Great start for Mulholland and Fehily as Tikkanbar strikes in opener

Noel Fehily and Neil Mulholland will be hoping the rest of 2018 can be as easy as this after the well-backed Tikkanbar made almost every yard to win the opening race of the year at Cheltenham.

In truth, 3-1 favourite Tikkanbar's task would have been even more straightforward had he been smarter at his obstacles, a messy jump at the last briefly opening the door for Ainchea and Springtown Lake, the latter of which had been prominent with the winner throughout.

Despite the blunder, Tikkanbar proved he has an engine to be reckoned with as he quickly regrouped and readily repelled the threat to take the Listed contest.

"He stays, gallops and likes the ground. His jumping will hopefully get better with time and is a lot better than it was," said Mulholland.

"He doesn't need this ground and he doesn't have to make the running, but it's working at the moment. If you lined him up in a better race you could drop him in a bit.

"We were firing him in at the deep end today, but my father [owner] was over seeing the grandchildren for Christmas and it was a risk worth taking.

"When we bought him at the sales he didn't have a great breeding page but was a nice stamp of a horse. My father was with me and we took a chance. He's turned out really good."

The seven-year-old was introduced to the market for the Cheltenham Festival's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at 25-1 by both Paddy Power and BetVictor.