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Hurricane to fly at festival

Riverside Theatre yesterday became the latest horse to fall away from this year's Cheltenham Festival which is now little over a week away, and while we try not to approach the Festival with green-tinted glasses on, this year could be a better week for the Irish than some might think.

Tonight, in the first part of four previews, we look at the opening day of the Festival and what are the best chances of an Irish-trained winner on each day - but if you think day one has the potential to be a memorable day for the Irish, wait until tomorrow night when we will go through Wednesday's best chances.

Day One

Irish Independent Arkle Trophy

Personally, I can't have Alan King's Medermit on my mind for this year's Arkle but that opinion is divided, some think he's a worthy favourite and others just cringe at the idea of him being able to win a Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival.

A bigger priced option for punters is the real Irish candidate in this race, Realt Dubh.

Noel Meade's charge may enjoy a bit of nicer ground, stays better than most over a stiff two-miles, and is a dual Grade One winner this season.

The seven-year-old has beaten Noble Prince twice, which isn't the worst line of form in the world, but more importantly has five runs over fences to his name and that means some invaluable experience for his big day next week.

Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly is the obvious one from an Irish perspective for this, but Dunguib should not be easily discounted.

Hurricane Fly looks to have the credentials to win a Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, having won the Irish equivalent and also the Hatton's Grace over 2m4f, the problem is, in attempting to win this year's he faces a formidable line up.

Menorah is one of the market principals but Dunguib is not too far off him on their meeting in last years Supreme Novices Hurdle, and he could prove to be overpriced at the moment. The home challenge for this race is very strong but Hurricane Fly and Dunguib form a strong raiding party that could have us celebrating just like the cricket!

Cross Country Chase

Enda Bolger will be a short price to win the exciting Cross Country race yet again. His duo of Garde Champetre and L'Ami could nearly drive the horsebox to Cheltenham at this stage never mind run around in this, and again they will be difficult to oppose.

Sizing Australia, A New Story and Another Jewel all form a strong Irish contingent and it will be a bit of a downer if this race isn't for export.

David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

Quevega sets the very high standard in the Mares Hurdle and in truth she would probably run well in the likes of a Champion Hurdle, but rightly goes for three-in-a-row here. Our Girl Salley and the overpriced Macville will be in contention but an awful lot of Irish punters will be looking for an early exit if this Willie Mullins hotpot is beaten.