In just a few short weeks, the Cheltenham Roar will confirm that the first race of the Festival – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (March 15th) – has finally gotten underway. Our ante-post betting market is already very busy. Which horses are currently dominating it?View Our Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Ante-Post Market Now!
The French 5-year-old has only had one start over hurdles, which came in a Leopardstown maiden that Willie Mullins’ inmate won by 10 lengths. His jumping was far from perfect and he made quite a meal of the final flight, but his raw talent was there for all to see. Afterwards, Mullins gave strong indications that the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was the most-likely target:
“He did it well. He travelled well and jumped well at a good gallop. He was a bit long at the last but it was a maiden hurdle. How much more we learned, I don’t know. The only other horse in the race with form was the Gigginstown horse (Broken Soul) and he’s beaten him. It was a good start.
“He lacks a bit of experience for his next run, but we’ll have to try and give him that at home. It will possibly be in the first race (at Cheltenham) in March. We have plenty of experience into him, and I thought for a horse having his first run he jumped very well except for the last. You would rather have another run or two.
“He’s improving all the time as he gets fitter and stronger. I thought he looked very well today. Broken Soul made sure there was no hiding place for any horse today, and even at that good gallop Ruby looked under pressure to hold him. Once he’s upped in grade they will be going a step faster, and he will be easier ridden at that stage.”.
Nicky Henderson’s 4-year-old gelding was sired by Anabaa Blue and is out of a dam called Ella Parcs. He made a triumphant debut in a strong juvenile hurdles race at Enghien, beating horses such as Poker Play, Franziskus and Le Visiteur.
Owned by JP McManus, he’s only raced once since then and was 8 lengths too good for the highly-rated Mr Blueyes at Kempton in December. After the race, Henderson remained unsure of his next move:
“JP has a stack of juveniles so I can’t be sure where we’ll go. But he’s got a lot to learn and will want a couple more runs ahead of the Triumph. He’s got plenty of speed.”
David Pipe’s 8-year-old won the 2015 Champion Bumper, beating the likes of Bellshill, Yanworth and O O Seven. The Saffron Walden-sired gelding made his debut over hurdles at Perth, coming out on top in an epic duel versus Ballyandy.
He’s raced just one more time, since then, comfortably getting the better of Mirsaale in the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Ballyandy was, once again, among the defeated runners and the form of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse since then suggests that Moon Racer has a genuine chance in the Supreme.
There were internet whispers that led to many believing he was not going to run in the Cheltenham opener, but Pipe was quick to nip them in the bud:
“Social media is a wonderful way of keeping racing enthusiasts connected, but it can sometimes lead to Chinese whispers that are wholly inaccurate.
“Consequently I would like to report that Moon Racer is still very much on course for the Cheltenham Festival. We may get a little run into him somewhere, although at this stage he is likely to go straight to Cheltenham next month. The main objective remains the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.”.
This is rarely a race that gives a great deal of encouragement to long-shot backers, although bets have also been coming in for Defi Du Seuil, Bunk Off Early, Finian’s Oscar and Neon Wolf. Each-way backers have found appeal in Bacardys and Movewiththetimes.
Other Major Cheltenham Races
Such is the status of the Cheltenham Festival, every single race is regarded as being very important. The title of Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Champion is especially coveted though and there are several other races that are of similar importance…
The Champion Hurdle
There isn’t another hurdles race that quite matches the Champion Hurdle. Run over 2m 1f, this elite contest is for 4-year-olds and over. There are 8 jumps in the race, which is the showpiece of the first day’s action.
The Gold Cup
Run over a significantly longer distance, the Gold Cup is a steeplechase and no other National Hunt prize is more coveted. Open to horses aged 5 years and older, it is known as jump racing’s Blue Riband event. There are 22 testing fences over three miles and 2m 4f.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase
This terrific race is, like the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, a G1 encounter. It is run over the short National Hunt distance of just 2m and this is easily the most important race run over the minimum distance, in the calendar year. Horses aged 5 years and older are eligible and they must negotiate 12 fences.
The Arkle Challenge Trophy
The Arkle is run over the same two mile distance as the Queen Mother Champion Chase and 12 fences need to be jumped here, as well. This race is for Novice Chasers. A Novice is a horse which, at the start of the current season, had not won a hurdles race of sufficient grade.
The Triumph Hurdle
Not to be confused with the Champion Hurdle, the Triumph Hurdle is only open to horses that are exactly 4 years old. This is a race for juveniles and there are only 8 hurdles. However this is still a G1 contest, with a purse of one hundred thousand pounds. The distance is 2m 1f.
The RSA Chase
This is a formidable race for both horse and jockey, with 19 fences to negotiate, over a distance of 3m 1f. It’s a race for novice chasers aged 5 years or more. Again, this is a G1 race. It was formerly known as the Broadway Novices Chase.View Our Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Ante-Post Market Now!