Irish to dominate again according to Supreme Novices’ trends
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the first race of the Cheltenham Festival and, given the influx of Irish horseracing fans over the course of the week, the traditional roar that greets the starter has developed more than one meaning.
Whilst locals celebrate the start of the racing, the Irish punters are anticipating collecting winnings, as nine of the last 15 renewals of this race have been won by horses trained across the Irish Sea.
Willie Mullins, seven-time Champion Trainer in Ireland, won the race last season with Champagne Fever.
However the six-year-old is the first horse to do the Champion Bumper/Supreme Novices’ double since Montelado in 1992, so his 2013 Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill is up against a strong statistic.
The young ones
Given that the race is for inexperienced horses who have only recently embarked on a hurdling career, it’s no surprise that the age-range of winners is fairly narrow.
Four of the last nine winners were aged five, whilst there have only been four winners older than seven since 1971.
Interestingly, two of those were owned by the prolific JP McManus (Like-a-Butterfly in 2002 and Captain Cee Bee in 2008) so punters need to bear that in mind when drawing up their shortlists for March.
Neither of those winners were ridden by Ruby Walsh, but, like a lot of the Cheltenham Festival races, the jockey has enjoyed plenty of success.
Walsh has won the two mile feature on three occasions and is the only jockey to have won the race thrice since Tommy Burns and trainer Vincent O’Brien dominated the race in the 1950s.
Paul Carberry is the only other jockey still riding who has won the race more than once, although AP McCoy must rue the decision to ride runner-up Binocular when Captain Cee Bee, who he could have ridden, won under Robert Thornton.
Captain Cee Bee was a winner on his final start prior to Cheltenham, and that is a feature of 15 of the last 17 winners.
The big fields and plenty of hustle and bustle between relatively inexperienced horses means that you need a horse full of confidence in order to win.
However experience isn’t always essential, as eight of the last 22 winners had less than three runs over hurdles under their belts before being winning at the Festival.
The best trials for the race have been the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle and the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle, held at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse respectively.
Like-a-Butterfly, Brave Inca and Champagne Fever all won the Deloitte on their way to Cheltenham glory, whilst Like-a-Butterfly also won the Royal Bond.