Laurina and superstar UDS can fly through mud for Mullins team
Beat the bookie
Punter Alert. Not yellow or orange. Code red. Another few inches of rain overnight means Prestbury Park 2018 is a mudlark's merry-go-round.
When the data changes, so must punters. Long-held and fixed ante-post opinions must be abandoned, not just adapted.
It's the softest Festival surface in four decades. Good-ground horses will struggle. Proven heavy-ground specialists will prevail today. Step forward Un De Sceaux (UDS).
A true heroic warrior struts his stuff today. UDS is a legend. Fearless courage in 24 races, winning 18.
I'll can still vividly recall his falls on chasing debut in Thurles and also at the third last at Leopardstown's Christmas festival.
This tearaway has learned to settle. He's now best over two miles and four furlongs. In the muck he's just so game from the front.
UDS' festival record reads: won Arkle 2015; second to Sprinter Sacre 2016; won Ryanair 2017.
The Ryanair Chase looked the race of the Festival a month ago but the defection of five main candidates means it has cut up quite badly. No Fox Norton, Djakadam, Waiting Patiently, Top Notch, Douvan.
UDS is now a ten year-old, but his wins at Cork and Ascot were rated over 170.
Last year's winner deserves to be favourite and will be very hard to beat. Racing on the pace from a mile out, turning on the turbo-chargers at the top of the hill, I don't see anything else being able to live with him - expect Un De Sceaux to get the job done amidst a sea of blue and orange scarves.
Newest race of the Festival is the Trull House Mares' Novice Hurdle, only the third renewal. Both races previously won by Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh.
Of all the unanimous vibes from Closutton whispers, odds-on favourite Laurina appears their banker for the week.
She won by 15 lengths at Tramore and then went on to beat subsequent winner Alletrix by 11 lengths at Fairyhouse. She's a scopey, tall five-year-old of limitless chasing potential.
Maria's Benefit is a bold front-runner. Romping in at Taunton, but only just holding on at Doncaster. She's had a setback. Cheltenham's undulations may not suit her style of racing.
Stuart Edmund's mare is my Bismarck - lay of the day. Laurina looks the proverbial 'good thing'.
Today's feature race is the Stayers' Hurdle, where a new champion will be crowned. It's not a classic renewal. A case can be made for six contenders, all with niggling negatives.
Jessie's Supasundae is classy, but was beaten twice at the trip. Yanworth was a disappointing Festival favourite twice. Unowwhatimeanharry is regressing.
Bacardys is on a retrieval mission after failure as a chaser.
Sam Spinner hails from the tiny Northern stable of Jedd O'Keeffe, but was a worthy Grade One victor of the Long Walk at Ascot.
He's an unexposed improver, having shot up two stones in the handicap after three wins. He acts on heavy ground, is proven over the trip. It could be a fairy-tale ending for this relentless galloper.
In a trappy card of lesser quality, I suggest a speculative place bet on Louis Vac Pouch for the team of Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson in the Pertemps Final handicap hurdle over three miles.
He won his qualifier race at Aintree back in November and has been laid out for this ever since. The step up in distance has brought a huge improvement and that could be maintained.
He won easily, the form has since significantly been enhanced. He could become a Grade One horse, only now rated 145. Some bookies are paying on up to six places - so he's worth a flutter.
Other tentative each-way picks are Shattered Love (1.30); The Storyteller (4.10); Pendra (5.30).
2.10 Luis Vac Pouch (place only)
2.50 Un De Sceaux (NAP)
3.30 Sam Spinner
4.50 Laurina (NB)