Cheltenham 2015: Highly-rated Douvan can get the week off to perfect start for Irish brigade
With around 50 horses in training it is somewhat surprising that Rich Ricci has only enjoyed one Grade One winner his season, that being Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Boomakers suggest that Douvan, Faugheen and Annie Power quickly bring that tally to four on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and it's hard to see past them.
Douvan is the big hope in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle. To hear a man of Willie Mullins' experience and stature talk so glowingly about the five-year-old has to make anyone sit up and take note.
His two performances in Ireland were extremely impressive.
First time out he beat a subsequent Grade One winner by 12-lengths at his ease and then beat good yardsticks comfortably at Punchestown next time.
His jumping is as slick as you could want and although favourites have a habit of getting turned over in the opening race of the week, that was defied by Vautour last year and Douvan can do the same tomorrow to give Mullins, Ricci and Walsh a third win in as many years in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
For six years Willie Mullins brought Quevega to Cheltenham for the OLBG Mares Hurdle and for six years she reigned triumphant. For the last five of those years, she was having her first run of the season.
Mullins therefore knows what it takes to come and win this race, which, for the first time ever and thanks undoubtedly to the exploits of Quevega, is a Grade One this year and Annie Power will bid to enhance the trainer's incredible record to seven in a row.
Annie Power is undoubtedly the class horse in the race. If she had a run this season and won it, her odds would be again much shorter than the 4/7 that is readily available.
Seen as a potential Champion Hurdle mare this year until a setback in December, Annie Power's sole defeat on a racecourse came last year in the World Hurdle.
And if she was to return to the Cheltenham stable yard tomorrow evening with a record of 0/2 it would be a major shock.
Only a defeat to all three or maybe even two of Willie's odds on favourites prior to the Mares Hurdle, will see her price drift and if Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen (or Hurricane Fly) all win, expect her to be much shorter than Quevega ever was for the race.