Skip to main content

Supreme Novices' Hurdle preview

The traditional Festival opener, the race the bookies are falling over themselves trying to give the best customer offer to hook you in for the entire week. So it's not just about finding the winner, it's about finding the best offer - provided you are in the UK or Ireland where you can take advantage of them - bit harder from Australia.

As part of the excitement of arriving early at Cheltenham, it's my turn to preview the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Tune in at 1330GMT to listen to the roar as the tapes go up on the first race.


Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Grade 1 Hurdle, 2m 1/2 f
1330 GMT

For weeks this race has all been about the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Douvan. Does he provide the bulletproof start to the Festival for punters, or are there chinks in his armour? This is a race for young, rising hurdlers, so the form isn't completely exposed. Form versus potential, the eternal punters' conundrum...

In saddlecloth order:

Alvisio Ville
Probably the fourth pick from the Mullins stable, and second pick of the McManus-owned runners, based on jockey bookings. Two starts in Ireland since being purchased from France, winning a Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown followed by a third in the Deloittes (G1 Nov) a month ago, beaten by two horses not deemed fast enough to run in the Supreme, when 11/10 fav. Unlikely to be any undisclosed excuses for that after a relentless month of Cheltenham previews. Jockey here for just the one ride today and hasn't ridden a winner at Cheltenham. Today's not the day - not good enough.

Different formlines, coming through handicap and Listed hurdles in Ireland rather than the Graded races. Doesn't mind the firmer tracks (winter form often on very soft tracks, Festival races can be the first time a horse has seen better footing all season), but think his best option might be sneaking into placepot contention.

Purchased from France after two runs and has comfortably beaten small fields in his two Irish starts, the latter being the Moscow Flyer Grade 2 at Punchestown. No holes to pick in those runs beyond the lack of decent rivals - just how good is he? With the stable having won this race two years in a row, they know how his form lines up and are pretty confident. But is his price any value? This race has been a graveyard for favourites over the last decade, but Vautour reversed the trend last year. Not run on better than soft going and this is a small field...

If it wasn't the Irish going wild for a Mullins/Walsh favourite winning the first, it'd be everyone else cheering for Tony McCoy opening his final Festival with a winner. Is three from three on good-to-soft going where the Festival will start, and his official rating is up there with the market favourites. Beaten last time in a small field at Sandown, where his jumping again wasn't perfect and that sapped his stamina on the uphill finish. Won't have the luxury of doing that here either, the hill is unforgiving. Still a bit green, hard to be confident under this pressure when his jumping has flaws. Expect him to be right in the race at some stage but crashing through a hurdle or two to disrupt his momentum.

L'Ami Serge
The main danger to the favourite and Britain's best hope of opening with a winner. Henderson and Geraghty is a very safe combination at Festival time, and this 5yo gelding is unbeaten since crossing the channel. The ratings men will tell you those wins all stack up well against Douvan, but again they are in small fields and none of those rivals line up here. Listed, Grade 2, Grade 1 is a nice progression to the Festival, winning by six, seven and 14 lengths respectively. Right in this, the bookies will be cheering him louder than most, they need one of the Mullins quartet to sink all the accas early.

Flat-bred (by Street Cry) with only two runs over hurdles so likely to be lacking a bit of experience. Won a Gr3 Novice Hurdle at Newbury last time, drier surface won't be a hindrance, needs a big step up to be in this but not completely out of it.

Three from three for trainer Warren Greatrex, a trainer who has excelled this season particularly in lower grades. He's the only horse in the field with a victory over the course and distance which must count for something. Relishes firmer ground, has conceded weight to rivals in his latest wins, best chance of a surprise result.

Star bumper horse from last season with two runs over hurdles, winning a big field maiden at Fairyhouse and then beaten at 4/9 in a G2 at Navan. Has made a couple of mistakes in those runs and has a few pounds to improve on the ratings. Second pick for Mullins, plenty of potential left in him.

Sizing John
Beaten a long way behind Douvan at Gowran Park in November then won a weak G1 at Leopardstown during the Christmas Festival when outsider of the field and the odds-on pop fell. Long way short of what's needed here.

Some Plan
Beaten by Seedling in December, just making up the numbers here.

Tell Us More
Interesting runner from the Mullins camp, drops back from 2m4f when narrowly beaten by McKinley (33/1) in a G1, conceding the winner 3lb. Paul Mullins commented in one of the many podcasts I've listened to that this horse could easily surprise the stable - drop in trip likely to suit, firmer ground... Bryan Cooper rides this Gigginstown Stud-owned runner, loses nothing there. Don't rule him out.

Velvet Maker
Took four races to win his maiden, that doesn't merit consideration in a Grade 1. Can't blame the owners for entering him, who doesn't want to have a runner at the Festival? Absolutely no hope.

On price alone, I have to be against the favourite. All the numbers say it's flip-a-coin against L'Ami Serge but the betting says 2/1 vs 7/2. If the prices were reversed, I'd be on the Irish horse but today it's all about the hype. Seedling and Tell Us More definitely provide value and will go into my Placepots.

1. L'Ami Serge
2. Seedling
3. Tell Us More
4. Douvan

but remember to keep your eye out for the best available offers!


Popular posts from this blog

It's all gone Pete Tong at Betfair!

The Christmas Hurdle from Leopardstown, a good Grade 2 race during the holiday period. But now it will go into history as the race which brought Betfair down. Over £21m at odds of 29 available on Voler La Vedette in-running - that's a potential liability of over £500m. You might think that's a bit suspicious, something's fishy, especially with the horse starting at a Betfair SP of 2.96. Well, this wasn't a horse being stopped by a jockey either - the bloody horse won! Look at what was matched at 29. Split that in half and multiply by 28 for the actual liability for the layer(s). (Matched amounts always shown as double the backers' stake, never counts the layers' risk). There's no way a Betfair client would have £600m+ in their account. Maybe £20 or even £50m from the massive syndicates who regard(ed) Betfair as safer than any bank, but not £600m. So the error has to be something technical. However, rumour has it, a helpdesk reply (not gospel, natur

What shits me about match-fixing 'journalism'.

The anti-wagering media bandwagon has dozens of new members this week, all weighing in an industry they have absolutely no idea about. I'm all for getting the betting industry into the mainstream but it shits me no end when they roll out reports and celebrities who simply don't have a clue what they are talking about and don't bother to check basic facts which key arguments in their story. If this was the financial industry, making errors like this would have them in all sorts of trouble, but the same level of regulation doesn't apply because finance stock markets are supposedly all legitimate and serious, whereas sports betting is just a bit of fun for people who can never win in the long-term... according to the media. This week we have seen the sting by the Telegraph which, on the face of it, looks to be a tremendous piece of investigative work into fixing in English football. But the headlines around it are over-sensationalised yet again. Delroy Facey, a former pla

Racing has a Ponzi scheme - and the fallout will be enormous

When the term ' Ponzi scheme ' is mentioned these days, the names Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford instantly spring to mind. The pair of them ran multi-billion dollar frauds (US$60bn and $8bn respectively) that destroyed the lives of thousands of investors who had put their life savings into a 'wonderful' investment strategy. How so many people were sucked into the scheme is baffling to those on the outside. The lifestyle, the sales pitch, the success stories of the early investors - I suppose it all adds up. So where does this link to racing you ask? A prominent Australian 'racing identity' this week has been reported to have lost access to a bank account with punters' club funds of $194m in it. Firstly - is there a worse term for anyone to be labelled with that 'racing identity'? It ALWAYS ends up meaning shonky crook! Secondly - who the hell has a punters' club with an active bankroll in the tens of millions? It simply can't be done. T