Willie Mullins verdict: all my runners on day one of the festival
Willie Mullins runs through his chances at Cheltenham on Tuesday . . .
Getabird and Sharjah (1.30)
The ground is going to be a big plus for Getabird, who is two from two over hurdles. He was very impressive at Punchestown last time, beating a Grade 1 winner in Mengli Khan - a rival again here - by nine lengths and all has gone well with him since.
Whereas conditions will suit Getabird they could have the opposite effect on Sharjah. He has won on heavy but not at this level and we think the very soft ground was against him at Leopardstown last time. He's a smart horse and has the ability to be there or thereabouts, but the ground is a concern.
He's in very good form and travelled over really well. He's three from three over fences and has jumped very well in his races, winning two Grade 1s at Leopardstown on the way here. Heavy ground won't be an issue for him and he has to have a major chance of giving us a third victory in a race we have won with Un De Sceaux and Douvan.
Faugheen, Melon, Yorkhill and Wicklow Brave (3.30)
Faugheen has had a frustrating season and it's difficult to know what to expect from him as he bids to win the Champion Hurdle for the second time. He was very good on his return to action in the Morgiana Hurdle but ran no sort of race at Leopardstown at Christmas when he was pulled up before finishing second to Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He seems happy in himself since he got here at the weekend and we're trying first-time cheekpieces in the hope they might help him rediscover some of his old sparkle.
Melon, who will handle the ground, is very well. He's good and strong, and he has run well on his two visits to Cheltenham. He wore a hood when disappointing in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time and we decided to abandon headgear this time.
As Yorkhill didn't fire over fences this season we decided to switch him back over hurdles. He jumps them better than he jumps fences and he was a dual Grade 1 winner as a novice over longer distances, winning at the festival and Aintree two years ago. I hope we've made the right decision. The conditions will help him over the shorter trip and should bring his stamina into play.
Wicklow Brave, a Grade 1 winner on the Flat and over hurdles, lost any chance he had in the race a year ago when he lost a lot of ground at the start. Patrick [Mullins] has won on him five times, including a Grade 1 at Punchestown last year when he beat My Tent Or Yours, and they could run into the money.
Benie Des Dieux and Pravalaguna (4.10)
The Mares' Hurdle is a race we've dominated with eight wins, six of them courtesy of Quevega, and we're hoping Benie Des Dieux might do the business this year. She has never run over hurdles for us but had plenty of experience in France before joining the yard, going unbeaten in three starts over fences. She'll love the ground and, while we don't know how good she might be, it's going to be tough for her against last year's winner Apple's Jade.
Pravalaguna is facing a tough task. If she could finish in the first three or four, we'll be happy.
Rathvinden and Pylonthepressure (4.50)
Rathvinden has loads of experience and his relaxed style of racing should give him every chance of getting the distance.
Pylonthepressure looks tailor-made for the four-mile trip. He jumps well but his lack of experience could be his Achilles heel.
Demi Sang and Livelovelaugh (5.30)
Demi Sang will appreciate the ground. We bought him from France as a two-miler but we think going up in distance might suit him. He's three from four over fences - he won a handicap in France - and will love the ground.
Livelovelaugh is a very good jumper and that is usually an asset in novice handicaps. Coming back in trip should suit him on his handicap debut.