Last week I mentioned that I would be beginning a series examining the state of the ante-post market for the main non-handicap races at the Cheltenham Festival. Well, today I will be taking a look at the Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle which gets the meeting underway on Tuesday.
But first, let’s start by looking back at last week horse racing and those horses you should be adding to your trackers. There are three this week and I will be adding another three exclusively for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Sunday January 1st
Here’s Herbie – Sue Gardner – The 9-year-old showed the benefit of his seasonal reappearance run at Hereford with a good 2nd behind an improving horse in Space Oddity here. This run should have put him spot on fitness wise. Worth mentioning all his four career wins have come in March/April. He usually takes a race or two to come to hand and is and is 4 wins from 17 runs 9 places when racing 8 to 30 days since his last start. Although he has won on heavy he is a much better horse when good is in the going description. He also seems at his nest going right handed 4 wins from 15 runs 8 places. A right-handed track, on good or good to soft ground and racing over 2m4f+ look his optimum conditions. Only 1lb higher than for his last win back in April I think his trainer can place him to win again this season when gets his conditions.
Saturday January 7th
Mercian Prince – Amy Murphy – The six-year-old now has form figures of 211 since his move over from France in the autumn. A good winner of a Class 4 handicap chase at Southwell on his previous start, he stepped up in class today take this Class 3 contest. A solid jumper he was up 11lb for the Southwell win but he stayed on better than the eventual 2nd & 3rd on the run in. There was a lot like about his attitude after the last to get up in the shadow of the post. Hopefully, the handicapper won’t be too harsh on the horse, who could well stay a bit further than 2m 4f on the evidence of this run. Given it was stamina that won him the day here. Given he has only had six starts over fences, winning three; there hopefully be more to come from the gelding.
Sumos Novios – Liam Burke – I really like this horse who I think can win again when he gets soft to heavy ground and a longer distance. Sadly the nine-year-old isn’t the easiest to keep sound. This was only his 5th run in the past two years and only his 7th start over fences. He has legs as fine cut glass so it’s not certain when we will see him again So far all his career wins have come when racing 60 days or more since his last start 3 wins from 5 runs 4 places shows he benefits from a break between his races and as his trainer has stressed he can only race on deep ground. Hopefully, the handicapper won’t be too harsh on the gelding who will probably go up around 10lb for this win. He is very much an unexposed horse over 3m+ and if he gets his ground a mark in the low 140s could still be viable.
Cheltenham Ante Post Briefing
Supreme Novices Hurdle
I am not sure we have a vintage crop of novice’s hurdlers this season and it looks like the juveniles could turn out to be better than the older age groups. Which probably means we will see more 4-year old’s going for the Supreme than normally do. The last juvenile to win the race was in 1999 but only been 18 juveniles have run in the race since 1997.
The ante-post favourite with most firms is Moon Racer, at a best priced 6/1, trained by David Pipe. He goes well at Cheltenham being 3 wins from 3 runs at the course and he won the Champion Bumper at the 2015 Festival. He clearly isn’t the easiest to keep sound as he hasn’t raced since the beginning of November and his Official Rating of 141 isn’t that great and lends credence to my theory that this year’s winner will be more a Cinders and Ashes than an Altior or a Douvan. Moon Racer will also be 8 when coming to the race which is an age group that have only one the race once since 1997. Probably deserves to be at the head of the market but not for me.
Finian’s Oscar came right into the Supreme picture with a good win in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. Visually impressive when winning at Hereford over 2m 5f on his first start for Colin Tizzard he has progressed further and has to be taken seriously as a player in the race although he could well head for the Neptune over further especially if the ground was good.
Jenkins was also impressive when winning on his hurdling debut at Newbury but he was well beaten at Kempton at Christmas and the bookies pushed him out to as big as 25/1 for the Festival on the back of this run.He is surely better than that but his jumping at Kempton wasn’t of the standard of a future winner of the Supreme. The 5-year-old has clearly got an engine but trainer Nicky Henderson has only 9 weeks to sort out the horses jumping!
Onto the Irish Contenders. Willie Mullins has tended to dominate the race in recent years but I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t a superstar novice hurdler in his yard this year. Blow By Blow was expected to be the stables best hope for novice success this year before his move to the Gordon Elliott stable but this top class bumper performer has yet to jump a hurdle in public and even the trainer has said that the horse has been slow to come to hand and has been held up in his work and there must be a real doubt that we will even see the horse at Cheltenham this year.
Of the present inmates of the Mullins yard, I was taken with the performance of Crack Mome, who travelled and jumped well when an easy winner on stable debut at Clonmel at the beginning of December and there should be a lot more to come from him. He looks the sort for the Supreme as his trainer felt after his win that 2m 1f was as far as he wanted to go. The going was very testing and so it was when he won in France in the spring but the trainer has indicated that the horse will be better on decent ground. Cilaos Emery, an impressive winner at Navan on his hurdling debut has been the ante post market springier of recent days. Priced up at 25/1 by some firm after his win he is now as low as 7/1 with some firms for the Festival. Another Mullins contender has to be Bunk off Early who was brought out of the Andy Oliver yard for 44,000gns in the autumn of 2015. The five year old had raced 8 times on the flat for his former trainer winning once over an extended mile at Cork in October 2015. That had been his last run in public and he returned from a 14 month lay off with a comprehensive 5 length win over a useful sort from the Joseph O’Brien yard at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. A nice introduction to hurdling for the horse that jumped neatly most of the way and although he was fairly keen in the early stages of the race, not surprising given his absence, he must have a decent engine to overcome that negative An RPR of 137 looks decent and if he can settle better next time he should rate much higher than that initial hurdling RPR. He already has the potential to be a Supreme horse.
Looking at the juveniles. Owner JP McManus like to have a runner or two in the race and he could well be represented by one or more four-year-olds. Joseph O’Brien has a few from the Coolmore ranks including the likes of Sword Fighter, Landofhopeandglory and House of Parliament who could be players for JP. Of even more interest to the owner, could be Charli Parcs who won in eyecatching style at Kempton over Christmas for Nicky Henderson, an RPR of 139 for that win is of the right standard. He would be an interesting runner in Supreme but trainer sees the horse has an ideal sort for the Triumph Hurdle and that looks the race he will go to at Cheltenham.
Verdict: At the moment it won’t take a superstar novice to win this year’s Supreme Novice hurdle and for Willie Mullins backer that’s good news as he doesn’t have one in his yard this season. At the prices, I have had a nibble on two of his horses Crack Mome 16/1 with Paddy Power and Bunk Off Early 25/1 with the same firm. The former is available with the sponsors at 12/1 NRNB and the latter is 20/1 again NRNB which has also tempted me. Mullins could well have seven contenders for the Supreme but we should have a clearer idea of who is number one contender will be after the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, later in the month, a race which was won by both Vautour and Douvan before they went on to land the Supreme.
Next week’s Cheltenham Briefing will look at the Neptune Novices Hurdle.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting and I hope you enjoyed my look at the Supreme Novice Hurdle