Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
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The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the opening race of Cheltenham Festival 2017 and is held on Tuesday 14th March 2017. Started by the Cheltenham roar, it takes place over 2 miles on the Old Course with 8 hurdles.
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The betting trends for the Supreme Novices hurdle are as follows:
- All of the previous 10 winners had at least 2 hurdle runs, with 8 of them having at least 4
- 9 out of the last 10 winners won their last start before the Supreme Novices (exception: Menorah finished 2nd)
- 9 of last 10 winners were aged either 5 or 6
- 9 of the last 10 winners had competed in a Graded contest previously
- 9 of the last 10 winners were not the SP favourite.
- 8 of the last 10 winners had at least 4 combined wins and places
- 8 of the last 10 winners had run in a National Hunt flat race, with 2 others running in French hurdle races
- Irish trained horses have a great record in the race in recent years, having won 11 of the last 17 runnings
- Only 5 of the last 10 winners had previous Cheltenham experience.
The Irish contingent now have the slight edge in the opening race, with 11 wins in the last 17 mainly thanks to Willie Mullins. There was a 12 year break following his 1995 success with 25/1 shot Tourist Attraction when Ebaziyan won in 2007. However, Mullins has won it in the last three years with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan. Ruby Walsh rode all of the recent three winners, as well as both of Paul Nicholls’s successes (2006 and 2011) giving him an impressive 50% strike rate in the last ten years.
Trends Analysis: The age trend is not all that surprising, given most promising novices come here as five or six-year-olds. Nor is the fact that most winners won last time out. Big price winners can be expected in races full of unexposed types, especially over two miles where one jumping mistake can ruin a favourite’s race. This explains both the poor strike rate for favourites and the fact that experience is often key, with the majority of winners having had at least four starts as well as NHF or French hurdles experience.
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle kicks off the Cheltenham Festival and four days of brilliant, top class jumps racing.
The current ante post favourite is Jenkins, who showed promise in bumpers and did win on his hurdling debut at Newbury, albeit not in the classiest of performances. He travelled well and won comfortably in the end, but his jumping left a lot to be desired and is something he will not get away with in this race. He will need to improve if he is to justify being favourite. However, he clearly does have a touch of class about him and a very big engine. It will be worth paying close attention to his races in the run-up to the Festival to see whether his jumping does improve sufficiently.
Winner of the 2015 Champion Bumper, Moon Racer has a record of 5-1-0 and is available at 8/1 for the festival opener after two good runs over hurdles thus far. On his first attempt at the smaller obstacles he knocked off the 2016 Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy, and did so again on his second attempt at Cheltenham in a tactical affair. A classy horse with a lots of potential – albeit older than most of his rivals – he should run a big race for David Pipe and has already shown he handles Cheltenham well, which is a huge plus.
Also priced up at 8/1 currently is Defi Du Seuil who has raced three times over hurdles, readily dispatching his rivals on all three occasions with the minimum of fuss. We have not really seen the best of him yet and he has proven that he handles Cheltenham well with his easy success here in December. He is well thought of by the Hobbs team and it will be interesting to see how he does pitched into deeper waters in the run-up to the festival.
He has not yet been seen under rules, but Melon is a general 14/1 shot for the race for Willie Mullins. He won once in three attempts on the flat in France, including the Prix De Moulins in August 2015, and was bought for €100,000 by Mrs J Donnelly to now be with Mullins. Obviously, it is impossible to know how good he really is with no evidence under rules. Having said that, he is clearly well regarded and needs to be monitored closely to see where he is first unleashed and to see whether all the hype surrounding him is warranted.
Winner on the flat in France and a comfortable winner under hands and heels at Clonmel on his rules debut, Crack Mome looked the real deal. He has obvious scope for improvement and strengthens the already strong battalion that Willie Mullins leads into this race, which he has run a record seven times, including three years in a row from 2013 through to 2015. After his success at Clonmel, Ruby Walsh also reported to Mullins that he had been running very green. This bodes well, as further improvement should be inevitable in that case: “The minimum trip is enough for him and I don’t think he’ll have to go much further. Ruby also passed a remark that he was very green, so I’m hoping there will be improvement all round.” He definitely needs to be monitored in the lead-up to the festival and demands a huge amount of respect.
Priced up only by a few firms, but Airlie Beach would be a formidable opponent for any of these if she goes for the race. Winner of all seven of her starts, she made most to win a Grade 1 on her latest start in quite comfortable style in the end, winning by six lengths. Another classy mare to emanate from the Mullins stable, she is impossible to dismiss and a 14/1 price tag at present could underestimate her potential. However, there is no guarantee that she will run in the race.
A faller in that race when just coming to challenge, Peace News looked a very creditable threat to the Mullins mare, coming strongly to the second last but clouted the fence after being slightly impeded and gave Bryan Cooper no chance. He arguably has more room to improve than Airlie Beach, so could reverse form with her if they do both go for the race. However, he has got plenty of potential in his own right as that was only his second run over fences and he won his debut nicely under hands and heels. He will give it a go for sure as he bids to give Henry De Bromhead a first win in the race, so needs to be watched.
Winner of the Grade 2 trial race at Ascot in December, Capitaine jumped his rivals into the ground when winning by three lengths, making all in great fashion and an enterprising ride by Sam Twiston-Davies. He beat some useful types in that race and showed a brilliant attitude to keep on galloping until the finish. It is therefore possible that he may well have been underestimated, being priced up at a general 20/1 for the race, especially if he tries to make all again.
Thrice raced in France, Chateau Conti is now with Willie Mullins and could be another very interesting prospect for the stable who are known for doing well with these types. It is obviously very hard to judge him at this stage, but he is one to put into the notebook to see how he does on his rules debut.
After seven runs in France, Riven Light was bought by the Riccis and transferred to Willie Mullins. He made an instant impact, winning by 12 lengths on debut at Thurles. Although it was slightly fortunate that a Gordon Elliot horse who was alongside came down at the final fence. Riven Light was, however, travelling the best and would have probably kicked on. Regardless, he also looked like another very smart prospect. Another to put into the notebook as it will be interesting to see if he goes on from that effort.
Menorah lined up to take the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle back in 2010. A representative of Phillip Hobbs, the five-year-old was positioned in mid-field in the early stages of the strongly run race.
He took the inside throughout, managing to hold his standing thanks to a clean round of jumping. The 12/1 shot took the second last with the leader Dan Breen and had to avoid his rival as he jinked in front. He kept on alone down the run in, managing to see off the odds-on favourite Dunguib in third and had the line come to him before Get Me Out Of Here, who improved strongly, could steal the win. The official winning distance was a mere head.
Al Ferof succeeded Menorah in 2011. Paul Nicholls’s six-year-old was held up towards the rear of the field by Ruby Walsh. Held up and two wide for most of the race, Al Ferof was first asked to pick off runners just prior to the Dog Leg Turn, one of a handful of chances pursuing long time leaders Dunraven Storm and Magen’s star.
These two fell away over the third last to allow Sprinter Sacre, Spirit Son and Rathlin to fight it out at the head of affairs. Walsh was patient on Al Ferof, despite seeing the favourite Cue Card improve to take the penultimate hurdle in front. Unleashed, the grey quickened up under the urgings of Walsh and closed up the gap on the leading trio. He found even more coming over the last and into the straight, negotiating his way past his tiring rivals to open up a two length gap on Spirit Son in second.
Cinders And Ashes scooped the Supreme in the subsequent year for Donald McCain; the horse was under instruction from Jason Maguire in the saddle.
The five-year-old winner sat at the front of the main body of the field, these horses being led by a quartet of front-runners in the early stages. The nose-banded Cinders And Ashes back-pedalled slightly prior to jumping poorly over the fourth hurdle, but was still well in touch setting off down the hill.
McCain’s mount turned for home in third, leaving the rail to take up a position between the leader Montbazon and the improving Vulcanite. His white blaze emerged at the head of proceedings just before the final hurdle, which he smacked but managed to recover from to put a gap of just over a length between himself and the three contesting second place.
Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and owners the Ricci family earned back-to-back triumphs in this race in 2013 and 2014, Champagne Fever being their 2013 success story.
The grey set a strong pace at the front of the pack early doors, the only other horse wanting to know being another of Mullins’s chances Un Atout. Walsh settled things down prior to the third and the pack remained bunched up until the horse was asked to turn the screw again following the third from home, Champagne Fever failing to take this obstacle in his stride.
Walsh, in the Ricci family colours, was working hard on Champagne Fever in comparison to A P McCoy on the favourite My Tent Or Yours who moved upsides him in the straight. The pair took the last in unison and the favourite was found wanting as Champagne Fever pressed on to open up a half-a-length gap.
Vautour completed the successive victories for the trio in 2014 and the five-year-old was ridden to dispute the lead early on. Tongue out and taking a keen hold, Vautour was the clear half-a-length leader going over the second and sustained this margin until diving at the third from home and allowing his pursuers to close up.
Despite this error, The Liquidator was the only horse who was ever capable of going eye-to-eye with Vautour, who extended his lead rounding the final turn. Walsh looked ecstatic in the saddle as his charge ran out the six length winner over Josses Hill in second.
2015’s renewal saw Willie Mullins’s Douvan being sent off 2/1 favourite after victory at the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle. L’Ami Serge and Jollyallan were widely seen as the main dangers, with the former being an easy winner of the Tolworth Hurdle for Nicky Henderson. However, nothing could come close to Douvan as he landed the Willie Mullins hat-trick.
He made smooth progress from mid-division, led before the last hurdle and stayed on strongly up the hill with the Willie Mullins second string Shaneshill chasing him home and Sizing John back in third rounding out an Irish 1-2-3 for Henry De Bromhead.
Nicky Henderson stopped the rot as far as Irish dominance is concerned in the 2016 renewal as the mighty impressive Altior powered to victory in the hands of Nico De Boinville. In hindsight, the SP of 4/1 was an unbelievable price, but this was made possible due to the hype surrounding Min, the Willie Mullins trained horse owned by Rich Ricci. Altior tanked his way through the race and, turning for home, took up the running and powered up the hill. Min was running on into second, but ultimately was no match for the winner. They could meet in the 2017 Arkle as both take their chance over the bigger obstacles, a fascinating duel.
There are 83 potential Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runners. The most important of those are:
- Defi Du Seuil
- Let’s Dance
- Airlie Beach
- Neon Wolf
- Dinaria Des Obeaux
- Finian’s Oscar
- Charli Parcs
- Messire Des Obeaux
- Shattered Love
- Meri Devie
- Augusta Kate
- Mick Jazz
- Consul De Thaix
- Blood Crazed Tiger
- Peter The Mayo man
- Crack Mome
- Beyond Conceit
- Chateau Conti
- Moon Racer
- Joey Sasa
- Project Bluebook
- Bunk Off Early
- High Bridge
- Keeper Hill
- Mount Mews
- River Frost
- Riven Light
- Montana Bell
- Duca De Thaix
- Lough Derg Spirit
- Capital Force