Sandown Park starts the new year of racing in style with a great card headlined by this Grade 1, the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle. First run in 1976, this two mile hurdle sees some of the most talented horses over the smaller obstacles compete at the Surrey track.
This race was won in 1984 by Desert Orchid, prior to his switch to chasing. Constitution Hill was the latest horse to win here before Cheltenham glory, adding the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to his Tolworth crown in 2022 and going on to win the Champion Hurdle in 2023.
Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle Course Map (Hurdle Course)
Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle Past Winners
|2023||Tahmuras||5/2||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|2022||Constitution Hill||2/5||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2021||Metier||7/4||Harry Fry||Sean Bowen|
|2020||Fiddleontheroof||5/4||Colin Tizzard||Robbie Power|
|2019||Elixir Du Nutz||3/1||Colin Tizzard||Tom O'Brien|
|2018||Summerville Boy||8/1||Tom George||Noel Fahily|
|2017||Finian's Oscar||11/10||Colin Tizzard||Tom O'Brien|
|2016||Yorkhill||4/9||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2015||L'Ami Serge||4/9||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2014*||Royal Boy||9/1||Nicky Henderson||A P McCoy|
|2013||Melodic Rendezvous||7/2||Jeremy Scott||Nick Scolfield|
|2012||Captain Conan||9/1||Nicky Henderson||Barry Gergahty|
|2011||Minella Class||6/4||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2008||Breedsbreeze||6/4||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2007||Silverburn||5/1||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2006||Noland||6/4||Paul Nicholls||Christian Williams|
|2005||Marcel||3/1||Martin Pipe||Timmy Murphy|
|2004||Lingo||5/4||Jonjo O'Neill||Liam Cooper|
*2014 race took place at Kempton in January after frost led to the cancellation of racing at Sandown.
About the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle: Excellence In Esher
The National Hunt season is of course in full swing by the time December turns to January each year and, with the festive season now out of the way, the thoughts of many will no doubt be turning to the Cheltenham Festival in March. There are of course many top-level contests to be taken in before the greatest four days in the sport roll around – many of which can often prove influential to those showpiece events at Prestbury Park. One such race, particularly when it comes to the novice hurdling division, is this event which is held at the Esher venue of Sandown Park in early January.
Sandown is a track which certainly lends plenty of support to the inexperienced national hunt performers, with three of the five Grade 1 contests to take place at the track each season being novice affairs. This tops the bill when it comes to hurdling though, with the race being the only top-level event over the smaller obstacles to be held at the track.
First run back in 1976, and named in honour of the nearby town of Tolworth (whose only other claim to fame as far as we can see is that Eric Clapton attended school there), this is a Grade 1 event open to novice hurdlers aged four years old and above.
Considering the time of year that this event takes place, it perhaps isn’t too surprising to learn that the vagaries of the British weather has wreaked a degree of havoc over the years. The race was abandoned entirely in 1979, 1982, 1994, 1997, 2009 and 2010, whilst Ascot (2001), Warwick (2002), Wincanton (2003) and Kempton Park (2014) have all stepped in as alternative venues in times of need.
Future Stars On Show
Invariably attracting a field of the most promising young chasers in training, the race is certainly well worth keeping an eye on with a view to the big races ahead. Constitution Hill (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle), Summerville Boy (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), French Holly (RSA Chase) and Yorkhill (Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and JLT Chase) all went on to future Cheltenham Festival success having earlier displayed their potential in this race.
The greatest winner in the race’s history though is of course everyone’s favourite grey: the Gold Cup and four time King George winning superstar Desert Orchid, who took this in 1984.
Not Too Young, But Not Too Old
In common with many races of this type, the four year olds receive a weight allowance in this event – being required to carry 10st 9lb, whilst those aged five and older are shouldered with 11st 7lb. Has this proven to be a winning advantage for the younger runners?
The evidence in the above chart would suggest not, with the five and six year olds boasting a pretty dominant record. It should however be noted that the majority of the entries do tend to come from this five to six year old age bracket, so this trend is perhaps not quite so strong as it may appear at first glance.
Big Names On Top
It may have been with us since back in the 1970’s, but the best records in this race – when it comes to training performance – have come since the turn of the century.
Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard are certainly no strangers to Grade 1 success – with the first two named in particular being involved in a seemingly annual head to head battle for the trainer’s title – and they have certainly made their presence felt in this race. It is Henderson who leads the way as of 2023 with six wins in all in this race.