At 1.30 this coming Tuesday there will be a roar that can be heard from the top of Prestbury Park right down into Cheltenham itself. That roar has been famous throughout decades of the festival as the curtains raise on the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. What an opener it will be this coming Tuesday as well. If figures are the same as last year then over 60,000 people will be using their vocal chords to set the fantastic atmosphere alight and set the tone for the remaining four days.
Of course yours truly will be there with a legion of friends, contacts and colleagues in what has to be one of the best weeks of the year. The festival of all festivals and even if you’re not that into your racing it’s a fantastic atmosphere and there are probably as many Guiness fans as there are racing fans.
So for the opener the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, this is a race I’ve got right five years on the bounce now (of course now I’m going to publicly announce my fancy it will lose, such is the law according to sod!) so let’s see if I can make it a 6th success.
Before I get into it the link below is a video I filmed last year of Chamapgne Fever going over the second on the first circuit. You’ll have to excuse the quality as the camera was held with one hand whilst the other nursed a pint of Guiness 😉
So it’s clear I won’t be getting a call from the BBC for camera man duty!
This year looks to be an exciting renewal of this opening race and of notable runners this year we have Vautour for Mullins along with Wicklow Brave, Irving for Nicholls, Josses Hill for Henderson and The Liquidator for Pipe. It’s always a race dominated by the big stables and this year is no different.
One way of making life easier is to look at the trends and see if they can give us a clue. Of the last 10 runners the winner has won at least 50% of its hurdle starts. All 10 have also raced in the last 50 days. 8 of the last 10 winners have won their last race and 7 have previously contested a graded race. Interestingly a favourite has not won it since 2004 and that itself is a clue that we should be looking for value elsewhere.
Irving currently sits at the top of the market and he’s won four from four on his hurdling starts for Nicholls. Most notably taking the Dovecote with ease by 5 lengths when 4/6 favourite. Nick Schofield takes the helm again which is another positive. He looks to be a justified favourite but breathing down his neck is the Mullins trained Vautour.
Vautour for Mullins is the bookies choice from the original 21 entries Mullins had in this race and he was heavily punted ante-post and punters will be happy with those tickets as he cruised to victory in the Deloitte at Leopardstown last month. If Ruby Walsh takes the ride then this combination could be lethal. It wouldn’t surprise me if this went off favourite and it could be a savor bet for me on the day depending on the markets.
There are cases to be made of a few others but for me the 10/1 I’ve got ante-post on Mullins’ Wicklow Brave is one of the best bets to start the festival off for me. He picked up a treble running in bumpers and showed brilliance in a listed race although slightly awkward coming into the last. He beat the favourite Lieutenant Colonel that day and that was off a slow pace. In the likelihood that the Supreme will be run off a much stronger pace I think this will suit and that’s my main selection.
So there you have a free tips if you like for the opener and winnings will cover most of the first two days expenses for me so fingers crossed I can get 6 from 6!
I’ll be giving members of MATR one selection everyday of my most fancied selections to keep everyone in the festive mood and I’m hopeful of a good run of winners that will keep the roar going from start to finish 😉
Back next week with a hangover no doubt and I’ll relive my first two days of racing, Guiness and antics as we’ll be heading into the second half.