Champagne Fever: last year's Supreme winner goes in the ArklePICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Nicholls and Mullins set for Supreme fireworks
PAUL NICHOLLS and Willie Mullins, the top trainers in Britain and Ireland respectively this season, will lock horns in the opening race at Cheltenham on Tuesday after their market leaders Irving and Vautour were both declared for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Nicholls has just one bite at the Supreme Novices' cherry, although the unbeaten Irving is 5-2 favourite. He is set to face 17 rivals, including three for Mullins, whose trio is headed by Ruby Walsh's mount Vautour.
Reigning British champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who trails Nicholls this campaign, fields Vaniteux, who will be ridden by Barry Geraghty, and Josses Hill, who will team up with Andrew Tinkler.
In the Racing Post Arkle, favourite Champagne Fever heads a nine-runner field including 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.
Willie Mullins' queen of Cheltenham, Quevega, will need to overcome 15 rivals when she bids for an extraordinary sixth victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, but is odds-on to achieve the feat.
In the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Chase, the festival's first handicap contest, champion jockey Tony McCoy has favoured Alfie Sherrin over top-weight Cantlow. Alfie Sherrin leads the betting for the race and his trainer Jonjo O'Neill also has the second favourite, Holywell.
The Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase for amateur riders is headed by top-weight Foxrock, ridden by Katie Walsh, who faces 14 rivals.
In the day's concluding race, the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase, a full field of 20 are set to go to post. Gardefort, who had been 27th before declarations, was the last to make the cut.
The declarations for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, arguably the festival's most keenly anticipated race, were revealed on Sunday. Ireland's Hurricane Fly and Our Conor will face Britain's My Tent Or Yours and The New One in a race that has all the hallmarks of a cracker.
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