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The Inside Track on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The wait is finally over, the talking can finally – thankfully – stop, as the most eagerly anticipated four days in the racing calendar begin, a start signalled by the famous Cheltenham roar as the tapes go up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the first of 27 races that will see reputations won and lost, champions crowned, and inevitable heartbreak for some. At this time we can remain full of optimism, although if like me your banker bet of the week runs in the curtain-raiser, those feelings may be short-lived.

I won’t be the first person tipping IRVING, nor the last, and for good reason. Four wins since moving to the Ditcheat yard of champion trainer-elect Paul Nicholls means this is not one for fans of the dark-horse variety, but such was the manner of his Grade 2 success at Kempton last time out, the son of Singspiel replaced Vautour at the head of the betting, a position he is unlikely to relinquish, especially given the very public confidence in him by those closest to him.

What of Vautour? Like so many leading contenders this week, he represents the Closutton academy of Irish champion Willie Mullins, but like so many – in my opinion at least – he faces a step up from beating small fields on home soil, although in fairness a three-length defeat of The Tullow Tank last month reads well enough. Mullins could also be represented by Wicklow Brave, the same comments apply to him as to his stablemate, I just don’t know how good he is, not good enough to prevent Irving winning is my hope.

The market leaders should be hard to beat, but if there is one with place claims at a bigger price it could be The Liquidator. Put a line through his Tolworth Hurdle disappointment as he wasn’t right that day, instead focus on his Punchestown Champion Bumper win and his Cheltenham success in November, and on that form, double-figure odds could have some reward.

Selection: Irving

Alternative: The Liquidator