IT'S Christmas for horse racing fans as the Cheltenham Festival kicks off today (Tuesday).

It has again become my task to sift through the runners and riders to try and pick out some winners for our loyal County Gazette readers - so I'll do my best.

Before we begin, a reminder to please gamble responsibly. It can be too easy to get carried away in weeks like this so please try and keep a lid on whatever you spend. Click here for more information.

First up today is the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30pm).

It's an open race, with three 9/2 joint-favourites at the time of writing in a field of 18.

Having won well at Wincanton in February, Grand Sancy (14/1) looks well set to go nicely again and could ensure the first winner of the Festival has a Somerset connection - the horse is trained at Ditcheat by Paul Nicholls.

Next up is the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase (2.10pm).

Twelve are going for glory in this one and the recent wet weather should suit Kalashnikov (8/1), ridden by Jack Quinlan for trainer Amy Murphy.

The Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50pm) looks a real lottery, with nothing currently priced shorter than 8/1 in a field of 24.

Coo Star Sivola (9/1) has a great Festival record and is certainly worth a look, but Beware The Bear (14/1) is a real stayer and earned victory on his most recent visit to Cheltenham in January.

For each-way value, be inspired by Jimmy Nail and check out Big River (25/1).

The big race of the day is the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (3.30pm).

Those far better informed than me believe the weather will have a big impact on this one and I am in no position to disagree.

If it is drier than anticipated, Sharjah (16/1) looks very good value to upset some of the more fancied big guns.

Theresa May has bigger things on her plate today than worrying about the Festival, but one imagines she will be avoiding Global Citizen (66/1).

The OLBG Mares' Hurdle (4.10pm) is the last race being televised by ITV and this is where the value comes into play.

Cap Soleil (33/1) may not have run for a year but, as a consequence, should be fresh as a daisy and is certainly worth an each-way shout at those odds.

The later races in the day often throw up surprises and for that reason I'm plumping for Roaring Bull (16/1), who raced clear over a similar distance at Naas a month ago, in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (4.50pm).

The action ends with the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase (5.30pm) and Chef Des Obeaux (16/1) will arrive with confidence after an impressive recent win at Chepstow.

Good luck today if you are watching the action - keep across the County Gazette website for more tips as the week goes on...