Buveur D’Air can throw a spanner in the works in opener

Nicky Henderson can upset Willie Mullins’ bid for a fourth consecutive victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, by taking the Festival opener with Buveur D’Air.

Buveur D’Air can throw a spanner in the works in opener

After winning won two bumpers in France, he made a very promising start for his new stable by running Barters Hill to three parts of a length in a listed bumper at Newbury. He was below that form when further behind the same horse in Aintree, but has returned this season in even better form.

The form of his latest outing, in a novice hurdle, is nothing to get too excited about, but his maiden hurdle success has worked out particularly well. He wasn’t off the bridle in either of those runs, travels like a dream, and looks the ideal type to make the step up to this grade. The exciting sort is generous in a finish, and is taken to prove too smart for Mullins’ Min and Dermot Weld’s Silver Concorde.

Vroum Vroum Mag looks banker material to maintain Mullins’ stranglehold on the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. After Quevega’s six victories, there was drama in 2015 as Glens Melody had to step up to the plate to make it seven in a row when Annie Power bowed out at the last, with the race all but in the bag.

There may have been fortune and misfortune in equal measure on that occasion, but Vroum Vroum Mag can prove herself a class apart with a clear-cut success this afternoon.

Admittedly, this is something of a detour for the seven-year-old as, in the early part of the season, she looked like being targeted for the Ryanair Chase. Her focus was switched to the smaller obstacles in December, when she readily accounted for inferior opposition at Clonmel, and then stepped up to Grade Two company at Ascot for a similarly emphatic result.

Some of today’s rivals were behind her there and through their form-lines the Voix Du Nord mare should have the measure of the remainder. Despite being unexposed in this sphere, she is already clear on ratings.

She may lack jumping form on quick conditions but today’s ground is likely to be the easiest of the week, and she shouldn’t have any issue with it. She is readily preferred to her rivals, headed by Bitofapuzzle and Polly Peachum.

Southfield Royale can land the National Hunt Chase for Neil Mulholland. The six-year-old was a useful sort in a short career over hurdles but has already surpassed that level in just four runs over fences. After a wide-margin victory in a Grade Two at Doncaster, he ran a super race to finish second behind Tea For Two in the Grade One Feltham Chase, at Kempton.

He lacked the pace of the winner, but should relish the extra mile of this race. He jumps well, looks a certain stayer, and can prove too strong for Noble Endeavor, who was just touched off by Killultagh Vic in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at last year’s Festival.

A sound round of jumping should suffice for Douvan in the Arkle Chase, but no-one will get rich backing him. He was stunning in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season, and has looked a natural in three runs over fences this season.

He deserves his place as short-priced favourite, and can lead home an Irish one-two, with Sizing John the most likely danger.

The progressive Aloomomo gets the nod in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. Modest over fences in his native France, he joined his current stable early last year and ran only reasonably on his first two starts. However, he has really taken off this term and, after starting on a mark of 108 and recording a treble, is now 32lbs higher.

He prepared for this with a fine run over hurdles, and even that suggested there should be more to come. In a very tight handicap, he can prove too progressive for opponents headed by Willow’s Saviour.

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