2016 Cheltenham Festival: Entries revealed for four Grade 1 novice hurdles
David Metcalf | February 4, 2016
With just under six weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival gets underway, entries were unveiled today for the four Grade 1 championship novices’ hurdles at the four-day spectacular.
Min among 64 Supreme entries
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the traditional curtain-raiser to the meeting on Tuesday, March 15th, and the triumvirate of owner Rich Ricci, trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh have taken the last three runnings of the extended 2m contest with Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).
They are responsible for this year’s hot favourite Min (5/4 with Coral), who is unbeaten in two starts since joining Mullins.
French-bred five-year-old Min was last seen out when sauntering to a facile nine and a half-length success in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Yorkhill among Mullins battalion
Mullins accounts for no less than 18 of the 64 entries, with his other possibles including Yorkhill (6/1), successful in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown when last seen in action.
Almost half of the entries are trained in Ireland – 31 in total. In addition to Mullins’ battalion, other leading hopes include the Gordon Elliott trained Tombstone (10/1), runner-up to the Mullins-trained Long Dog (33/1) in a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Supasundae (20/1), who got the better of 2014 Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde (25/1) at the same meeting, is also entered.
The British challenge for the Supreme is led by Lamourn trainer Nicky Henderson, who has made five entries, including Altior (6/1 joint second-favourite with Coral) – a course winner at The Open meeting in November – and Buveur D’Air (8/1) – an impressive scorer on both his starts over hurdles.
King hoping Yanworth can reign in Neptune
There are 78 entries for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday, March 16th, with over half (41) trained in Ireland.
The Alan King trained Yanworth tops Coral’s ante-post list at 7/4 for the 2m 5f contest following a flawless campaign that has yielded four victories, two of which have come at Grade 2 level.
Owned by JP McManus, the six-year-old’s most recent success came on Festival Trials Day where he sauntered to a facile success over the highly-regarded Shantou Village.
Willie Mullins is again very well represented with 22 entries. Bellshill (3/1 second-favourite), appears to be the main hope for Ireland’s champion jump trainer following three wins from three starts over hurdles, the latest of which was in a Grade 1 event over 2m 4f at Naas.
Greatrex has high hope for Ma Du Fou
Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex broke his duck at The Festival last year with Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. He appears to have another smart performer on his hands with Ma Du Fou.
Ma Du Fou started his career when easily winning a bumper at Wetherby in April 2014. He debuted over hurdles last season but failed to win in two attempts. However, he has left that form well behind this year with facile successes at Ffos Las in November and Bangor the following month.
Greatrex said: “I’ve always thought a lot of Ma Du Fou and he’s won his two races nicely this year. A lot will depend on his next run.
“He could go for the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon (February 11) and there is also a Listed novices’ hurdle at Exeter (February 14) to consider.
“Hopefully, he can make one of them and if he runs well then he’s still in the reckoning for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. He’s always one I’ve liked but mentally wasn’t right last year and he has just taken a bit of time to come to himself.
“Last year he wasn’t right, just health-wise he wasn’t there. He ran OK twice but I thought he was far better than that and this season he’s won two fairly easy races very easily. Though a lot will depend on what he does next, he is a nice horse.”
Ivanovich Gorbatov has Triumph in his sights
Aidan O’Brien, best known at The Festival for his handling of three-time Champion Hurdle victor Istabraq, has the warm favourite for the Triumph Hurdle with Ivanovich Gorbatov at 5/2.
Owned like Istabraq by JP McManus, the son of Montjeu won twice on the Flat before making an eye-catching hurdling debut at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting under the supervision Joseph O’Brien.
There are 54 entries for the 2m contest on Friday, March 18th, including 11 from Ireland, 12 from Ditcheat handler Paul Nicholls and five from race’s most successful trainer, Nicky Henderson, who had the first three last year from three runners.
Fixe Le Kap looks the pick of Henderson’s quintet, and is currently 12/1 second-favourite.
Barters Hill headlines 73 in Albert Bartlett
Barters Hill, trained by Ben Pauling, is undefeated in all seven career starts and headlines 73 entries for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, on Friday, March 18th.
Six-year-old Barters Hill, 5/2 favourite for the Albert Bartlett, was a Grade 2 winner at Aintree last season and has stepped up this campaign with his three victories over hurdles headlined by the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
There are 32 Irish entries, with Up For Review the shortest in the ante post betting at 12/1.