2021 Supreme Novice Hurdle Tips – Can Appreciate It Get Ireland Off To A Flyer

Runners fly over the hurlde at last season's Cheltenham Festival

Runners fly over the hurlde at last season’s Cheltenham Festival

2021 Supreme Novice Hurdle Tips

The opening race of the meeting is usually guaranteed to provide an electric start to Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival and Daniel Overall has taken a forensic look at the race in an attempt to get the week off to a flying start for punters.

Supreme Novice Hurdle Overview

The curtain opener for the greatest four days of the National Hunt calendar, this year’s Supreme will have a very different feel. The stands will be empty and perhaps, without the tense atmosphere and the infamous “Cheltenham Roar”, the race won’t be run at a fierce pace as is usually the case. 

Eleven of the last 12 winners had a minimum of four starts over hurdles before lining up at the festival, with Shishkin being the exception when winning last season. While it will still be a tough test for a novice and a strong stayer at the trip will be needed, the calmer tone may well mean that inexperienced horses are not as disadvantaged as they usually would be. 

Another Mullins Favourite

Willie Mullins has trained the SP favourite/joint-favourite of the Supreme in six of the last seven renewals. The one exception was 2019, which he won with Klassical Dream, giving him his sixth win in the race.

With the unfortunate injury to Ferny Hollow, Appreciate It will assume the role of the Closutton trainer’s lead hope. Second to his previously mentioned stablemate in the 2020 Champion Bumper, Appreciate It made an impressive debut over hurdles, beating Master McShee by over two lengths. While that rival was 50/1 on the day, he went on to win his next two starts.

His emphatic win in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle saw him shoot to the top of the market for the Supreme. That performance even surprised Willie Mullins who, like many others, thought that he’d be seen to best effect once stepped up in trip. However, he demonstrated a high cruising speed which was on display again at the Dublin Racing Festival. While he wasn’t as visually impressive in the Chanelle Pharma, he still won nicely and perhaps his performance was lost amongst the plethora of jaw-dropping performances we witness that weekend. 

He does have some trends to defy. With just three starts over hurdles, he would be one of the more inexperienced winners in recent times but, as mentioned earlier, I have a suspicion that this might not be as significant this term.

Furthermore, there has been no seven-year-old winner since Captain Cee Bee in 2008. Since then, 14 of that age have tried; none have won but three have placed. It’s worth noting that only one was sent off at a single-figure price; Dunguib was the 4/5 favourite when finishing third in 2010. Expect this statistic to be mentioned in the build-up but it’s significance may be overstated. 

Other Irish Contenders

Ballyadam (9/1) has finished behind Appreciate It twice this season, although he shaped far better on their most recent clash at Leopardstown; his comprehensive defeat over the festive period can be forgiven considering many of Gordon Elliott’s runners failed to fire at that time. The winner of the Grade 1 Royal Bond earlier in the season, he has plenty of experience over hurdles and a big run can be expected. However, his presence towards the head of the market is more indicative of the strength of Appreciate It and it’s hard to see him reversing the form.

Third behind Ballyadam and Appreciate It in the Chanelle Pharma, Blue Lord (20/1) appeared to appreciate the drop in trip that day, settling much better than he did in the Lawlor’s of Naas. Also 20/1 for the Ballymore, both races remain viable options but he’ll be the stable second string regardless of which race he goes for. 

Dreal Deal’s (20/1) transition from modest maiden to Grade 2 winner has been one of the stories of the season. Well backed to win a maiden hurdle, he racked up a quartet of handicap successes split across both codes before winning the Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle. Still entered in the Ballymore, his trainer did say that he was more likely to go to the Supreme. He will need to improve again to win, but given his meteoric rise through the ranks so far this season, further progress cannot be ruled out.  

Zanahiyr (14/1) and French Aseel (14/1) both warrant a mention but it would be a surprise to see either line up in the festival opener, with the Triumph Hurdle being the obvious target for both.

Betfair Hurdle – Key to the British?

Eight of the last 11 Betfair Hurdle winners were novices. Of those eight, seven tried their hand in the Supreme, recording form figures of: 2520420; a mixed record.

Currently the second favourite for the Supreme, Metier heads the market for the Betfair Hurdle. A good Flat performer for Andrew Slattery, the horse whose name translates to “Job” has taken to his new role well, winning all three starts over hurdles to date for Harry Fry.

An emphatic winner of the Tolworth, the form of that race has been called into question given that ShakemUp’Arry, rated 130 going into the race, finished 2nd. However, Metier was visually very impressive and the way he powered through the line in the manner of a smart horse. The visual impression was backed up by the clock; Metier was 3 seconds quicker than then 128-rated Guard Your Dreams was in the handicap hurdle on the same card, while Metier carried 12lbs more. On that basis, he rates as one of the best British novice hurdlers. 

However, there are concerns. All of his best form has come on deep ground, so it remains to be seen how he will cope with a sounder surface. The Betfair Hurdle may reveal more on that front. He’s also Flat bred, which tends not to be a positive when assessing the Supreme.

Another that looks set to contest the Betfair Hurdle is For Pleasure. A rapidly improving front runner, he won a Supreme Trial in November; a race which Altior won and Summerville Boy finished 2nd in en route to festival glory. He has his quirks but he has plenty of experience and I doubt many will be queuing up to take him on for the lead. In a race that lacks depth, he looks a tad overpriced.

Cadzand also looks set to run in the Betfair Hurdle off 140. Having won two his three starts over hurdles thus far, he’s a smooth traveller who’s going the right way. It remains to be seen if he’s up to Grade 1 standard and considering his trainer’s recent record in the race, the County Hurdle could well be the more likely option for him.

Other British Contenders

Fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper, Third Time Lucki (40/1) looked progressive over hurdles before a disappointing effort in the Scottish Champion Hurdle where a late error ended his chances of winning. Bareback Jack (25/1) made all to win that day, taking his record to three from three over hurdles. A slowly run affair, the latter would be far from certain to run while the former looks to have plenty to find to get competitive here, and maybe connections will consider going down the handicap route instead. 

Dan Skelton also has My Drogo, winner of the Grade 2 Kennel Gate at Ascot. His trainer seems keen to run him again before Cheltenham, with the Sidney Banks being mooted as potential target. With the cancellation of that meeting, it remains to be seen where he’ll next run and connections have mentioned that they might swerve the festival in favour of Aintree. However, if he were to run here, he’d certainly have an each-way chance. 

Dusart had looked a live contender when winning on debut at Newbury, but an unfortunate accident at home means his participation is extremely doubtful. With Flinteur Sacre (50/1) failing to live up to the hype, Nicky Henderson looks unlikely to have a runner in the festival opener

Supreme Novice Hurdle Big-Race Verdict

A race that lacks a great deal of depth, Appreciate It is the clear standout and he looks to have an excellent chance of giving Willie Mullins his seventh win in the race. Ballyadam has something to find with his old rival although he has good place claims while we are yet to see where Dreal Deal’s ceiling is.

My Drogo looks like an exciting long-term prospect but he still has plenty of improvement to find, with Metier looking the best of the British at this stage. For Pleasure’s involvement would add an interesting tactical element to this race but he may well just set the race up perfectly for the strong-staying favourite.