The Cheltenham Festival traditionally gets underway with the infamous “Cheltenham Roar”, as the tape goes up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – a race about 2 miles on the Old Course for 4yo+ novice hurdlers. The Supreme Novices’ not only gets The Festival underway with an absolute bang, but it also acts as an introduction to Prestbury Park for many future stars who go on to greater things over both hurdles and fences.
In the last decade alone, Champion Hurdle winners Jezki, Binocular, Sublimity and Brave Inca have all taken in the 2m Supreme Novices’ en route to Champion Hurdle glory, and War Of Attrition progressed from second place behind Brave Inca to Gold Cup glory in 2006. In recent years, the opening race of the The Festival has been absolutely dominated by Messrs Mullins, Walsh and Ricci, having taken the race in three consecutive years, with no victory coming as a surprise to the betting public.
In fact, a trend is beginning to develop in the betting market year-on-year. When Champagne Fever took the race in 2013, Walsh’s mount returned 5/1 joint second favourite behind Nicky Henderson’s hotpot My Tent Or Yours. Twelve months on, Vautour lined up representing the now infamous pink and green Rich Ricci silks, this time as joint market leader at 7/2. The result was the same, first place, just this time in a little more emphatic fashion. By this point, the betting public knew the drill, and weren’t going to let Douvan go off overpriced in last year’s renewal.
Whether they fully knew the drill is open to debate, as whilst Douvan went off sole market leader at 2/1, the lightly raced Mullins 5-year-old won in a devastating fashion which suggested we had yet to see the best of him! And since that victory, owner Rich Ricci has made no secret of the regard in which he holds Douvan, quoting that he could easily be the best horse he’s owned – some statement given the plethora of riches that’s trickled through Rich Ricci’s fingers in the past half a decade!
Cheltenham 2016 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Contenders
So, guess what? It’s the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2016 edition, and Walsh is going to be sat on a Mullins trained horse, in Ricci’s pink and green silks, as the hottest market leader in many a year. At the time of writing, MIN is 6/4 favourite with our sponsors 10Bet, and is regarded by many as a banker of the meeting. Min came from France with a huge reputation despite not setting the world alight in his 3-year-old hurdling days, and many are sat on ante post vouchers at ridiculously fancy prices. At since Min was introduced to the ante post market at 50/1 in the summer of 2015; it’s been absolute one way traffic.
Best priced 10/1 ante post favourite for the Supreme before even making his British debut, Min was sent off red-hot 4/11 favourite at Punchestown and demolished the field by 14 lengths without even be asked to extend. On Min’s next racecourse gallop, he was sent off 1/7 favourite in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer, and put up an equally impressive performance, taking a depleted field apart that was clearly running scared of the Ricci novices’ reputation. In truth, there is little part in taking a part the Min form, because what he has shown on the racecourse to date is undoubtedly a fraction of his true ability. He hasn’t been asked any serious questions to date. What is particularly interesting are the quotes coming from Rich Ricci, who has stated on many an occasion that Min is “too short” – a distant cry on his opinion of last year’s Supreme winner, Douvan!
Next in the market is Nicky Henderson’s primary representative, ALITOR. It would be fair to say that Mr Henderson doesn’t usually introduce his top novices in to action at Chepstow, but when they get the job done by 34 lengths, it’s time to sit up and notice. Granted the two primary challengers on that day didn’t complete, but the fact Altior was sent off 13/8 favourite for the Listed Bumper at Newbury in February of 2015, it’s clear that the High Chaparral gelding has always been held in a high regard at home.
That day, only Barters Hill and Buveur D’Air were found too good. However since taking to obstacles, Altior has yet to find one too good, and has shown tremendous battling qualities in both his victory at Ascot and Cheltenham – a quality which will almost certainly be required if the yard have aspirations of taking this year’s Supreme Novices’. His last performance on the race track was on Boxing Day at Kempton’s Christmas meeting, an above average novice hurdle which happens to throw up the odd future star. And it was probably his most impressive effort to take, beating a host of previous winners by a 13 length winning margin. At the current 4/1 with 10Bet, I rate Altior as a fantastic each way bet to nothing, and given the battling qualities he’s displayed to date in his career, there won’t be many finishing further up the field than him in the Supreme!
Next in the market, is recent market mover YORKHILL, who heads to Cheltenham undefeated under rules. Having raced over 3 miles in Point-to-Points, a career over further than the minimum 2 mile National Hunt trip was presumed a given, especially when routing the field in his first race over flights ; a 2 mile 4 furlong maiden hurdle at Punchestown. His next racecourse appearance was in the Tolworth Hurdle, a race run over 2 miles in an absolute bog. Yorkhill swam to victory, after being extremely well supported in the markets. To date, Yorkhill has only run on testing ground, so would 2 miles on a good track suit the Presenting gelding? This is one I’d definitely be opposing unless there was a deluge of rain in the next week.
Fourth in the current markets? Another Henderson recruit, this time BUVEUR D’AIR, who again is undefeated over hurdles. Having failed to win a bumper under rules, the 5yo gelding must have always been held in extremely high regard, given the races he was immediately pitched into. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle favourite Barters Hill has twice been the victor of Buveur D’Air, but that is absolutely no disgrace in the slightest. Sent off second favourite on hurdling debut behind the well-regarded Wait For Me, Buveur D’Air won in emphatic style. The next appearance was nothing more than morning exercise, but another easy victory nonetheless. The form has been franked, and whilst 7/1 in the market isn’t totally disregarded, could be perceived as one with more improvement than others.
Next in the betting comes Tombstone, Gordon Elliott’s charge who has been beaten at Grade 1 company on two separate occasions, by a pair of Willie Mullins horses that certainly aren’t considered in the same regard as Min or Yorkhill. Tombstone is not on my radar.
We are then getting into the realms of horses who have collateral form with those higher in the markets, but don’t appeal as much on paper, unless improving significantly for turning up at Cheltenham. On consideration of the form on offer, and at the current prices, I’d recommend an each way selection on ALTIOR. The yard are confident, and they certainly know what it takes to win this race. The Mullins/Walsh/Ricci factor probably has Min at a false price, but could easily be the next big thing.
If you shop around you may find larger prices available with other firms.