Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Tips

The famous Cheltenham roar will be confined to living rooms up and down the land, and indeed around the world, when 1.20pm ticks around on Tuesday afternoon, and as unsatisfyingly as that may seem to those whom have experienced the spine-tingling cheer in all it's glory, it will soon be forgotten when the Supreme Novices' Hurdle field turn for home a matter of minutes later.

No trainer has won this race more times than Willie Mullins, whom will bid for a seventh victory in Cheltenham's curtain raising contest on Tuesday following the victories of Tourist Attraction (1995), Ebaziyan (2007), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015) and Klassical Dream (2019).

The Irish champion trainer has a strong hand once more with no fewer than 5 of the 18 horses left in at the five-day stage hailing from his Closutton base. The most obvious contender this year is long-time favourite Appreciate It, whom chased home stablemate Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago and is yet to taste defeat in three starts over hurdles, with the latter two victories being achieved at Grade 1 level.

The scopey son of Jeremy is clearly a high-class operator and he is undoubtedly the rightful favourite on form. However, he does look to be a staying chaser in the making and will need a truly run race in order to be seen to best effect, otherwise he may prove vulnerable to speedier types.

That said, this doesn't appear to be an overly deep renewal of this race and a reproduction of his impressive success at Christmas would almost certainly be enough, while his opposition will undoubtedly require a career best effort in order to lower his colours.

Only five seven-year-old's have triumphed in this race during it's 75 year history (73 races), the last being Captain Cee Bee in 2008. However, Willie Mullins landed his maiden Cheltenham Festival success with the aforementioned seven-year-old Tourist Attraction, therefore I very much doubt that connections are losing any sleep on the back of that statistic - which is undoubtedly exaggerated by the lack of seven-year-old's contesting novice hurdles. 

 

Jamie Codd declared that Ballyadam was the best horse that has ever graced the track at Downpatrick after effortlessly landing a bumper last March, which naturally caught the attention of many and added further allure to his already lofty reputation. However, he arguably had more doubters than supporters following his Grade 1 Royal Bond success at Fairyhouse in November, and he disappointed many when placing fourth behind Appreciate It at Leopardstown over Christmas. 

Thankfully connections found a reason for that poor showing as he - like many of his stablemates at the that time - scoped badly post Christmas, therefore it may be best to draw a line through that outing. Ballyadam certainly shaped with more promise at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and breifly looked as though he may pose a serious threat to the eventual winner after effortlessly making up ground upon turning for home. 

It's possible that the ground that he forfeited throughout and the testing conditions ultimately conspired against him that day and the speedy six-year-old could easily find improvement on a sounder surface, which may be enough to give the favourite something to think about on Tuesday. 

The keen going Blue Lord was dropped-in when placing third behind Appreciate It last month after pulling like a train when chasing home Ballymore Novices' Hurdle contender Bob Olinger in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January, and he could easily get closer to his stablemate if settling better in a more prominent position.

I have a suspicion that connections were trying to teach Blue Lord how to race on that occasion and he certainly wasn't knocked about when finishing a never nearer third. All three of his starts over hurdles have come on testing ground, and he could easily improve for a decent surface given that he landed a good ground flat race on his last start in France.

The imposing son of Blue Bresil was given plenty of time to acclimatise after arriving in Ireland and he clearly possesses significant potential. An end-to-end gallop over the minimum distance should suit him well, and he makes fair each-way appeal given that he has form that ties in well with Appreciate It, Ballyadam and Bob Olinger, all of whom have won Grade 1 novice hurdles this season.

It was noticeable that Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle scorer Bob Olinger was left in this contest at the five day stage and the exciting son of Sholokhov is certainly not lacking for pace, as he demonstrated when narrowly beaten by last year's Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow over 2 miles at Gowran Park in November, and again when hacking up on heavy ground at Naas in January.

The Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle field covered 175 yards more than the 2m3f handicap hurdle later on the card, yet clocked just a 1 second slower time overall. While Bob Olinger was nearly 6 seconds quicker than handicap scorer Uisce Solas (both carried 11-12) from 3 out to the line.

Bob Olinger was also nearly 1 second quicker than On Eagles Wings (11-7) in the 2 mile maiden hurdle from three out to the line, and nearly 1 second quicker than easy bumper winner Belle Metal (10-9) from what would have been three out to the line. 

Henry de Bromhead's six-year-old readily dispatched the aforementioned Blue Lord on that occasion and has earned high praise from many racing pundits in the build up to this meeting, and understandably so given the class that he has displayed on the track thus far.

Bob Olinger is clearly a high class horse in the making and his potent blend of speed and stamina would make him a huge player if lining up on Tuesday. However, I would be surprised if connections decide to re-route their charge from the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at this late stage, and make him odds-on to take his chance on the Wednesday - where I would strongly fancy him to triumph. 

Connections elected to sidestep the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle with Metier and instead focus on this Grade 1 contest, which is a clear indication of their desire to win this race. 

 

The son of Mastercraftsman was rated 88 on the flat and made a smooth transition to hurdling at Newton Abbot in October. He confirmed the promise of that debut success when bolting-up at Ascot in November and his subsequent Grade 1 success in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown puts him firmly in the mix tomorrow.

The form of that contest is nothing to shout about but Harry Fry's five-year-old could hardly have done it easier. Decent ground would, however, pose a question given that all four of his previous career victories have been achieved on testing ground, and he will need to be equally as effective on a quicker surface should conditions continue to dry out.

Soaring Glory readily defied a mark of 133 in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle last month and he would appreciate the decent ground that seems likely at present. However, he will have to overcome the 'Betfair Hurdle hoodoo' given that seven of the last eight novice winners of that race have all tasted defeat in this contest.

Jonjo O'Neill's progressive six-year-old was smart in bumpers and defeated subsequent Grade 1 Challow Hurdle scorer Bravemansgame on his hurdling debut at Chepstow in October. He ran a fine race when chasing home the potentially smart Dusart, whom received 6lbs, at Newbury in November and the manner in which he jumped, travelled and came away from vastly more experienced rivals in hot-handicap company last month suggested that he may be capable of making his presence felt at this level.

Soaring Glory will have had three weeks to recover from his Newbury exertions and would be well suited by the strong tempo at which this race is traditionally run. Therefore he could easily make his valuable handicap experience count if given the green light to take his chance, which is not yet guaranteed as both owner and trainer seemingly have reservations.

Irascible stayed-on stoutly to chase home Appreciate It in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in December, and he again ran well when placing fourth behind Willie Mullins talented seven-year-old at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

Those two outings in Grade 1 company will certainly stand to him at Cheltenham and he looks like a fine long term prospect for connections. However, he may lack the gears of one or two in this contest if the ground does come up decent. 

That said, the Gigginstown House Stud owned grey did defeat a subsequent easy scorer when shedding his maiden tag on his racecourse debut at Clonmel, and he will be well suited by the likey strong pace, which should see him coming home strongly when others are flagging up the hill.

Keskonrisk came with a £370,000 price-tag and left it late on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in November. The form of that contest is only average, but Joseph O'Brien's six-year-old took a big step forwards when placing third behind Appreciate It and Iracible in Grade 1 company at Christmas, and that effort can possibly be upgraded given that the stable weren't firing on all cylinders at the time.

The son of No Risk At All has always been held in high regard and simply could be anything at this stage of his career. Therefore he could easily be a shade overpriced at this stage - especially now that the O'Brien yard is cranking into gear.

Ganapathi won his maiden hurdle at Cork before placing second behind the rapidly progressive Dreal Deal in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in January - a race that was run at a ferocious gallop and favoured those whom sat off the pace. 

The Joe Donnelly owned five-year-old was far from disgraced when placing fifth in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and the intriguing son of Samum would be of interest back down in trip, especially as this race tends to favour staying two-milers.

Connections have been handed the option of running in handicap company off a mark of 140 and it will interesting to see which route they decide to take. 

Third Time Lucki and Fifty Ball are perhaps more likely to contest the County Hurdle judging by the recent comments emanating from their connections, however, they wouldn't be without a chance if taking up this engagement.

The former placed fourth in the Champion Bumper last March and his form in novice hurdles stacks up well. Dan Skelton's six-year-old defeated two subsequent dual scorers on his hurdling debut in October and was unable to reel-in the front-running For Pleasure - who ran well for a long way in the Betfair Hurdle last month - in Grade 2 company over this course and distance in November.

The latter boasts a progressive profile having comfortably landed handicaps at Ascot and Sandown before running a huge race in the Betfair Hurdle last month, when bumping into a very well handicapped horse in the form of Soaring Glory.

Neither have achieved the level of form that would be required to win a quality renewal of this race, however, as mentioned previously, this is perhaps not a stellar renewal and could easily be there for the taking if those towards the head of the betting falter. Therefore it may be significant if either turns up here as opposed to lining up in handicap company.

Gowel Road boasts a similar profile to Fifty Ball and could also head to the County Hurdle as opposed to this contest. However, he could also outperform market expectations if lining up on Tuesday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained five-year-old gave Bear Ghylls a scare on his hurdling debut at Bangor and he has won his last two starts at Newbury in very taking fashion. Clearly this represents a significant rise in class, but he is a young horse whom appears to be improving with each start, which makes him a dangerous horse to rule out.

Grumpy Charley boasts a fairly similar profile and arrives here on the back of a quick-fire hat-trick at Chepstow. Chris Honour's six-year-old is clearly improving with every start and could easily outperform market expectations in spite of the sizeable rise in class. 

For Pleasure is probably slightly overpriced given that he is a Grade 2 winner over this course and distance, however, I'm sure he won't be handed such a healthy lead on this occasion. While Shakem Up'Arry, whom chased home the aforementioned Metier in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, has been well held off marks of 130 and 136 in handicap company and doesn't make great appeal even in a sub-standard year.

M C Muldoon is rated 96 on the flat and made it second time lucky over hurdles at Fairyhouse last month. However, the form of that contest does little to inspire confidence, and the son of Mastercraftsman will have much more on his plate in this grade. 

 

Both Guard Your Dreams and Galopin Des Champs look as though an extra half-a-mile would suit and are more likely to try their luck in handicap company.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Prediction

Appreciate It is undoubtedly the correct favourite on form and the classy seven-year-old could easily improve Willie Mullins enviable strike-rate in this contest. However, he didn't look untouchable at Leopardstown last month and he was beaten by a speedier rival in the Champion Bumper last season, which does make him opposable at the price.

Bob Olinger would undoubtedly be a huge player if re-rerouting from the Ballymore, but I can't see that happening at this stage. While Soaring Glory wouldn't be without a chance given the good placed record of Betfair Hurdle winners in recent years - for all that they haven't been able to win.

However, his participation is also uncertain as things stand and this race could easily cut up significantly at the declaration stage, therefore it may be worth getting both BALLYADAM and BLUE LORD on side now as they could easily be much shorter come the day.

The former is already a Grade 1 winner and can be forgiven his run at Christmas when scoping badly. He shaped much more encouragingly at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and seemingly possesses the gears to challenge Appreciate It if the forecast decent ground materialises.

A recent stable change may not be ideal, however, it's not guaranteed to be a negative either. Therefore he is worth taking a chance on.

The latter boasts Grade 1 form against the aforementioned Bob Olinger and was given plenty to do when finishing third behind Appreciate It and Ballyadam at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. 

A strongly run two miles around a demanding track like Cheltenham could suit the Blue Bresil gelding very well, and he also has the scope to improve for a sounder surface having won on good ground in France.

Ballyadam - 1pt @ 13/2
Blue Lord - 1pt e/w @ 12/1