Where better to start than at the very beginning with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The Grade 1 event is the curtain raiser to the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
Won last year by Menorah, it’s open to four year old and above novices’, run over an extended two miles, on the Cheltenham Old Course, with a total of eight hurdles to be jumped.
10 Year Trends:
10/10 – won at least 50% of past hurdle starts
10/10 – had run within the last 45 days
8/10 – had won their last race
8/10 – were aged five or six
7/10 – were trained in Ireland
Cue Card – C Tizzard
5yo bay gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Wicked Crack (IRE) (King’s Ride (IRE))
Impressive winner of last year’s Champion Bumper, who went on to make very easy work of opposition on hurdling debut round Aintree. Followed up with another comfortable success returning to Cheltenham in mid-November, when dispatching Dunraven Storm in the Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle. Tasted defeat for the first time at the hands of last year’s Supreme victor, Menorah, when runner up in the International Hurdle. Found not a great deal off the bridle in that race however, and the proximity of Silvaniaco Conti is now a concern. Short priced favourites don’t have a great recent record in this event, and given Cue Card’s absence since early December, I wouldn’t be shocked if that were to continue.
Spirit Son – N Henderson
5yo bay gelding
Poliglote (UK) – Kirzinnia (FR) (Zino (UK))
Made positive impressions on UK debut when cruising to win at Huntingdon in early January. Followed that by putting himself firmly into the Supreme picture with a wide margin demolition of five opponents in a listed contest at Exeter. Smooth hurdler who has yet to encounter decent underfoot conditions, but every chance of improving with them. Quoted as the more mature of the highlighted Henderson duo.
Sprinter Sacre – N Henderson
5yo bay gelding
Network (GER) – Fatima Iii (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR))
Classy individual who won both bumper starts before filling the runners up spot on his hurdling debut. Travelled supremely that day but possibly two keen for his own good, and only limited response when push came to shove. Yet to come off the bridle in two wins since, and although pulled hard last time, unlikely to encounter the circumstances responsible for that here. Reported as still quite immature and interesting to see if he is deserted or favoured by Geraghty.
Recession Proof – J Quinn
5yo chestnut gelding
Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE) – Elevate (UK) (Ela-Mana-Mou (UK))
Useful on the flat and made a winning start to hurdles when coasting clear at Carlisle in early October. Lost little in defeat when bumping into Dunraven Storm three weeks later. Returned to winning ways at Lingfield the following month and ended the year with another success in a jumper’s bumper over at Southwell. Six weeks on, he landed a big prize for the yard when edging out Bothy in the delayed Totesport Trophy at Newbury. Lot to like about his hurdling but he does have a propensity to idle and often takes a while to settle. Trainer plans to take in a handicap as well as the Supreme which doesn’t scream confidence and despite having flat form on good or better ground, it’s worth noting, connections weren’t quite as keen on his Newbury chances, prior to the softer conditions encountered in the rearranged Totesport Trophy meeting.
Zaidpour – W Mullins
5yo bay gelding
Red Ransom (USA) – Zainta (IRE) (Kahyasi (IRE))
More than useful flat performer over in France and made extremely impressive debut when cruising to success in a maiden hurdle. Enjoyed another bloodless success a month later when taking the Grade 1 Royal Bond looking every inch a future star. Turned over two weeks later at 1/4 in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle but gave the impression that that race had come too soon. Having had six weeks to recover, he pitched up at the Deloitte Novice Hurdle but again failed to fire and was easily dispatched by Oscar Wells. Both reversals did however, come on very testing ground and it would be a mistake to write him off just yet. His jumping, however, is yet to convince so backing him requires a huge leap of faith.
Others of note:
Hidden Universe was a Grade 1 winning bumper horse and although he’s run three nice races over obstacles, he hasn’t really shown enough to merit his current prices. Al Ferof was second in last year’s Champion Bumper and has done nothing wrong in three outings since falling on his hurdling debut but his jumping isn’t overly convincing. Dare Me ran four very pleasing races as a bumper and has been nothing but impressive in his two starts over obstacles. He’ll have to step forward to take a hand here and hasn’t been seen since early November but were he to line up, he warrants plenty of respect. Gibb River wasn’t a bad horse in his short flat career and has enjoyed three bloodless successes since switching codes. Improvement is probably necessary to take a hand here but he may have been slightly overlooked. Rock On Ruby brings some decent enough form to the table but may well head to the Neptune and a similar destination looks likely for So Young. He’s created two memorable performances so far in his fledgling career and looks a horse with a very bright future. The form might not mount up to much and his inexperience is a concern but I’m a sucker for untapped potential and this horse has it in abundance. Toubab will put his credentials on the line at the weekend in the Dovecote, having failed to handle conditions in the Tolworth. Prior to that effort, he had run some nice races culminated in a comfortable listed success at Haydock but probably has no more than place prospects at best.
Finding an angle into this race at this late stage isn’t easy. I’d be quite happy, were I sitting on double figure prices for Cue Card but I couldn’t go near him now with such short odds available. Spirit Son and Sprinter Sacre could simply be anything but the time to back them both has probably passed, while despite liking the horse, I’m put off by Zaidpour’s jumping. So Young would have been my selection but seems Neptune bound so focus turns to Dare Me and Gibb River who both appeal strongly as each way angles, with slight preference being for the latter. They can probably be backed on the day at similar prices to the ones available now and that seems the safer route to take, given there is a slight doubt over their participation.