And they’re off! There’s no mistaking the moment the Cheltenham Festival gets underway as the famed Cheltenham roar greets the start of this race. But who will be cheering loudest at the end of this full throttle hurdle contest?
Next Race: Tuesday, 16th March 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 16th March 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 10th March 2020
- Winner: Shishkin
- SP: 6/1
- Trainer: Nicky Henderson
- Jockey: Nico de Boinville
The Cheltenham Festival’s opening race has a trip of 2m½f and this Grade 1 Hurdle offers £125,000 in guaranteed prize money. The ground at the track is currently described as soft with more rain forecast in the lead-up to the race.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||2m½f||Grade 1||£125,000||16 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Unsurprisingly, considering this is a race for the novice hurdlers, it has been the younger performers who have held sway in this event, with each of the past 11 renewals having been landed by a runner aged either five or six years of age.
With six wins in total, including four in the space of the past seven years, it is the multiple Irish champion Willie Mullins who has proven to be the dominant force amongst the trainers. Mullins sends three into battle this time around in the shape of Elixir D’ainay, Berkshire Royal, and one of the current market leaders, Asterion Forlonge.
Mullins has been the man responsible for the two winning favourites or joint favourites in the past decade, in the shape of the supremely talented duo of Vautour and Douvan. Overall, backers of the market leader would have registered a level stakes loss of 5.5 units over this period.
|Shishkin||11/4||153||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|Asterion Forlonge||3/1||155||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|Abracadabras||5/1||153||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
|Fiddlerontheroof||6/1||154||Colin Tizzard||Robbie Power|
|Chantry House||5/1||140||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
Next to Mullins in the trainers’ table amongst those represented this year is the Lambourn-based handler, Nicky Henderson. Successful three times in all – most recently with the brilliant Altior in 2016 – Henderson is responsible for the current market leader in this year’s race, with his six year old son of Sholokov – Shishkin – having sprung to the head of the betting.
A winner of a point-to-point and a bumper contest last season, Shishkin’s hurdling career didn’t get off to the most encouraging of starts when making it no further than the second obstacle at Newbury. It is safe to say that things have gone considerably better since. So much better in fact that no horse has been able to get within 11 lengths of him in romps at Newbury and Huntingdon. In possession of a very high cruising speed, this athletic-looking sort is improving rapidly and may well be up to the task in this one.
ASTERION FORLONGE (3/1)
Next in the market – or vying for favouritism with some bookies – comes the aforementioned Asterion Forlonge. A perfect four from four in his career to date, and going in the same Mrs J Donnelly colours as Shishkin, this likeable grey has also made a hugely encouraging start to his career over obstacles.
To score by 10 lengths in his maiden at Naas was impressive enough, but to then just about match that, when landing the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle by nine and a half lengths, marked him out as a chaser potentially out of the very top drawer. Initially expected by some to be better over further than the minimum distance – that may well be the case in time – but so emphatic was that Leopardstown success, connections have understandably opted to take their chance in this. The one question mark against his chance is a slight propensity to jump out to his right, but he is in the right hands to iron out that kink, and clearly possesses bags of ability.
Gordon Elliott has also been on the scoresheet here in recent years having sent out Labaik to cause a 25/1 shock in 2016, and he would look to have solid claims of landing a second success in the contest courtesy of his six year old, Abacadabras.
Boasting three wins in four starts over hurdles – with the only defeat coming at the hands of the extremely highly regarded, Envoi Allen – this Gigginstown House Stud owned runner also boasts a solid previous effort at the festival, having ran well to finish fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper. The evidence of an eight-length win in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time out would suggest he is still improving, and he looks likely to be involved at the business end.
Colin Tizzard has experienced his share of success at the Cheltenham Festival, but is yet to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Bidding to change that in 2020 is the six year old son of Stowaway, Fiddlerontheroof.
Never out of the first two in four starts over hurdles, he began the current season with gallant second place finishes to Albert Bartlett favourite, Thyme Hill, and Edwardstone – who also lines up in this race. Like a number of runners from the yard he has improved for those early efforts as the season has progressed, and really made the punting public sit up and take notice when slamming his rivals in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time out. A repeat of that level of form would bring him right into contention.
CHANTRY HOUSE (7/1)
Already responsible for the favourite for the race, Nicky Henderson also has a strong second string to his bow in the shape of the JP McManus owned, Chantry House. A decisive winner of a soft ground bumper at Warwick last season – with Edwardstone amongst those unable to lay a glove on the son of star flat stayer Yeats, hopes were understandably high headed into his debut season over obstacles and, in two hurdle starts to date, the six year old has done nothing to dent those hopes.
Kicking things off with an ever so easy win over subsequent Grade 2 winner Stolen Silver at this track in December, he then stepped up on that to power clear in a Class 3 at Newbury last time out. Clearly this is a big step up in class, but considering he tends to come from just off the pace and quicken up to win, it is hard to know just how good he is. To his advantage is the fact that his smooth travelling style should enable him to sit in behind any pace battle on the front end, with that proven ability to come up the hill also counting for plenty. At the prices, he will do for us in an open renewal.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Winners
|2020||Shishkin||6/1||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2019||Klassical Dream||6/1||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2018||Summerville Boy||9/1||Tom George||Noel Fehily|
|2017||Labaik||25/1||Gordon Elliott||Jack Kennedy|
|2016||Altior||4/1||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2015||Douvan||2/1||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2014||Vautour||7/2||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2013||Champagne Fever||5/1||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2012||Cinders And Ashes||10/1||Donald McCain||Jason Maguire|
|2011||Al Ferof||10/1||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
About the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle: The Traditional Curtain Raiser
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest National Hunt meeting of the year. The four days of action attract thousands of racegoers to the Gloucestershire venue and many millions of punters to have a bet on at least one of the Grade 1 races taking place. Racing fans know that Cheltenham takes up much more than just four days though. The build up for the Festival always goes on for months before the world famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’ greets the start of the first race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
That roar signals the excitement that’s been building for the Festival as a whole but also for this brilliant Grade 1 contest itself. As the name suggests, it’s a hurdle race which is open only to novices (that is to say horses who had not won a hurdle race before the start of the current season) and these must be horses who are aged four or older. It takes place over 2 miles and half a furlong, with eight hurdles to be navigated.
Changes of Name
The race was first run as the Gloucestershire Hurdle in 1946. It was known by that title until 1974 when it was registered as the Lloyd Bank Champion Novices’ Hurdle and has subsequently been sponsored by several different companies.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Title & Sponsors: 1946 – 2020
|Sponsor||Year From||Year To||Sponsor||Year From||Year To|
|Sky Bet||2014||Present||William Hill||2012||2013|
|Stan James||2011||2011||Spinal Research||2010||2010|
|William Hill||2009||2009||Anglo Irish Bank||2006||2008|
|Letheby & Christopher||2004||2005||Gerrard Wealth Management||2002||2003|
|Capel Cure Sharp||2000||2000||Citroen||1994||1999|
|Trafalgar House||1991||1993||Waterford Crystal||1978||1990|
|Lloyds Bank||1974||1977||Gloucestershire Hurdle||1946||1973|
The name may have changed over the years but the importance of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has remained fairly steady. It’s now used by leading trainers as a vital step in the careers of some of their very best horses whilst in the early days it was such a highly regarded race that it used to be split into multiple divisions. It’s been held as just the one race since the 1970s so it is no surprise that it is such a competitive contest.
Tolworth and Moscow Flyer Hurdles the Key Pointers
Punters looking for a guide to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle have many different races to consider in the lead up. In addition to the official trials, the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown is worth considering (it provided first and second at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival) whilst Irish horses will often head to Cheltenham via the Moscow Flyer Hurdle, a Grade 2 contest at Punchestown named after the dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Trial Winners: 2017/18 – 2019/20
|Race||2019/20 Winner||2018/19 Winner||2017/18 Winner|
|Cheltenham Supreme Trial||Hang In There||Elixir De Nutz||Slate House|
|Tolworth Hurdle||Fiddlerontheroof||Elixir De Nutz||Summerville Boy|
|Moscow Flyer Hurdle||Andy Dufresne||Felix Desjy||Getabird|
|Haydock Supreme Trial||Stolen Silver||Mister Fisher||First Flow|
|Chanelle Pharma Hurdle||Asterion Forlonge||Klassical Dream||Samcro|
Just as there are numerous different routes to the race, those who run well have a plethora of options ahead of them with some going on to have more success over hurdles and others, such as the aforementioned Moscow Flyer, moving into chasing. The one thing most winners have in common is more success at Cheltenham, so it’s well worth making a note of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle result.
As the horses competing are hopefully just at the start of their National Hunt careers and therefore have scope for fast improvement, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle can be a somewhat tricky race to predict. Winning favourites are relatively rare and have been interspersed with longer odds winners, some of whom have gone on to be massive stars such as 2015 winner, Altior.