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2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle tips - Henderson's 14/1 chance still has Claims of Festival success

Claimantakinforgan can bounce back from his Musselburgh disappointment to go close in Tuesday's Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Brian Healy takes a look at some of the potential key performers in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle gets the Cheltenham Festival underway, and the famous Cheltenham Festival Roar will reverberate around Cleeve Hill in just three short weeks as the two mile spectacle kicks off another fantastic four days’ action.

Getting underway at 1.30pm on Tuesday 13 March, a maximum field of 27 runners will face the tapes, and months of anticipation will finally come to fruition. Punters will be hopeful of landing an early blow against the bookies, and Willie Mullins’ Getabird (6/5, Ladbrokes) is already many peoples’ idea of a first day banker.

It is little wonder too, as the Getaway gelding in unbeaten in his two hurdles starts to date, and he created a big impression when trouncing the high-class Mengli Khan by nine lengths in the recent Moscow Flyer Hurdle at Punchestown. Mullins has won three of the last five renewals of the race with the likes of Champagne Fever, Douvan and Vautour, and his latest star looks sure to give a bold sight as he bids to give connections yet another winner in this race.

Unbeaten over hurdles, Getabird represents many peoples' first day banker.

Top Irish jockey Ruby Walsh recently returned to action following a broken leg to ride a winner at Thurles, and the pair will combine on Tuesday where they look sure to go close.

Mullins is likely to be well-represented in the Festival curtain-raiser, and in addition to Getabird, the County Carlow trainer could also send Sharjah (20/1, Coral) and Whisky Sour (66/1, William Hill) into battle in the Cheltenham Festival opener.

Sharjah would be bidding to get back his season back on track, having disappointed last time behind the Ballymore Hurdle-bound Samcro at Leopardstown where he finished seventh. The Doctor Dino gelding had won both hurdles starts at Gowran Park earlier in the season prior to looking set to win the Grade One Future Champions Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Still travelling strongly and having taken the measure of stablemate, Real Steel, the pair fell independently of each other at the final hurdle to gift the win to Whiskey Sour who subseuquently finished ahead of his stablemate when the pair finished behind Samcro at Leopardstown last time.

It might have been a different story in the run over Christmas had Mengli Khan (14/1, William Hill) not run out two from home when still going well; Gordon Elliott's charge had been touted earlier in the season as one of the Irish contingent's big hopes in this race, but he blotted his copybook with that incident, and he failed to land a blow when was soundly beaten off by Getabird when the pair clashed at Punchestown last month in the Moscow Flyer Hurdle. 

On the face of things, Gordon Elliott’s charge has work to do in order to reverse that form; although he may have felt the aftermath of his run-out incident previously at Leopardstown which had come little over two weeks' previously. The Lope De Vega gelding had won three of his five previous hurdles starts prior to that incident, which included an impressive win in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle where he beat Early doors.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him fare better returning from a break, but he could find the Mullins runner too strong again.

Paloma Blue (14/1, William Hill) looks to hold solid claims, and Henry de Bromhead’s charge brings some solid form to the table, including chasing home Fayonagh in last season’s Punchestown Champion Bumper.

The Stowaway gelding has shaped well over timber, finishing third to Next Destination on his debut over hurdles at Naas, and then finding only Spades Are Trumps too strong at Punchestown. He has subsequently won well at Leopardstown, and he travelled well for much of the way when finishing third to Samcro in the Deloitte; but having raced keenly he ultimately proved no match for that potential superstar, and a slow jump at the last sealed his fate although he was already looking held.

Henry de Bromhead could also saddle Minds' Eye (50/1, Padddy Power) who was beaten in handicap company last time at Leopardstown, finishing eleventh behind Off You Go. The Stowaway gelding had made a pleasing hurdles debut when finishing runner-up to Samcro - beaten 15 lengths - prior to winning at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, the latter when beating Darkest Flyer in a handicap.

This is a considerably assignment though as he takes a marked step up in class, and he could struggle. Along with Trainwreck (100/1, Coral), who is also trained by Henry de Bromhead, and Mengli Khanfrom the Gordon Elliott camp he represents Gigginstown House Stud; but the latter named is very much the number one given Jack Kennedy is booked to ride that one. 

It was hard not to have been impressed by the way Kalashnikov (11/2, BetVictor) won the Betfair Hurdle recently, powering clear of a quality field to score by four lengths over Bleu Et Rouge having looked in trouble earlier.

Kalashnikov leapt into the Supreme Novices' Hurdle picture with his impressive Betfair Hurdle win.

Amy Murphy’s Kalanisi gelding was beaten behind Somerville Boy (12/1, Ladbrokes) Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown previously, but the testing conditions at the Esher venue may just have proven too much for him.

The fledgling trainer looks almost certain now to aim her stable star at the first day curtain-raiser; but given the relatively quick turnaround between that Newbury win and pitching up in a hot Grade One, then there is a chance that a Festival appearance may just come too soon. But he has to be respected nonetheless with conditions no issue,  and still open to further improvement he can run a big race.

Somerville Boy meanwhile was bouncing back from a defeat behind Western Ryder (40/1, Ladbrokes) at Cheltenham in December where Tom George’s charge finished almost six lengths behind that rival, having also been beaten behind Slate House the time before in the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.

He was gaining revenge on Western Ryder when winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown - also beating Kalashnikov - and he is another for whom a case can be made, especially if the ground continues to come up soft. Western Ryder meanwhile was disappointing at Sandown, but stepped up in trip for his next outing at Huntingdon, he bounced back with a solid effort to chase home Vinndication in Listed company. The fourth home in that race had finished runner-up previously to First Flow, and his earlier win over Lalor here was a good run.

However, he probably needs to improve to take a hand here, while his jumping remains an issue and he can make the odd mistake; he looked a stayer at Huntingdon, and the Ballymore Hurdle may suit him better than this contest.

Kim Bailey’s First Flow (25/1, Coral) looks a progressive sort, and the Primary gelding is 3-3 over hurdles, including a ten lengths’ defeat of Midnight Shadow at Haydock in January to claim the Grade Two Rossington Main Hurdle.

Despite a last-flight mistake, he was well on top in that contest and he impressed with the way he kept on despite his error to put a wide margin between him and the rest of the field. Further progress would see him firmly in the mix, and he can run a big race having also impressed at Newbury previously with a wide margin success over Dell Oro. He appears well suited to a softer surface, so any drying of the ground could cause come concern; but the forecast for rain will be a welcome one to Kim Bailey and his supporters, and he appeals as the sort who could run well at a big price.

Simply The Betts (33/1, Paddy Power) was runner-up in the Musselburgh race won by Beyond The Clouds, finishing ahead of Claimantakinforgan who was a shade disappointing.

Harry Whittington’s Arcadio gelding is yet to win over hurdles, and he was soundly beaten by If The Cap Fits at Kempton on Boxing Day; he may just struggle to confirm the form with Claimantakinforgan judged on his earlier form behind Lostintranslation.

Nicky Henderson has a cracking record in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with runners from the Seven Barrows yard often in the mix; however Altior’s win in 2016 was only the trainer’s third success, and his first since Flown won the race for Henderson in 1992. 

The Seven Barrows maestro will be hoping he doesn’t have to wait another 24 years for his next win in the race, and it could be worth chancing on a big run by his CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (16/1, Betfred) despite the Great Pretender gelding suffering a surprise reversal at Musselburgh when last seen.

He has already shown good form at this venue, chasing home Fayonagh in the Champion Bumper here last Festival, finishing third, and then running well at Aintree behind Lalor.

Claimantakinforgan can bounce back from his Musselburgh defeat to post a much better run at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Having beaten a very useful sort in Lostintranslation (50/1, Coral) at Newbury, the Henderson runner then beat Dr Des and others - including Slate House (40/1, BetVictor), who had beaten Somerville Boy - when winning the Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot.

He scored readily there, but there is a suspicion that better ground will help the six year old who may have found a combination of the soft ground and the sharp turns at Musselburgh against him. He jumps his hurdles well, and he could be more at home on a more galloping track such as Cheltenham; and likely to be granted a strong pace to aim at, he may well leave that Musselburgh disappointment behind, moreso if the ground doesn't turn particularly testing.

He isn’t one to give up on just yet, but coming into this contest on the back of a defeat isn’t an ideal preparation; nevertheless, he had looked very smart when scoring at Ascot, and still with the potential to do better he can outrun his odds for his yard which has done well in this event in the past if the underfoot conditions don't inconvenience.

Lostintranslation had looked progressive prior to failing to beat a rival home behind First Flow in the mud at Haydock, and better ground would surely aid the chances of Colin Tizzard's charge; however, he might not get his preferred conditions, while on form he would need to step up considerably. Meanwhile, Slate House failed to atone for his Ascot flop behind Claimantakinforgan when finishing a long way behind Santini in fifth when stepped up in trip to contest the Classic Novices' Hurdle at this venue in January.

Another possible runner from the Colin Tizzard camp, he was beaten behind Claimantakinforgan in a point-to-point, and he had no answer to the same rival at the Berkshire venue so he has plenty to do on those pieces of form, and his earlier defeat of Summerville Boy is perhaps form to treat cautiously given low sun turned the race into a bumper contest up the straight. 

Scarlet Dragon (33/1, BetVictor) is a very interesting entry from the Alan King camp, and the Sir Percy gelding is thrust into the lion's den on the back of a promising hurdling debut at Kempton when finishing runner-up behind the smart Global Citizen in the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle.

A smart performer on the flat for Eve Johnson Houghton, finishing runner-up in a Kempton Group Three race on the all-weather, he had wind surgery prior to making his debut the Barbury Castle maestro where he travelled well for a long way despite an early blunder. Although he was no match for the winner, he pulled clear of some useful sorts and there may be more to come from him with that experience under his belt.

This is a hot race to be making just his second start over hurdles, but it could be significant that connections throw the Sir Percy gelding in at the deep-end on the back of that run.


The winner of this race should come from the top ten or so in the current betting, and already Willie Mullins' Getabird has been touted as an early-Festival banker; he may well turn out to be, but at bigger odds and in the hope that the forecast rain stays away, Nicky Henderson's CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN () can go well for the Seven Barrows maestro who has a decent record in this event.

Although he has only won it three times - most recently with Altior - Henderson's runners invariably run well in this contest, and the Seven Barrows trainer is no stranger to making the frame on those occasions he hasn't won the race. The Great Pretender gelding looked a high-class performer when winning the Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot, but blotted his copybook subsequently when surprisingly turned over at Musselburgh last month, finishing third.

Musselburgh's sharp turns possibly didn't suit, while the ground was pretty tacky and holding, and he may well have got bogged down in the conditions. The ground has to be a worry again if the rain does arrive, and heavy ground wouldn't be in his favour; but he has won on soft, as was the case at Ascot, and so long as it doesn't become testing then he ought to handle conditions.

He brings some very solid bumper form to the table, having finished third in the Champion Bumper last term, and a return to this venue could well see him leave his Musselburgh disappointment behind. That run could well turn out to be an aberration, and he is worth another chance to show the sort of ability that saw him run out an easy winner at Ascot previously.


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2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle tips - Henderson's 14/1 chance still has Claims of Festival success

Brian Healy takes a look at some of the potential key performers in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

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