The traditional curtain raiser of the Festival is always greeted with a traditional roar from the gathered Cheltenham faithful.
Run over two miles, and taking in eight hurdles, the race is always a hotly contested affair for the novice hurdlers.
This for many people is the most exciting race of the entire horse racing season – flat or jumps.
As the first race of the Cheltenham Festival, excitement levels reach heights that not many other sports can produce. When the tapes are lifted, releasing the runners into battle, the Cheltenham roar engulfs Prestbury Park and is rumoured to be so loud it can be heard all the way in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.
I jest, but it really one of the sports most iconic moments and gets the four day Festival off to a flyer.
Who won the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016?
The race was billed as a match between Altior and Min and it was the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior that got the better of the Willie Mullins-trained hot-pot. The highly-rated Seven Barrows-inmate was classy at his hurdles and showed a devastating turn of foot to power away up the hill to beat Min by a wide margin.
Those two will renew their rivalry over fences this season in the Arkle.
How to find the winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle?
Try and find a horse that hasn’t been wrapped in cotton wool that has won at the track before. Cue Card, Steps To Freedom, Jezki and Min all are examples of horses trading at short prices to get beat in a Supreme without a recent run under their belt.
Ante-post tip for the Supreme Novices Hurdle?
This isn’t always a profitable race to follow from an ante-post perspective due to the fact much of the top novices from the big yards haven’t been seen before Christmas.
However, Henderson has already sent the very exciting JENKINS out at Newbury and he looked a bit of a tool on his debut over hurdles. His jumping needs work but boy does this lad have an engine.
I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win his next start in Graded company as he’s bound to improve bundles. The current 7/1 available for the Supreme Novices Hurdle looks a tasty proposition and its a price which I’m happy to take.
Formerly, the Gloucestershire Hurdle the race has benefitted from the sponsorship of a number of key sponsors over the years including Lloyds Bank and Waterford Crystal, with SkyBet being the current backers.
More often than not the race attracts a flurry of ante post activity and many punters idea of a Festival banker. Few will forget though the likes of Dunguib (2010 at 4/5) and My Tent Or Yours (2013 at 15/8), who many were convinced to be nailed on winners but were defeated sending many accumulators in the bin-ward direction. However, both in 2014 and 2015 favourite backers were rewarded when Vautour and Douvan took the honours at 7/2 and 2/1 respectively.
Being the Festival opener, the Supreme Novice Hurdle is certain to attract the attention of the betting public again this spring.
In recent years the race has produced two future Champion Hurdle winners in the form of Hors La Loi III (1999) and Brave Inca (2004). Many other of its winners have gone on to have notable careers both over hurdles and fences, but few have become champions.
For four of the last five years the race has been dominated by Ruby Walsh, where for his 2013, 2014 and 2015 he partnered up with champion trainer Willie Mullins and leading owner Rich Ricci.
The Irish team are certain to target the race again in 2016 and have interestingly sent their 2013 and 2014 winners over fences following their victories. The 2013 victor Vautour is now a strong fancy for the 2016 Gold Cup after his imperious victory in the JLT Novice Chase at the Festival last year.
ANTEPOST FOR 2017
The early ante post markets for the 2016 renewal are lead by last year’s impressive Festival Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer. If David Pipe’s horse can convert his bumper form into hurdle performances he stands a good chance of taking the race. Roger Charlton’s Modus finished second to Moon Racer at the Festival last season and has to be respected if he takes to hurdles too.
However, punters would be wise at this stage not to be too confident that either are guaranteed to sparkle over the obstacles and would be wise to keep their powder dry.
John Ferguson’s Penglai Pavilion has been a very eye-catching recruit to hurdling. Fifth in the 2013 L’Arc de Triomphe, he has shown that at least some of that class has transferred over to hurdles, notching up facile wins at Hexham, Stratford and Cheltenham latest. It is worth noting that a number of Cheltenham Showcase winners have gone on in the past to take the glory in March. Priced at 20/1 and greater with firms, the danger to a bet is that his trainer does not opt for another race at the meeting.
That said he was a very impressive winner at Cheltenham on day one of the Showcase Meeting and made it into a number of discerning punters notebooks.
THREE TO FOLLOW FOR 2017 SUPREME NOVICE HURDLE
Willie Mullins will be poised to make it four wins in a row in the race, and over the coming weeks it will become clearer who his chosen favoured challenger is. The markets and talk of the yard would suggest that the French import Min is the one to watch having been backed in from 50/1 to almost favourite for the race in the last few weeks.
If Min takes to hurdles as expected and becomes Ruby’s chosen ride expect him to start favourite. Hype of this nature surrounding a Mullins horse is not often wrong and should certainly be respected.
In terms of an early ante post prospect amongst the Irish contenders, punters may be sensible to give Dermot Weld’s 2014 Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde a second glance. A winner of the Irish November Handicap, he will be aimed at a hurdles appearance around Christmas before perhaps a tilt at the race. He already has Festival form in the book and could be a live chance come March.
Other potential runners to look out for include the Chepstow winner Altior for Nicky Henderson who could not have won more easily, the useful Maputo who has notched up three hurdle victories already and the good flat performer Thomas Hobson.
That is not to say that another chance might not emerge from the horses in training sales that have taken place this autumn.
Supreme Novices Hurdle Past Winners
Year Winner Jockey Trainer
2015 DOUVAN RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2014 VAUTOUR RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2013 CHAMPAGNE FEVER RUBY WALSH W MULLINS
2012 CINDERS AND ASHES JASON MACGUIRE D McCAIN
2011 AL FEROF RUBY WALSH P NICHOLLS