet Supreme...
1354: POIGNANT WIN
It's an important success for the owner of Klassical Dream, who has been with Willie Mullins long before the likes of Rich Ricci.
Owner Joanne Coleman has revealed to ITV that she is carrying the ashes of her husband, John, in her handbag at Cheltenham today. His dream was to have a Festival runner, let alone a winner. Sadly, John passed away last summer and never saw Klassical Dream run.
1346: MAGIC MAN
Ruby Walsh - a genuine master. And especially around the relatively tight, Old Course which they use on the opening two days of the Festival.
The jockey, who is only riding the Mullins hurdlers today, told Racing TV: "When I got a good start, he just jumped great. I knew I was going better than those immediately behind me.
"He thinks he's keen but he's not quick enough to be keen, he's not fast enough. But that's why I moved him up beside Bryony (on Brandon Castle) and he's travelled away super from there.
"They (the winner and stablemate Aramon) worked last Tuesday and we were very, very happy with Klassical Dream.
"I thought Al Dancer and Angels Breath were easier to take on than the horses in the Ballymore and that's what we decided. Sometimes you're wrong and sometimes you're right."
1340: DREAM START
It's a super six for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh! What a start to the meeting for the Irish champion trainer.
Klassical Dream, sent off 6/1, sat on the shoulder of the leader Brandon Castle, before taking it up coming down the hill. With the rest completely mud-splattered, Walsh stormed home in the red and yellow silks to score by four and a half length.
Second and third - Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet - both represent Olly Murphy and have run massive races in defeat. The latter was held up early and came through late in the piece to grab a share.
The winner is 14/1 with Sky Bet for next year's Champion Hurdle.
RESULT 1.30 Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
1st KLASSICAL DREAM (6/1)
2nd Thomas Darby (28/1)
3rd Itchy Feet (25/1)
1328: They may be a minute or two late for the off here... but we're all set to roar. Good luck to all concerned. Fakir D'Oudairies could just edge favourite late on after some strong support 'in the ring'.
1322: As the great David Ord nips for his final pre-Supreme 'routine', now would seem an opportune moment to flag up the ITV7. There's a £100,000 jackpot and it's free to enter via this link.
1320: WEDNESDAY WORRY
"We are continually monitoring the situation and will keep racegoers informed as the conditions present themselves." Click on the image below for all the latest developments in the weather.
1315: LATE SPRINGERS
A few lively movers in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with money now coming for The Big Bite and Olly Murphy's pair - Itchy Feet and Thomas Darby.
The former represents last year's winning trainer Tom George and he's proven on bad ground. He probably wasn't ideally suited by Kempton last time.
The Murphy pair have the form to figure and both tie in quite nicely with the absent Elixir De Nutz, who was around 10/1 before being pulled out so no surprise they're popular at 25/1 apiece.
Itchy Feet represents our antepost interest having been put up at 33/1 by Matt Brocklebank a few weeks ago.
Slightly concerning "early insight" as Simon Claisse admits that racecourse officials are monitoring conditions for tomorrow. Some strong winds in the forecast, to say the least.
Decent chance of at least a morning inspection... please no abandonment... we don't all want to be back here on Saturday, do we?
Or do we??
1250: On the subject of value, Simon Holt thinks he's caught the whiff of it in the big one itself, with a 100/1 dart in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
1245: VALUE BET
Ben Linfoot leads the way as our flagship racing tipster and for good reason. His Value Bet column is +359.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception in January 2010 to current) and he's been in good form lately with 20/1 and 7/1 winners in the last three weeks.
So without further ado, here's the great man's day one preview...
1230: ULTIMA WARRIOR...
We've seen back-to-back winners in the Ultima Handicap Chase before. Back in 1982 and 1983, Scot Lane won this race twice in as many years, while much more recently Un Temps Pour Tout went back to back in 2016 and 2017.
So this year, Coo Star Sivola aims to follow suit after his impressive win 12 months ago. Lizzie Kelly rides again and she's still able to claim 3lb. The horse is back down to an official rating of 145, just 3lb higher than last year. He's still only seven and looks to have been aimed at the race for a while.
One horse who has almost been forced down this route is last year's Close Brothers hero Mister Whitaker. Connections were talking of Ryanair Chase or Gold Cup as his Cheltenham options after a staying-on fourth in the BetVictor Gold Cup here at the start of the season but he was a shade disappointing at Ascot last time.
I say disappointing - he was among those blown away by Cyrname, who has since gone on to win at Grade One level. Mister Whitaker has been dropped 1lb following that run and could just improve for the step up to three miles this afternoon.
1218: MONEY BACK
If you're not already aware, emerge from under your stone and have a look at Sky Bet's big offer on the opening race of the Festival each day. It's money back as cash if your selection loses. It's a no lose bet.
If you're rolling the dice and fancy a mega payout first up then Felix Desjy, Brandon Castle and Itchy Feet are all outsiders who have attracted support, while at the top of the market Al Dancer is very strong and now no bigger than 4/1. Click on the image below for our team's Sky Bet Supreme tips.
1215: LET'S GET CLOSE, CLOSER THAN CLOSE
Just 7lb between top and bottom weight, a bunch of lightly-raced novices and a huge heap of potential in both the British and Irish runners. The Close Brothers Novices' is a fascinating little race.
Surprisingly, since its inception in 2005, it's only been won by Irish trainers on two occasions - they are Finger Onthe Pulse (2008) and Tully East (2017) - but there appears to be a strong team heading over the sea for this year's edition.
If there's a Grade One horse lurking then that is probably Joseph O'Brien's Tower Bridge but the bold-jumping QUAMINO is definitely worth a look too.
He'll be suited by the move up in distance and he surely won't mind getting his toe in as he's a heavy ground winner already from his hurdling days. Not hard to see him running a massive race under Bryan Cooper at 25/1.
1155: VIDEO: LIFE GURUS!
Going to the Cheltenham Festival for the first time today? Here's some advice from our Life Gurus...
1150: THE CHAMPION RIDES
1145: GOING CHANGE
The ground is now SOFT all over following five millimetres of rain this morning. It's due to keep raining until about half an hour before the first race.
Plenty to look forward to today. The Sky Bet Supreme, Arkle, Unibet Champion Hurdle, Ultima, Mares', Close Brothers, it's going to be a good day.
But a defining moment today could be witnessing the genius of Derek O'Connor aboard OK CORRAL in the National Hunt Chase.
When this horse won at Warwick over three miles last time he absolutely tanked through the race, suggesting he had the pace for a JLT never mind an RSA.
However, you just feel connections, JP McManus and Nicky Henderson, have remained faithful to Derek O'Connor, top amateur rider, with this horse earmarked for the four-miler from way back when.
O'Connor could well repay them this afternoon and he may have to be at his most masterful, settling this horse in the early stages before coming through the field with a perfectly-timed run.
Expect a huge roar when the commentator lifts the tone three out... "AND HERE COMES OK CORRAL CRUISING UP UNDER DEREK O'CONNOR IN THE GREEN AND GOLD!"
It could well be one of those moments.
1055: SUPREME OPENER...
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle kicks off the Festival, as always, a roar to rival Katy Perry's accompanying the tapes going up for the race.
This year's renewal looks open, wide open, with Al Dancer a narrow favourite from Klassical Dream and Angels Breath at the moment.
Fakir D'Oudairies is on the drift and the buzz around him seems to have subsided since he was confirmed for the race. How strange. I thought once he was confirmed he'd be backed all the way into favouritism.
I think Lydia said it best when she commented that Binocular was a Champion Hurdler and even he failed to win this race as a juvenile. Not many try it. Hors La Loi III was the last to do it 20 years ago.
So it's a tough task for him and a tough race to unravel. Pace could be key - there is plenty in there - and one thing that looks certain is that they will go fast and furious.
And remember... Sky Bet are offering money back if you back a loser in the race. That makes things easier in the opener at least.
1030: RAIN AGAIN
Time for a few weather-related tit bits. The 10-12 millimetres of rain is hitting Prestbury Park as I type, so, who does this easing of the conditions suit and who is looking at the skies with fear?
RAIN IS GOOD FOR...
Laurina. Okay, Apple's Jade and Buveur D'Air certainly won't mind soft ground either, but Laurina needs it soft. There would be a real concern of her getting outpaced over two miles on quicker conditions, but the slower they go the better her chance gets. She's getting backed in now and is a best of 3s - there's a real chance she goes off favourite.
RAIN IS BAD FOR...
Lalor. Spanked at Sandown in soft ground after previously impressing at Cheltenham on good, Kayley Woollacott's charge would prefer better conditions and he's drifting markedly in the Arkle. 3/1 favourite not that long ago, he's now 13/2 in places and the bookies cannot give him away. He could well go off a bigger price than Kalashnikov.
1020: LIVE FROM CHELTENHAM
Mike Vince sets the scene from the press room steps at Cheltenham where rain is now hitting the track...
1010: FOUR DAYS OF EXTRAORDINARY...
1007: ROOSTER BOOSTER
The first of our trips down memory lane now as we rewind 16 years to a simpler time. A time before Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, a time when you were pretty much guaranteed good ground at the Festival.
A time when In Da Club by Fiddy Cent topped the charts (along with Gareth Gates). A time when Rooster Booster tanked his way through the Champion Hurdle on his way to an 11-length success.
Unfortunately we won't see Terry Warner's yellow and black silks in the Sky Bet Supreme today with Elixir De Nutz a non-runner, but sit back, relax, and indulge yourself with the Rooster's magnificent Champion Hurdle winner back in the spring of '03. Majestic stuff.
It is going to rain at Cheltenham this morning. There is no doubt.
Interesting money around for plenty at the Festival this afternoon at Sky Bet with BRAIN POWER nibbled into 28/1 from 33s in the Champion Hurdle.
A winner of the International Hurdle in December after reverting from chasing, he was 30 lengths behind Buveur D'Air in his first Champion Hurdle win but some punters are expecting him to get closer this afternoon.
KALASHNIKOV was ante-post favourite for the Arkle earlier in the season, but he drifted after being walloped by Glen Forsa at Sandown but there are bits and pieces for him today.
All of today's movers are below and you can click on the Cheltenham link for the latest odds and offers with Sky Bet, including 'Money Back If You Back A Loser' in the opener and 'six places on each-way bets' in the Ultima.
13.30 Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle – Aramon 12/1 from 14/1 & Brandon Castle 25/1 from 50/1
14:10 Cheltenham – Arkle Chase – Kalashnikov 15/2 from 10/1
14:50 Cheltenham – Ultima Handicap Chase – Beware The Bear 12/1 from 16/1 & Coo Star Sivola 9/1 from 12/1
15:30 Cheltenham – Champion Hurdle – Brain Power 28/1 from 33/1
16:10 Cheltenham – Mares Hurdle – Roksana 13/2 from 9/1 & Momella 16/1 from 33/1
16:50 Cheltenham – Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase – Good Man Pat 11/1 from 16/1
17:30 Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase – Jerrysback 10/1 from 12/1 & Chef Des Obeaux 16/1 from 20/1
0855: ITV Racing's Oli Bell is happy to take Apple's Jade on and he's keen on the chances of Laurina for Willie Mullins. She's unbeaten since joining the Irish champion trainer and she's been devastating against other mares this season.
There have been questions raised over her jumping, and that will be tested to the limit here today, but she's a monster of a mare and will go through this ground with no issues at all.
0845: The skies are grey but there's no escaping the sense of anticipation the morning of the first day at Cheltenham.
Apple's Jade has been gearing up out on the course this morning and she really is a fascinating horse. It'll be a fourth Festival for Jade and she's won just the once before but she was second in the Triumph in 2016 and she was third in the Mares' Hurdle 12 months ago. It's a solid record and she's been spectacular in four starts this season.
She stays further, handles any ground and gets 7lb from Buveur D'Air. It's not hard to see why she's been so popular in the betting.
0840: ITV7! Your chance to win a life-changing amount of money, for nothing. It's free to play and today's pot is £100,000 to the winner.
Log in/register (using your Sky Bet/Sporting Life account), pick the winners of the seven selected races, done. In a bid to help you on your merry way, Dave Smith has provided a quick-fire guide with seven magnificent selections, a special septet if ever there was one.
0835: If you're still on the way to work and need a few late pointers, here's the first of our four Cheltenham Festival Daily Podcasts...
0820: Day one then and it's a massive day as ever but we're in a fantastic position being able to look forward to such a captivating feature race - the Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.30).
Captivating for many reasons, but above all we genuinely have a race with the potential to knock your socks off.
Three of the Cheltenham Festival's main protagonists - Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott - going head to head to head... with three superb horses.
It's the reigning champion v the Irish champion v the future champion? You'll all have your views but I doubt this is a race anyone will approach with a view to winning stacks of money. If you can't just enjoy this race for what it is then you're in the wrong game.
With a bit of luck, plenty of 'racing newcomers' will watch this and be hooked by the thrill of it all and bring more people to the party in the future. It's that kind of race.
If you've not yet read it, here's Lydia Hislop's take on the day one action as the long and wonderful Road to Cheltenham nears its destination... (click on the image to open in a new tab).
0805: Non Runner alert: Elixir De Nutz is out of the aforementioned curtain-raiser having been found lame on the eve of the Festival. There's always one isn't there. What a pity for Colin Tizzard and connections that we won't get to see the Tolworth Hurdle winner - a race that produced last year's Sky Bet Supreme winner, Summerville Boy, of course.
Here's the Non Runner page to keep an eye out for any more absent friends.
0800: Ladies and gents, this is the moment you've waited for.
Soak it up, breath it in, do whatever you need to do to get in the right frame of mind to enjoy four days of the best National Hunt racing in the world. Because the waiting is almost over.
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of Cheltenham Festival 2019, where the news from the course this morning is that there was "no measurable rain overnight".
Hurrah - they've avoided the rain! Hold on, "persistent rain is developing through the morning" and officials are predicting up to 10mm of the wet stuff before the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 1.30. Booo.
But with the going Good to Soft, Soft in places as I type, at least we know we're going to be starting out on pretty easy going. Proper winter ground. Something we've not had all winter, eh.