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Go Native in the Hurdle to ge Cheltenham off to a flying start

By Conor O'Dwyer

After the two wins with Hardy Eustace in the Champion Hurdle, the opening day at Cheltenham is always a day I will have fond memories of.

But nowadays I can just sit back and enjoy it a bit more, and with plenty of Irish chances on the opening day there is plenty to look forward to.

Of course, I was involved in an epic Champion Hurdle on Hardy with Harchibald and Brave Inca within touching distance, and there would be no surprises to see a number of these finishing on top of each other tomorrow because it does look to be the definition of competitive.

But I am going with Go Native. I was mad about Solwhit all season and I just couldn't pick a hole in him, he jumps, travels, stays, he has everything, but scoping bad last week is a concern and that's why I am just going to side with Noel Meade's horse. Now, it is hard to pick too many holes in him either and it is great to see so many top class Irish hurdlers.

He was impressive in Newcastle, even if they did crawl that day, and he went on then and won in Kempton, beating Starluck, who is not too bad either. I am sure there is a great buzz around the place with the bonus, and I feel there is every chance they could be celebrating for some time after this.

Celestial Halo went very close in the race last year and, as far as I know, they are going to change tactics with the blinkers on this time around and he should go close again.

Dunguib is going to be one of the most talked about horses of the week and, to be honest, I was wondering would his jumping catch him out this time, but then you just feel he is that good he could nearly kick them all out of his way and still win.

I have certainly never seen anything like him anyway, that's for sure, and if his jumping does improve and stands up to the task, what he has done in his bumpers is unbelievable.

I spoke to Pat Smullen about him recently, and Pat rode Rite Of Passage in the Champion Bumper last year and he said he just could not believe what he saw when Dunguib came upside him in the race.

As I said, my only worry would be that he just never really makes a nice shape over hurdles, maybe going on a bit he will be better, but he has that much of an engine that I don't think it will matter.

In the Arkle, Captain Cee Bee is a winner around there, even if it was over hurdles, but it was a Supreme Novices' he won and he had no problem with the undulations and that, so I think he will be able to win tomorrow.

I thought on his first couple of runs that Sizing Europe was going to be the business over fences, a totally different horse altogether, but then in Leopardstown I think Captain Cee Bee had him well stuffed.

There is just that doubt over Sizing Europe, even though when he looks good, he looks brilliant or else he's just not there at all, and I am going to go for Captain Cee Bee to beat Sports Line, with Somersby third.

Willie Mullins' Sports Line ran a blinder the last day and I would say Ruby Walsh was kicking himself afterwards because it wasn't like him, but I'd say he'd even admit himself that he may have rushed him there, but he's not bad and he should stay well.

We could be looking at an Irish 1-2-3 in the Mares' Hurdle with Voler La Vedette leading home Quevega.

Quevega is the business when she is on song, but she is a long time without a run now and I just don't think she met anything like Voler La Vedette when winning the race last year.

I think Silver Birch is a good shout at 20/1 in the Cross Country race but it is impossible to look past Enda and there seems to be plenty of talk around the place for L'Ami so we will go with him to beat Garde Champetre, with Silver Birch third.

Belfast Telegraph


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