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Willie Mullins' challengers dominate Supreme Novices’ Hurdle confirmations

Nine of the 15 horses confirmed for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday will be trained by Willie Mullins, including the favourite Ballyburn.

The most successful trainer in Festival history has won the traditional curtain-raiser on seven occasions and again holds a very strong hand.

Tullyhill and Mystical Power are also prominent in the market and it will be interesting to see how Mullins shuffles his pack, with both Ballyburn and Mystical Power having the option of running in the newly-named Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle the following afternoon.

Anotherway, Asian Master, Gold Dancer, Ile Atlantique, Mistergif and Supersundae are the other Mullins inmates who have stood their ground for the Supreme, with the majority holding alternative engagements.

Gordon Elliott’s Firefox, who beat Ballyburn earlier in the season, is another leading contender from Ireland, with Henry de Bromhead’s Slade Steel and Paul Gilligan’s Kings Hill other possible raiders.

The three British-trained hopefuls are Alan King’s Favour And Fortune, Nicky Henderson’s Jeriko Du Reponet and Tellherthename from Ben Pauling’s yard.

The My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy has a distinctly more open look to it, despite the fact five of the 15 remaining contenders are based at Closutton.

That quintet includes Irish Arkle hero Il Etait Temps, Hunters Yarn, Gaelic Warrior and Facile Vega, while Found A Fifty (Elliott) and Quilixios (De Bromhead) are also well fancied. The pick of the home team looks to be Joe Tizzard’s JPR One.

The Tizzard-trained Eldorado Allen heads the weights for the Ultima Handicap Chase, for which 43 are still in the mix, with Meetingofthewaters a likely favourite to give Mullins a first ever handicap chase win at the Festival.

Ireland’s perennial champion trainer also appears to hold all the aces in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, with odds-on shot Lossiemouth the star attraction in a 13-strong field that also includes her stablemates Ashroe Diamond, Echoes In Rain, Gala Marceau and Zenta. Marie’s Rock (Nicky Henderson) and Love Envoi (Harry Fry) look the two most likely to give the Mullins battalion something to think about.

Leading fancies Lark In The Mornin (Joseph O’Brien), Batman Girac (Mullins) and French challenger Milan Tino (Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm) are among 43 going forward for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, while just 10 are in contention for the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Chase.

The two at the top of the betting are fittingly trained by two members of the Mullins family, with Maureen’s son Willie set to saddle Embassy Gardens and grandson Emmet responsible for Corbetts Cross.

READ MORE: Cheltenham Festival 2024 guide: When is it, times, big races, top horses, trainers, jockeys and more

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