Supreme Novice Hurdle Preview 2020
The race which always starts the Cheltenham Festival with a huge roar and is normally full of stars for the future.
Douvan, Vautour, Altior are just some of the horses who have won this in the past and look what each of them have gone on to achieve.
Do we have a superstar lining up this year?
You would like to think so as this race looks potentially a better race than last year. Last year the race was won by Klassical Dream who has failed to deliver this season and with Thomas Darby (2nd) who has only won one race this season, it is only Itchy Feet who has seemed to improve this season, even so I can’t have him down as a superstar. A few horses from last year have done well this season over fences, like Fakir D’Oudairies, Angels Breath and Mister Fisher, but again I would not have them down as superstars.
2014 it was Vautour who won this race and he went on to win the JLT Novice Chase and the Ryanair Chase. He was an absolute superstar who we didn’t see the best of, as he suffered a freak accident and had to put down. The world was still at his feet and I am sure he had the potential to go on and be one of the all time greats. RIP Vautour.
2015 it was Douvan who won this race and he went on to win the Arkle Chase, although he is still in training, many injuries have stopped him reaching his full potential.
2016 it was Altior who won this race and he has gone on to win the Arkle Chase and two Queen Mother Chases. He went 19 starts unbeaten over hurdles and fences and is going for the hat trick this season in the Queen Mother Chase. Let’s not forget than Buveur D’Air was 3rd in the Supreme that year and he went on to win two Champion Hurdles.
It is too early to say if we have a horse of any of the above’s potential but I do think it could be on the cards with the likes of Shishkin, Abracabras, Asterion Forlonge, Fiddlerontheroof and Chantry House. All look to have massive amounts of potential.
What type of horse does it take to win the Supreme Novice Hurdle?
Looking through the past winners you probably want a horse who stays that bit further than 2 miles. The reason I think it seems to go that way is:
They are all novices and with normally 16+ runners, you always have a horse who takes it to them from the front. Ruby Walsh was a master at this and has done it many times with the likes of Champagne Fever, Vautour, and last year on Klassical Dream.
Even if you don’t have a jockey who tries to control the race from the front, given some of these are immature horses and novices, you will always find a horse who is keen and will pull himself to the front.
It is also the first race of the festival and jockeys are keen to try and get a win on the board. In my opinion and only natural human nature, they get a bit excited and go a tad quicker than they normally should.
All of the above points to a horse who needs to stay that bit further.
We named five horses earlier in the post in Shishkin, Abracabras, Asterion Forlonge, Fiddlerontheroof and Chantry House. All of the above are horses who will stay that bit further. Unless Envoi Allen runs in this race which is very unlikely, I believe the winner comes from one of the named 5 horses. Let’s go through the five horses starting with the favourite:
Prices are correct at the time of writing, 9pm 1st March
SHISHKIN – 5/2 generally
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Form – 3/11-F11
SHISHKIN is a horse who was purchased from the point to point field, for £170k at the Cheltenham Festival Sales, in December 2018. This was following an 8 length win at Lingstown in November 2018. He made his debut for Nicky Henderson under rules, in a bumper at Kempton, in March last year. He won by an easy 8 lengths and looked a very smart horse. Henderson has never hidden the fact that he thinks this horse is special and he made his debut over hurdles at Newbury in December. Unfortunately he was a faller at only the 2nd hurdle. He had a month off following his fall but returned back at Newbury in January to win by 11 lengths. He quickened up smartly that day but if he was going to go on to the Supreme Novice Hurdle, he was entitled to win as he did. He went up in class and up in trip, on his next start, at Huntingdon and won by 11 lengths. He beat some decent horses in Shan Blue and Hang In There (late faller) by 11 lengths. Visually he was impressive but it was over a trip further of 2m 3f. Obviously as already mentioned this should be to his advantage as you need a horse stays a bit further. The one thing I would say is that although he was impressive, he did hit a tiny flat spot coming around the bend on his last start. I say tiny as it was only for a few strides, but it was something I picked up on. He got away with it in a small field but over a shorter trip, if he hits that same flat spot against much better horses, will he get away with it here? To me it was the sign of a horse who wants further and although he has looked to be quick at the end of his races, He has done it against horses who would not have any chance in this race. He is also very short in the market.
ABRACADABRAS 6/1 with William Hill and Coral
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Form – 1O4-21121
I am surprised ABRACADBRAS is as big as 6/1 as for me he has done nothing wrong all season. He is quite experienced with 4 runs over hurdles and this season his form reads 1121. He was an easy winner at Gowran Park at the start of October before going to Navan for a Grade 3, beating a talented horse in Latest Exhibition, who has since gone on to win a Grade 2 and Grade 1, albeit over a further distance, but is now fighting for favouritism in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle. Obviously beating a horse of that calibre and what he has done since, gives his form a massive boost. He then went to Fairyhouse for the Grade 1, Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, coming home 2nd to Envoi Allen, who is now as short as evens for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Again that form looks rock solid and it is worth pointing out that ABRACADABRAS was travelling better than Envoi Allen only for the winner to keep finding more going to the line. Even so he was only 1 1/2 lengths behind Envoi Allen. His final start came on the 27th December at Leopardstown when winning the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle. He has not been seen since with Gordon Elliott saying he did not want to take the edge off him with one more run and was happy coming into the festival with a fresh horse. He was a runner in the Champion Bumper last year when again came there on the bridle but ended up coming home 4th. I think he handled the course fine that day but was a bit immature and he is a much stronger horse this season. The ground may be a little bit of a concern as he would prefer it a bit quicker. Even so he has won two races this season, on soft/heavy and soft ground.
ASTORIAN FORLONGE 4/1 generally
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Form – 1/111
A horse who remains unbeaten in 3 starts this season. He was purchased for £290k at the Cheltenham Sales back in February 2018. He had his first start for Willie Mullins at Thurles in a bumper which he made hard work of at the end of November. He then made his debut over hurdles at the start of January winning by 10 lengths. He did jump out to the right that day which if he does the same at Cheltenham, it would be against him. Nevertheless he won it easily enough but the race was quite weak. He then stepped up to Grade 1 company at the Leopardstown Dublin Festival and won by 9 lengths. He again jumped slightly out to the right and although he was quite impressive, especially what he found off the bridle, it is a bit of a concern around Cheltenham. He also strikes me as a horse who stays and wants a bit further, which is ideal in this race, I am just unsure if he has a turn of speed if needed at the right time. He can obviously gallop for a long way, which ultimately won him the Grade 1 last time out, but will the others have a better kick? Willie Mullins also made reference to him being a stayer at the start of the season. I think the horse has lots ability but with only two starts under his belt, he could lack the experience.
CHANTRY HOUSE 9/1 with William Hill and Ladbrokes
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Form – U11-11
Another expensive purchase at £295k at the Cheltenham December Sales in 2018. This was following a win at Tatterstalls Farm a few weeks previously. He made his debut for Nicky Henderson in a decent bumper at Warwick last March and won by 4 lengths. I say it was a decent bumper as back in 2nd was Edwarstone, who has won two races this season and back in 3rd was Shan Blue, who is a decent horse who finished behind Shishkin last time out. CHANTRY HOUSE made his debut over hurdles at Cheltenham back in December and beat Stolen Silver by 2 lengths. That horse went on to win a Grade 2, so gave the form a boost. I was quite impressed as it was a competitive race to make his debut over hurdles and he won it very well. He also gained valuable Cheltenham experience that day, something which will stand him in good stead for this race. On his next start he went to Newbury and won with ease by 4 lengths. I loved the way he went about his racing that day and had clearly learned a lot from Cheltenham. He looked an easy ride for Barry Gerraghty and did not pull in the slightest. He looked like the type of horse who you could do lots of things with and he will just answer. He jumped very quickly that day and was really slick over his hurdles. He lacks experience and has not run above a class 3, but to me he looked an easier ride than both Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge, both of whom have also had 2 starts. Where he lacks in experience, he has had course experience at Cheltenham, which is something I take a lot a notice of. He is still improving and you would have to think his jumping will be even more slicker this time around. He finds very well off the bridle and most importantly has already been up that Cheltenham hill. Whether this will be a race too soon we will have to find out but at the current price of 9/1, he is of big interest.
FIDDLERONTHEROOF 8/1 generally
Trainer – Colin Tizzard
Form – 4/5321-2211
FIDDLERONTHEROOF switched to Colin Tizzard after winning a bumper at Navan last March. He was purchased for £200k at the Goffs Aintree Sales following the win. He made his debut for Colin Tizzard at Chepstow back in October and came home a good 2nd to Thyme Hill in the Grade 2 Persian War Novice Hurdle. They clearly thought something of the horse to put him straight in that race, first time up. He then went to Wincanton and was again 2nd to Edwardstone, where connections would have been disappointed. He made amends at Sandown winning by a very easy 7 lengths before stepping up to Grade 1 company at Sandown, for the Tolworth Hurdle at the start of January. I thought he was very impressive and quickened up nicely in between the 2nd last and last hurdle. He is also a very good jumper and has experience on his side with four runs over hurdles. He has improved with every start and is a horse who will stay that bit further. The ground will be no problem and if anything will be in his favour as his last 3 runs on soft or heavy ground, have been wins. I think he is a very smart horse and has not been given the credit he deserves for winning the Tolworth as he did.
It is a cracking race that we have in store. The five horses mentioned all have the potential to be special, which was something I didn’t get the feeling of in last year’s race.
It is the very first race of the festival and although I respect Shishkin, he is not for me at the current prices. In what he has achieved so far, I think the price is too short. With 27 races left after this race, I am more than happy to take him on and look for bigger prices. We have seen many times over the years with the likes of Dunguib, Cue Card and Min, just to name a few, they don’t have a great record.
I am also happy to take on Asterion Forlonge as for me, jumping out to the right has to be a big concern. I have not seen many people pick up on this within the industry, which is quite surprising given these days the industry is full of, what I call shrewdies. He also only started his career over hurdles in January and although he won a Grade 1 at the Leopardstown Dublin Festival, I was not as taken as others and can see chinks in his armour.
What I do have at this stage, with one week to go until the festival, is the dilemma of who I side with between ABRACADABRAS, CHANTRY HOUSE and FIDDLERONTHEROOF.
I have made a decision that I will be taking on the front two in the market with two horses but which ones are not yet final. A lot to think about over the next week but here are my thoughts on those three horses.
I think ABRACADABRAS is a very good horse but I am not sure the soft ground which looks inevitable at this stage, will play to his advantage. He is a speedy horse who probably wants good to soft to be seen at his best. He was also beaten here last season, although I don’t think it was anything to do with the course, more so that the bumper was a very hot race. He has strengthened up this season and has looked a very classy horse. You could argue with what he finds off the bridle as he was travelling better than Envoi Allen but got outbattled. Envoi Allen looks an absolute superstar so it is hard what to make of what he finds off the bridle and maybe I am trying to find holes which are not there as he outbattled a stayer in Latest Exhibition.
CHANTRY HOUSE is a horse who I think could be very special but is this a season too early? He ticks a massive box for me and that is, he has winning form at Cheltenham and not only winning form, but winning form on his debut over hurdles, at Cheltenham. He then went to Newbury and I was even more impressed by his jumping and how easy a ride he looked. He accelerated away from them after the last hurdle and looked a horse of serious quality.
FIDDLERONTHEROOF has done nothing but progress this season and comes into this race having his 5th run of the season. I think he still has a bit more improvement to come but even if the same horse from the Tolworth Hurdle turned up, he has to have a huge chance. He went through that race in 2nd gear and when asked to quicken, he done it in a matter of strides. His jumping is also a very big asset as he is very fast and economical. He has also won his last 3 races on soft or heavy ground which looks very likely at this stage. He is a horse who wants a bit further which is what you are going to need in this race. I think he is very much overlooked and at this stage looks overpriced.
My final decision will be made when the ground is confirmed. Although soft ground looks highly likely, if the rain misses Cheltenham on a couple of days that it is forecast, it could dry out too good to soft. We do have four sunny days forecast over the next week which could turn out to be six if it misses Cheltenham. Not an awful lot of rain is forecast really and Cheltenham does dry out very quickly so we shall see.
I hope you enjoyed the read and this is exactly how i tackle each race of the festival. It is the reason why we have made profit in last 11 festivals and are looking to make it 12 from 12. Make sure you don’t miss out and get yourself signed up.
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