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2018 Supreme Novices Hurdle Tips

Brian Healy takes a look at some of the potential key performers in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.


The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle gets the Cheltenham Festival underway, and the famous Cheltenham Festival Roar will reverberate around Cleeve Hill in just three short weeks as the two mile spectacle kicks off another fantastic four days’ action.

Getting underway at 1.30pm on Tuesday 13 March, a maximum field of 27 runners will face the tapes, and months of anticipation will finally come to fruition. Punters will be hopeful of landing an early blow against the bookies, and Willie Mullins’ Getabird (2/1, Ladbrokes) is already many peoples’ idea of a first day banker.

It is little wonder too, as the Getaway gelding in unbeaten in his two hurdles starts to date, and he created a big impression when trouncing the high-class Mengli Khan in the recent Moscow Flyer Hurdle. Mullins has won three of the last five renewals of the race with the likes of Champagne Fever, Douvan and Vautour, and his latest star looks sure to give a bold sight.

Mullins is likely to be well-represented in the Festival curtain-raiser, and in addition to Getabird, the County Carlow trainer could also send Sharjah (20/1, Coral), Laurina (12/1, William Hill) and Next Destination (25/1, Ladbrokes) into battle, although the latter could  well be Albert Bartlett-bound rather than take in the two-mile Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Sharjah on the other hand could line up in a bid to get back on track, having disappointed last time behind Samcro at Leopardstown.

The Doctor Dino gelding had won both hurdles starts at Gowran Park earlier in the season prior to looking set to win the Grade One Future Champions Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Still travelling strongly and having taken the measure of stablemate, Real Steel, the pair fell independently of each other at the final hurdle to gift the win to Whiskey Sour.

But he could only manage seventh next time at Leopardstown behind Gordon Elliot’s charge, while Whiskey Sour confirmed the form by crossing the line ahead of the Mullins horse.

Laurina meanwhile would be defending an unbeaten hurdles record, having struck on his debut at Tramore in good style and then following up with a defeat of Alletrix in the Grade Three Solerina Mares’ Novice Hurdle.

The Spanish Moon mare also holds an entry in the mares’ novice hurdle on Thursday’s card, where she holds favouritism, and it is unlikely she’ll be pitched into this contest with Thursday's race the most likely destination for her.

Paloma Blue (20/1, Ladbrokes) looks to hold solid claims, and Henry de Bromhead’s charge brings some solid form to the table, including chasing home Fayonagh in last season’s Punchestown Champion Bumper.

The Stowaway gelding has shaped well over timber, finishing third to Next Destination on his debut over hurdles at Naas, and then finding only Spades Are Trumps too strong at Punchestown.

He has subsequently won well at Leopardstown, and he travelled well for much of the way when finishing third to Samcro in the Deloitte; but having raced keenly he ultimately proved no match for that potential superstar, and a slow jump at the last sealed his fate although he was already looking held.

That could prove the best form on offer here, and he could go close with a repeat.

It was hard not to have been impressed by the way Kalashnikov (7/1, Unibet) won the Betfair Hurdle recently, powering clear of a quality field to score by four lengths over Bleu Et Rouge having looked in trouble earlier.

Amy Murphy’s Kalanisi gelding was beaten behind Somerville Boy (16/1, Ladbrokes) Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown previously, but the testing conditions at the Esher venue may just have proven too much for him.

Whether Murphy will aim her stable star at the first day curtain-raiser remains unclear, and given the relatively quick turnaround then there is a chance that a Festival appearance may just come too soon; it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him held back for Aintree, but he has to be respected if he does turn out at Cheltenham and that Newbury success puts him firmly in the mix.

Somerville Boy meanwhile was bouncing back from a defeat behind Western Ryder (33/1, Paddy Power) at Cheltenham in December where Tom George’s charge finished almost six lengths behind that rival, having also been beaten behind Slate House the time before in the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.

He was gaining revenge on Western Ryder when winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown - also beating Kalashnikov - and he is another for whom a case can be made, especially if the ground continues to come up soft.

Mengli Khan (14/1, William Hill) was soundly beaten off by Getabird when the pair clashed at Punchestown last month, and Gordon Elliott’s charge has work to do in order to reverse that form; although he may have felt the aftermath of his run-out incident previously at Leopardstown.

The Lope De Vega gelding had won three of his five previous hurdles starts prior to that incident, which included an impressive win in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle where he beat Early doors.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him fare better returning from a break, but he could find the Mullins runner too strong again.

Kim Bailey’s First Flow (25/1, Coral) looks a progressive sort, and the Primary gelding is 3-3 over hurdles, including a ten lengths’ defeat of Midnight Shadow at Haydock in January to claim the Grade Two Rossington Main Hurdle.

Despite a last-flight mistake, he was well on top and impressed with the way he kept on to put a wide margin between him and the rest of the field. Further progress would see him firmly in the mix, and he can run a big race.

Simply The Betts (33/1, Paddy Power) was runner-up in the Musselburgh race won by Beyond The Clouds, finishing ahead of Claimantakinforgan who was a shade disappointing.

Harry Whittington’s Arcadio gelding is yet to win over hurdles, and he was soundly beaten by If The Cap Fits at Kempton on Boxing Day; he may just struggle to confirm the form with Claimantakinforgan judged on his earlier form behind Lostintranslation.

Nicky Henderson has a cracking record in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with runners from the Seven Barrows yard often in the mix; however Altior’s win in 2016 was only the trainer’s third success, and his first since Flown won the race for Henderson in 1992. 

The Seven Barrows maestro will be hoping he doesn’t have to wait another 24 years for his next win in the race, and it could be worth chancing on a big run by his CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (16/1, Betfred) despite the Great Pretender gelding suffering a surprise reversal at Musselburgh when last seen.

He has already shown good form at this venue, chasing home Fayonagh in the Champion Bumper here last Festival, finishing third, and then running well at Aintree behind Lalor.

Having beaten a very useful sort in Lostintranslation at Newbury, the Henderson runner then beat Dr Des and others - including Slate House, who had beaten Somerville Boy - when winning the Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot.

He scored readily there, but there is a suspicion that better ground will help the six year old who may have found a combination of the soft ground and the sharp turns at Musselburgh against him. 

He jumps his hurdles well, and he could be more at home on a more galloping track such as Cheltenham; and likely to be granted a strong pace to aim at, he may well leave that Musselburgh disappointment behind.

He isn’t one to give up on just yet, but coming into this contest on the back of a defeat isn’t an ideal preparation; nevertheless, he had looked very smart when scoring at Ascot, and still with the potential to do better he can outrun his odds for his yard which has done well in this event in the past.

2017 SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE SELECTION - CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (16/1, Betfredeach-way)

2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips

Our expert takes a look at the field set to line up in this years’ Gold Cup and rates each runners’ chances of succeeding at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

There may be 28 races during the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s no doubting the most prestigious and historic of the lot is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stars have been born, legacies commentated and history has been rewritten in this fantastic staying chase and we look set for a memorable renewal on the final day of the 2018 Festival.

During the regular season, various trials races have been staged across Britain and Ireland. While some have seen their Gold Cup dreams dashed, several potential champion have come forward and the ante-post market looks packed with quality.

Our expert has put together this star rating guide for the Gold Cup – taking a look at each contenders in detail and rated their chances of triumphing at the Cheltenham Festival out of five stars.

CUE CARD – 33/1 William Hill

Colin Tizzard’s teenager began his farewell tour with a fantastic display in the Ascot Chase, pushing Waiting Patiently all the way to the post. Tizzard and owner, Jean Bishop confirmed their 12-year-old would be retired after competing at Cheltenham and Aintree and the team will be hoping for a change of luck in this year’s Gold Cup.

Cue Card was traveling as well as anyone before falling at the third-last in 2016. The same fence forced another race ending error 12 months ago, but Paddy Brennan was already working hard to stay in-touch before tasting turf for the second successive season. A fairy-tale ending to a wonderful career is not out of the question, but Cue Card’s best years are clearly behind him and it would take an incredible performance for Tizzard’s teenager to challenge.

CUE CARD RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

DEFINITLY RED – 16/1 Ladbrokes

It seems a heck of a long time since Danny Cook pulled Definitly Red up in last year’s Grand National. Brian Ellison will have been very pleased with the way his charge was traveling, but a faller caused Definitly Red to swerve off line and, fearing an injury, Cook decided to called time on their Aintree adventure.

A distant third place finish on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase was followed by two Grade Two victories in the Many Clouds Chase and the Cotswold Chase. Definitly Red led them along at a sedate pace in the Many Clouds and turned it into a real test of stamina. It was a much truer race at Cheltenham, but the fact that runner-up American and Bristol De Mai have decided to swerve the Gold Cup has to count against him. 

Brian Ellison’s charge is in the form of his life and handled the Cheltenham track well in the Cotswold, but the Gold Cup will be a giant leap forward and Definitly Red could struggle.

DEFINITLY RED RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

DJAKADAM – 33/1 BetVictor

As Djakadam surged onto the lead, Ruby Walsh may have thought he had one hand on the Gold Cup last year. A shuddering error two from home opened the door for Sizing John and the two-time runner-up had to settle for more Cheltenham disappointment. Willie Mullins will have been heartened and encouraged by his final run of the campaign at Punchestown, but sadly, the nine-year-old has endured an underwhelming year.

A resounding defeat at the hands of Sizing John in the John Durkan was followed by a poor performance in the Christmas Chase, where he was pulled up well before home. He failed to mount a winning assault in the Irish Gold Cup, yet his jumping was much more convincing as he finished third and he has plenty of history in Cheltenham’s showpiece event. Plus, his current odds are very attractive.

DJAKADAM RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

EDWULF – 25/1 Coral

It's been a rollercoaster 12 months for Edwulf. Joseph O’Brien thought he has lost his star stayer when he collapsed in the National Hunt Chase and the young trainer was delighted to see his charge make a full recovery. Retirement plans were soon thrown out the window and Edwulf made a low-key return in the Christmas Chase, where he failed to finish the course. Five weeks later, Edwulf’s miracle recovery was complete as the 25/1 shot powered home to win the Irish Gold Cup.

Although Edwulf holds entry into both the Gold Cup and the Grand National, O’Brien will be very mindful of his star’s wellbeing before committing him to any specific date. If Edwulf can repeat the performance he produced at Leopardstown, he could challenge for the places – that’s if he even makes it to National Hunt racing’s premier chase.

EDWULF RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

KILLULTAGH VIC – 10/1 William Hill

Everyone remembers the incredible recovery Killultagh Vic made at Leopardstown in 2016, dragging himself up off the canvas to snatch a Grade Two victory from the jaws of defeat. The last 18 months have been riddled with injuries, but Willie Mullins declared his nine-year-old was fit to return in December.

After claiming a smart victory over the smaller obstacles, Mullins threw Killultagh Vic into the Irish Gold Cup. Paul Townend’s mount was traveling best of all turning for home, but a crashing fall at the second last left Willie and his team with their head in their hands. Thankfully, Killultagh Vic is expected to make a full recovery and take his place in the Gold Cup. It looks like he’s retained most of his old talent, but the time spent off the track is a worry and it’s hard to say how he will bounce back after that emphatic tumble at Leopardstown.

KILLULTAGH VIC RATING ⭐ 3 ⭐

MIGHT BITE – 4/1 Paddy Power

Worryingly for his Cheltenham rivals, Might Bite didn’t have to be at his best to win the King George. Nicky Henderson’s charge clearly didn’t enjoy the softer ground and his jumping was very safe, but he still had enough class to comfortably see off Double Shuffle and Tea For Two. Might Bite has been given a nice break to recharge the batteries and the prospect of good spring ground will be extremely favourable.

Some will say Might Bite hasn’t beaten much over fences – both his Grade One victories came over Whisper and no Gold Cup rivals displayed their colours in the King George. Yet, you cannot deny the nine-year-old has looked much more composed this season and it’s unlikely we will see the dramatic swerve towards the stables that almost cost him the RSA.

He was fantastic for 90% of the RSA and showed incredible battling qualities to get his nose to the line first. Conditions should suit him down to the ground and Nicky Henderson will have him primed for Festival season. Might Bite is the leading candidate heading into Cheltenham.

MIGHT BITE RATING ⭐ 4.5 ⭐

MINELLA ROCCO – 20/1 Ladbrokes

Minella Rocco has been fairly anonymous since finishing fourth as the favourite in the Irish Daily Star Chase. Jonjo O’Neill’s chase finished a decent fourth in a the Christmas Chase, a result which sits between two failures in the BetVictor Handicap Chase and the Irish Gold Cup.

Minella Rocco’s form figures are similar to those he carried into last year’s Gold Cup, where he stormed home to finish closest to Sizing John. The 2016 National Hunt Chase winner comes alive in the spring and he clearly enjoys the challenge presented by Cheltenham. While some will be put off by his poor seasonal form, Minella Rocco is a challenger not to be overlooked.

MINELLA ROCCO RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

NATIVE RIVER – 6/1 Paddy Power

Native River’s achievements last season shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the Gold Cup on the back of wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Welsh National and the Denman Chase. Despite expending plenty of energy during those gruelling races, the eight-year-old had enough grit and determination to hold on to a spot in the places.

Tizzard rewarded his top stayer with an extended holiday, completely bypassing the first half of the campaign. Native River returned in the Denman Chase earlier this month and comfortably saw off Cloudy Dream from the front of the field. Richard Johnson has struck up a nice understanding with Native River and the duo will fancy their chances heading back to Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard will need to get his tactics spot on if he wants to get his hands on the Gold Cup, but the rest he gave Native River should pay off during the spring and he will be a prime challenger for the second season running.

NATIVE RIVER RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

OUR DUKE – 9/1 Paddy Power

A lot was expected of the runaway Irish Grand National winner as he went to post in the JNWine Champion Chase as the odds-on favourite. Harrington was dismayed to see Our Duke labour over the line last. A back problem was discovered, and he didn’t return to action until the Irish Gold Cup.

Robbie Powers’ mount clattered pretty much every fence around Leopardstown but was staying on strongly as he passed the post fourth. He dropped back in trip and conceded weight to dangerous novice Presenting Percy in the Red Mills Chase, displaying speed and class in abundance to claim a much-needed victory. More progress is expected between now and Cheltenham, but Our Duke is progressing nicely and should put himself in the frame.

OUR DUKE RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

OUTLANDER– 33/1 Coral

Outlander has always been talented, but inconsistency has often held him back. It looked like this season would be the same old story, as Gordon Elliott’s charge finished near the rear of the field in the Irish Daily Star, but he produced a fantastic display to claim a surprise victory in the JNWine Champion Chase a few weeks later.

Jack Kennedy’s mount hated the heavy ground at Haydock, but responded by running two good races back-to-back. First, crossing the line third in the Christmas Chase, before battling with Edwulf all the way to the line at the Dublin Racing Festival. The chances of Outlander stringing together three strong performances is unlikely, but he brings solid form into the Gold Cup and his current odds are extremely attractive.

OUTLANDER RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

ROAD TO RESPECT – 10/1 BetVictor

Since winning the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival last year, Road To Respect has gone from strength-to-strength. He ended last season with a smart victory over Yorkhill at Fairyhouse and returned to action with a bang at Punchestown, storming clear to win the Irish Daily Star. Outlander produced an excellent display to defeat him in the JNWine Champion Chase, but Sean Flanagan’s mount was far from disgraced in second.

Despite his excellent form and obvious improvement, Road To Respect carried a lengthy price into the Christmas Chase. As rivals fell away around him, Meade’s charge produced a composed display to outlast two Gigginstown stablemates and claim a second career Grade One. He brings the best form with him across the pond and has winning memories around Cheltenham. Road To Respect is the ideal each-way candidate and the best bet in this year’s Gold Cup.

ROAD TO RESPECT RATING ⭐ 5 ⭐

SIZING JOHN – 6/1 William Hill

Sizing John enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the staying ranks last season and was hugely impressive in capturing the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Jessica Harrington’s mount looked as good as ever in dispatching Djakadam on his reappearance in the John Durkan, but last season’s heroics clearly caught up with him in the Christmas Chase, where he failed to challenge and cantered over the line seventh.

No medical problems were discovered following that festive flop, forcing Harrington into giving her stable star an unplanned mid-season break. Plenty of horses have claimed Gold Cup glory on the back of similar lay-offs and Sizing John’s reappearance record is very strong. Others Cheltenham rivals have filled the column inches in his absence, but Sizing John is too classy to be forgotten.

SIZING JOHN RATING ⭐ 4 ⭐

TOTAL RECALL – 16/1 Ladbrokes

Weeks after arriving from Sandra Hughes’ yard, Total Recall began life in County Carlow with a strong winning performance in the Munster National. Mullins sent his recruit to Newbury for the first time in December and he was subsequently backed into favouritism for the Ladbrokes Trophy. Whisper looked to have the victory in the bag, but Paul Townend timed his late charge to perfection to claim a historic victory for a jubilant Willie Mullins.

After pulling hard for much of the race, Total Recall warmed up for the spring with an excellent victory over hurdles at the Dublin Racing Festival. Total Recall’s odds have dropped since Mullins confirmed he would take in the Gold Cup en-route to the Grand National. Yet, all his form this season has come in handicap company, he could only beat Whisper by a neck when gaining a stone at the weights and he’s never stepped beyond Grade Three company over fences, let alone featured in a race with the size and stature of the Gold Cup.

TOTAL RECALL RATING ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

⭐ CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP STAR RATING GUIDE ⭐

⭐ ROAD TO RESPECT – 5 ⭐
*
MIGHT BITE – 4.5
*
NATIVE RIVER – 4
SIZING JOHN – 4
OUR DUKE – 4
*
OUTLANDER – 3.5
MINELLA ROCCO – 3.5
*
KILLULTAGH VIC – 3
DJAKADAM – 3
DEFINITLY RED – 3
*
EDWULF – 2.5
CUE CARD – 2.5
TOTAL RECALL – 2.5
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival will once again light up the National Hunt racing calendar and a whole host of top class horses will play a starring role in the ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’

With four days of sensational racing to look forward to at Prestbury Park, our readers will be counting down the days to the world’s most famous race meeting and the excitement continues to build ahead of the opening day on Tuesday 13th March.

With Festival clues seemingly on offer with every weekend that passes, the Cheltenham Festival news continues to come thick and fast and we want to make sure that you don’t miss a single beat of the action.

Our reporters are working around the clock to make sure that you get all the important news when it matters and the RacingTips newsdesk is in overdrive with less than two months to go until the meeting.

The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup dominates the racing front pages and with this year’s race looking so wide open the betting for the contest seems to change every day.

With Kauto Star and Denman now retired from the sport, the likes of Long Run, Sir Des Champs, Flemenstar and Bobs Worth are all in line to replace the legendary chasers at the top of the National Hunt pile and they’ll all be heading to Cheltenham looking to join an illustrious set of winners of the Festival’s ‘Blue Riband.’

With the Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase also on offer over four fantastic days on the Cotswolds, the Festival really is a meeting to savour and race goers will find the perfect blend of passion in the stands and excitement on the track.

Stay tuned to RacingTips.com to get all the latest news as and when it happens in the build-up to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

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