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Melon could well give Irish the sweet taste of opening day success

By Gary Carson

The opening day has traditionally been the strongest for the Irish at Cheltenham in recent years and the raiders look set to blast out of the blocks at the Festival once again.

In fact, the very first race can often make or break the week for a lot of travelling punters and Melon looks the great white hope this time in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Willie Mullins has not hidden his admiration for the French import, but lack of experience would have to be a major question mark.

There may be better value in Bunk Off Early, who looks to have a serious chance of upstaging his higher-profile stablemate.

The Stan James Champion Hurdle has taken a hit with the previous two winners both ruled out due to injury and the main Irish hope is Petit Mouchoir.

The Gigginstown gelding looks a stronger horse this year and ran out a stunning winner of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

The decision to leave Limini in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle has left that a very competitive contest and probably the hottest renewal of the race to date.

She was impressive when winning the novice mares' event last season. Stablemate Vroum Vroum Mag perhaps has not hit the same heights this season.

There is a strong Irish representation in the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase and Arbre De Vie looks worth an each-way interest at a nice price.

Belfast Telegraph

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