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The entries are revealed today for the three championship G1 novices' hurdles at The Festival - the £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2m, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13), the £125,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (2m 5f, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14) and the £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (3m, Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16) - plus the £125,000 G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f, Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16) for four-year-olds.
Trainer Willie Mullins and owner Susannah Ricci have captured three of the last five renewals of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (73 entries), The Festival's opening race. Mullins has 16 entries in 2018, headed by the Ricci-owned pair of Getabird, impressive winner of the G2 Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle on his latest start, and the promising Sharjah.
Menghli Khan, second to Getabird at Punchestown under a penalty, impressed in the G1 Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December. He is among five entries for another Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.
Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson looks to have a strong chance of adding to his three triumphs in the race with unbeaten hurdler Claimantakinforgan, one of his four entries.
Summerville Boy (Tom George) made short work of his rivals in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle and may remain at two miles, as could three-time hurdle scorer If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry) and Betfair Hurdle favourite Lalor (Kayley Woollacott).
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Sky Bet odds (NRNB): 5/2 Getabird; 4/1 Samcro; 5/1 Apples Shakira; 7/1 Claimantakinforgan, Laurina, Sharjah; 8/1 Espoir D'allen, If The Cap Fits, Next Destination; 10/1 Mengli Khan; 12/1 Salsaretta; 14/1 Real Steel; 16/1 Summerville Boy; 20/1 Farclas, Kalashnikov; 25/1 Countister, Debuchet, Duc Des Genievres, First Flow, Francin; 33/1 Carter Mckay, Dame De Compagnie, Destrier, Djingle, Dr Des, Early Doors, Epicuris, Mitchouka, Mitchouka, Nessun Dorma, Scarlet Dragon, Scarpeta, Trainwreck, Western Ryder, Whiskey Sour; 40/1 Bar
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, commented: "Sky Bet is delighted to support the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and 2018 will be the fifth year of Sky Bet's sponsorship.
"We have seen success for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins with Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) during Sky Bet's sponsorship. The same combination is responsible this year for Getabird, who is 5/2 favourite with Sky Bet following a faultless display last time out in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
"The 2018 renewal of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle is sure to be as fascinating as ever and will once again be the perfect curtain-raiser to the four best days of Jump racing in the calendar."
Arguably, the most exciting jumper in training Samcro (Gordon Elliott) heads 98 entries for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (98 entries). The six-year-old has won his first two starts over hurdles, including a G2 contest at Naas, by an aggregate of 27 lengths. Samcro also has the option of Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Willie Mullins is well represented again in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, with Naas G1 victor Next Destination and Duc Des Genievres spearheading his 18 entries.
Course and distance winner On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson) is the standout British contender judged on his three successes so far this season, the most recent of which saw him defy a penalty impressively in G2 company at Sandown Park on December 9. Stablemate Mr Whipped, who has won a point-to-point and three hurdle races, is also in the mix.
Dr Des (Henry Oliver) is engaged in both the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He scored comfortably over two miles on his hurdling debut at Stratford in October and last time out finished second, beaten two and a quarter lengths, behind Claimantakinforgan in the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Ascot on December 22.
Trainer Henry Oliver said: "Dr Des is in good form and has had plenty of time since Ascot.
"He steps up in trip to two miles and three furlongs at Towcester today (3.25pm) and that should give us more of an idea of where we are going in the future.
"He wasn't expensive [£11,000 in May], but he won nicely at Stratford and that form looks pretty good with the second winning at Wincanton.
"He looked a bit outpaced over two miles at Ascot. He is a strong galloper and ran well in point-to-points last winter, so going up in trip should suit him.
"He has the two entries at The Festival and I suppose the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle would look more suitable if we decide to go to Cheltenham, though there is also Aintree to consider.
"He needs time between races because he puts everything into it. If all goes well at Towcester and we decide to go Cheltenham, he won't run again beforehand."
Gigginstown House Stud has a strong hand in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (83 entries) over three miles, with Cracking Smart and recent Thurles G2 winner Dortmund Park (both Gordon Elliott IRE) among its seven entries.
Santini (Nicky Henderson) maintained his unbeaten record in the G2 Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day and could step up to three miles for the first time at The Festival.
Poetic Rhythm (Fergal O'Brien), victorious in the G1 Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury, is likely to run, along with recent Doncaster G2 scorer Enniscoffey Oscar (Emma Lavelle).
Ante-post favourite Apple's Shakira (Nicky Henderson) tops 47 entries for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. No filly has won the four-year-old showpiece since French challenger Snow Drop in 2000. Henderson's three possibles also include We Have A Dream, winner of the G1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
Apple's Shakira's owner J P McManus has another strong contender in Espoir D'Allen (Gavin Cromwell IRE) who has won all four of his hurdles starts in Ireland so far this season.
Alan King has an excellent record with juvenile hurdlers and his five entries are headed by Redicean, while wide-margin Fairyhouse winner Stormy Ireland is one of seven engaged for Willie Mullins.