British hopes likely rest on Metier and Soaring Glory, who will wear cheekpieces for the first time.
The late scratching of Energumene has rendered the Sporting Life Arkle (1.55), with just six runners, a much easier task for the brilliant Shishkin (below). How good might he be? It will help tell us more if the front-running Allmankind can give him a battle.
The Ultima (2.30) is fiendishly difficult, with Betfair Sportsbook offering five each-way places.
Robbie Power has failed to get around on Discordantly on his last two runs but, were the duo to get their act together, Jessica Harrington’s charge looks feasible off a rating of 142.
No doubt about the highlight on day one: the Unibet Champion Hurdle (3.05). It is somewhat anomalous that, despite the talk about the four-day Festival and new races diluting the quality on show, and there now being three mares races where they used to be one, two mares are expected to fight out the finish here.
Betfair offers four places and that makes Abacadabras really appealing each-way. Touched off by Shishkin last year, the ground has come right for him, and trainer Sneezy Foster is in terrific form. Expect jockey Jack Kennedy to leave it late.
Concertista is set to go off odds-on in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (3.40) if the favourites have all obliged in the previous three Grade 1s. She is pretty bullet-proof but Great White Shark can hit the frame at a nice price. Forget her Gowran run, when the ground was far too deep, while her trainer Willie Mullins tends to dominate this contest.
Zoffanien is another who makes plenty of appeal in the Boodles (4.15). Denis Hogan bids for his first Festival winner, with Richard Johnson booked on a horse with plenty of experience for a juvenile. He travels strongly.
Galvin can provide the Irish with another winner in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase (4.50). This horse has also left Elliott, joining Ian Ferguson, but that should make little difference to his chances, and he has been aimed at this for the guts of 12 months.