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The 2020 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle: trends, statistics and video replays

Sun 17 Mar 2019

All you need to know about the opening race at the Cheltenham Festival on March 12.

When and where can I watch it? 1.30pm, Tuesday March 12, live in stunning HD on Racing TV.

What Grade? Grade One. What Course? Old Course. What Distance? 2m 87 yards (8 hurdles)

What Prize Money? £125,000. What Age restrictions? For 4yo+

What Weights & Allowances? 11 st 7 lb (5yo+), 10 st 13 lb (4yo). Allowances, mares 7lb

Sponsor: Sky Bet

KEY STATISTICS AND TRENDS:

Market matters:

Not great for favourites lately - only two have won in the past 13 renewals - but only a couple of those winners have started at longer than 12-1. The longest-priced winner was Arctic Kinsman at 50-1 in 1994, while the 2007 victor Ebaziyan is one of two 40-1 shots to have scored. The shortest-priced winners at 4-9 were Tsaoko in 1950 and Flyingbolt in 1964. Favourites and joint-favourites have been successful 10 times (22 per cent) in the 45 runnings since 1972.

Our experts analyse the 2019 renewal

Age counts:

Five and six-year-olds dominate. All bar six since 1972 have fitted into that age bracket, and none since Captain Cee Bee in 2008.

The overall breakdown by age since the race was run as single division in 1972 is as follows: 4yo - 2 wins, 5yo - 18 wins, 6yo - 22 wins, 7yo - 2 wins, 8yo - 2 wins.

Fairly even:

Nine of the past 22 winners have been trained in Britain, with Ireland just holding sway with 13.

Look to the future:

Not always the winner who proves to be the finest horse, with Best Mate and Sprinter Sacre both placed. The likes of Altior, Douvan and Brave Inca managed to win it.

Trainers:

Leading the pack is Willie Mullins with six winners since Tourist Attraction won at the trainer's first attempt in 1995 and he has scored four times in the past seven years with Champagne Fever, Douvan and Vautour. He also trained Ebaziyan in 2007. Added to those successes Min and Melon were the runners-up in 2016 and 2017.

Nicky Henderson has won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle three times with River Ceiriog in 1986, Flown in 1992 and Altior in 2016. Binocular, Spirit Son, Darlan, My Tent Or Yours and Josses Hill also hit the bar in second, while he has also saddled seven thirds. Noel Meade has struck twice with Sausalito Bay in 2000 and Go Native in 2009, while he also sent out Wild Passion to finish second in 2005.

Jockeys:

Before 1972, the most successful jockey was Tommy Burns, who landed seven divisions between 1955 and 1959. Since the race ceased to be divided, Ruby Walsh leads the way with six wins (2006, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2019).

Race History:

The SkyBet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the traditional curtain-raiser of the four-day Cheltenham Festival and receives a lusty roar from the packed grandstand when the tapes go up.

It traces back to 1946 and was known as the Gloucestershire Hurdle until 1974. On many occasions it would divide, allowing the great Vincent O’Brien to register 10 wins during an eight-year spell in the 1950s.

Past winners have usually ended up as top hurdlers, such as Bula (1970) and the ill-fated Golden Cygnet (1978), but a Grand National and dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner L’Escargot (1968) is also on the roll of honour.

The fine record of Irish trainers in the Supreme has been maintained by Willie Mullins, who has the best results in modern times with five winners to date in Tourist Attraction (1995), Ebaziyan (2007), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle walk down memory lane and replays:

2019 - Klassical Dream

Klassical Dream (6-1) provided Willie Mullins with a record sixth victory in the race.

The five-year-old, ridden by Ruby Wash, was keen to post and caused a false start with his eagerness to get on with the job but it didn't stop him powering home from the Olly Murphy-trained pair of Thomas Darby (28-1) and Itchy Feet (25-1) finished second and third respectively.

"He was well within his own cruising speed," Mullins said. "He looks a real good one on this type of ground. He is a very good horse."

It was a poignant triumph part-owner Joanna Blackman had some of her husband's ashes with her at the course. He died in the summer.

2018 - Summerville Boy:

Summerville Boy recovered from a couple of late blunders to stay on strongly and deny Kalashnikov close home.

He looked to have lost all chance when he almost came to grief at the second last but somehow managed to stay on his feet and record his second success at Grade One level.

Willie Mullins' Getabird was sent off the 7-4 favourite but only managed to beat four home.

Tom George was delighted with Summerville Boy's performance and was quick to praise winning-rider Noel Fehily after the race. He said:

"To give Noel Fehily his due he got beaten early on this season on him and he said then those that beat him never would again. All he needed was a strong pace to run at.

"Summerville Boy has taken a lot of switching off at home, his lad said he'd win a Grade One but he didn't tell me he'd win two!"

2017 - Labaik:

The scene of one of the biggest upsets for some time through this eccentric 25-1 chance.

The grey Labaik had a history of being difficult at the start - he had basically refused to race on his previous three outings - but consented to behave himself on the occasion that mattered.

Under teenage sensation Jack Kennedy, Gordon Elliott’s runner quickened away from the strong-travelling joint-favourite Melon in the final hundred yards to score by two and a quarter lengths.

Unfortunately, Labaik’s old habits came to the fore again at Punchestown and he has not been seen this season after sustaining an injury

2016 - Altior:

Nicky Henderson’s handsome gelding had quickly risen through the hurdling ranks, winning all four starts including a very impressive victory at Kempton over the previous Christmas.

The market favoured the Willie Mullins-trained Min, who followed Nico De Boinville’s mount as he surged into the lead going for home.

When push came to shove, though, Min could not cope with Altior’s speed and he marched an electric seven lengths clear at the line.

He was to maintain that momentum into an unbeaten novice chasing career, which included the 2017 Arkle Trophy.

2015 - Douvan:

Douvan already had a huge reputation as he kicked off another formidable Willie Mullins challenge, being sent off the 2-1 favourite on the back of only two previous starts in Ireland.

The support was to be justified as he tracked through the field and joined alongside the future Gold Cup hero Sizing John at the top of the home straight.

Once Ruby Walsh asked for an effort, the response was swift and he galloped away to deafening cheers up the Cheltenham hill, with his stablemate Shaneshill running on for a distant second.

Douvan thumped Sizing John many more times, including in the following season’s Arkle, but injury curtailed his attempt for a third straight Festival success in the Champion Chase.

2014 - Vautour:

Bought from France for owner Rich Ricci, Vautour had already started to look a bit special with an easy Grade One triumph at Leopardstown that February but faced a strong field and possible competition for the lead.

Any concerns were ill-founded as Ruby Walsh immediately found his way to the front and never moved from his position, seeming to have the race sewn up a long way from home and strolling past the line six lengths clear.

The white-faced gelding was even more impressive in the following year’s JLT Novices’ Chase and struck for a third time in the 2016 Ryanair, only to have to be put down after an injury on the gallops the following November.

2013 - Champagne Fever:

A relatively small field allowed Champagne Fever a relatively easy time for the first part of the Supreme, but it was certainly the case all the way to the line.

The popular grey, the previous winner of the Champion Bumper, faced a vintage group of rivals here and found himself deep in trouble when My Tent Or Yours and Jezki - who were to battle out the following year’s Champion Hurdle - loomed alongside approaching the last.

Somehow Champagne Fever found more on the run-in to edge them out by half a length and while he was not able to recreate that level over fences, he still won a couple of nice Graded races.

2012 - Cinders And Ashes:

Cheltenham is an unforgiving place and you cannot normally afford even one mistake in the cauldron of the Supreme.

Cinders And Ashes managed two of them and still won, making a howler down the back and another when Jason Maguire brought him to challenge at the last.

He failed to win another race in 10 more starts over hurdles and on the Flat.

2011 - Al Ferof:

A former Irish point-to-pointer, Al Ferof had chased home the brilliant Cue Card in the 2010 Champion Bumper and had struggled with issues before picking up a couple of minor novice hurdles in his build-up to Cheltenham.

A starting price of 10-1 advertised his chances in a field which not only contained Cue Card but Sprinter Sacre and Spirit Son, the ill-fated hurdler held in such regard by Nicky Henderson.

Ruby Walsh found enough in Al Ferof’s locker to get past that exalted trio, coming two lengths clear on the run-in, with John Hales’ grey going on to a fine career over fences which included a BetVictor Gold Cup and a Peterborough Chase.

2010 - Menorah:

The sparkling previous year’s Champion Bumper winner Dunguib was by this stage being regarded as the second coming, and was sent off the 4-5 favourite in a race with a host of runners sent off at more than 100-1.

Menorah, although only a 12-1 chance, was one of those under the radar but he was to benefit from a typically bold ride from Richard Johnson as he set off into the lead two from home.

While Dunguib and then the Betfair Hurdle winner Get Me Out Of Here threw down the gauntlet, Menorah found more and held off the latter by a head.

He was to become a thoroughly admirable jumper over the years and was retired at Sandown in 2017 after collecting a fourth Oaksey Chase.

2009 - Go Native:

Only a small Irish contingent of three had travelled for this race - headed by Champion Bumper winner and favourite Cousin Vinny - and while Go Native had proved himself in Graded company at Naas he had started off his hurdling career at Killarney the previous summer.

Noel Meade’s runner was one of so many to benefit from Paul Carberry’s patient handling, with the jockey smuggling him through the race and saving ground on the rail.

He perhaps hit the front too soon at the last, looking to be idling on the run-in, but holding the closing Medermit by a neck. Go Native was to collect that year’s Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles but disappointed as favourite in the Champion.

2008 - Captain Cee Bee:

Already seven but campaigned quite cautiously by trainer Eddie Harty, Captain Cee Bee was deserted by owner JP McManus’ retained jockey Tony McCoy in favour of Binocular.

It was those two who were to battle out the finish but the apparent second-string had looked in trouble out in the country with replacement jockey Robert Thornton having to get busy.

However, he began to regain his buoyancy and responded with enthusiasm, fighting off Binocular up the final hill and going two lengths away.

Although another Festival win eluded him, he was still a most reliable character over fences and hurdles long into the future.

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