The Cheltenham Festival is inching ever closer and thus punters are starting to consider their festival fancies in much more detail. Perhaps one of the most intriguing markets right now is the Supreme Novices Hurdle – the traditional curtain-raiser.
Quite often this race will have a ‘good thing’ shaping the market over the winter but so far the race looks to be wide open. David Pipe’s Moon Racer tops the chart at 5/1 for those seeking to bet on Cheltenham 2017 with William Hill but the race is lacking in terms of a stand-out candidate to bet on. Here we assess the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and consider the contenders to get the festival off to a flying start for punters.
Moon Racer is an obvious starting point for this race. Unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, the former Champion Bumper winner has no questions to answer when it comes to winning at the festival and he has already seized a chance to win over hurdles at the track in November. Just as he did when winning the bumper in 2015, it seems as though Pipe is content to have got two early season runs into Moon Racer before keeping him under wraps. He may have one more race before March 14, but his credentials are outstanding and he will be popular in the betting come raceday.
When Moon Racer made his debut over hurdles at Perth back in September he defeated the 2016 Champion Bumper hero Ballyandy in a cracking race. The two appeared set to play big roles in the novice hurdling division this term. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge was only third behind the same rival at Cheltenham in November while he couldn’t master the Alan King-trained Messire Des Obeaux next time at Sandown. It has been a season of frustration for Ballyandy and his price for the Supreme reflects that now.
The new kid on the block is Harry Fry’s Neon Wolf. He made a splash when winning at Exeter on New Year’s Day and was then heavily touted for Haydock’s Supreme Trial as a result. There he delivered a thoroughly pleasing success, taking up the running a long from home and coming clear of his rivals up the home straight. While his trainer is non-committal on a Cheltenham target, he would be an exciting addition to the line-up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
No overview of this race would be complete without a look at the Willie Mullins yard, as the Irish trainer will attempt to win the festival opener for the fourth time in five years. Currently, his leading contender in the betting is Cilaos Emery, victorious in good style on his first run over hurdles at Navan in December. The horse getting all the whispers from the Mullins team is Melon, owned by Rich Ricci but as yet to make his debut on the track. Should he make a winning start, he is likely to jostle with Moon Racer for favouritism. Also from team Mullins, Crack Mome is one to keep in mind. He may have lost his unbeaten record at Punchestown in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle but his price has some juice in it as a result and he could prove himself come March.
As the countdown to Cheltenham intensifies, there are plenty contenders for the festival opener but so far nothing has achieved a stranglehold on the market.