Cheltenham 2018 gets off to a flying start with the Supreme Novices Hurdle
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival will be upon us in a little over a month, and over four days, an estimated £500 million will be wagered on 28 races. The showpiece event might be the Gold Cup on the fourth day, but the action commences at 1:30PM on 13 March with the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
This Grade 1 race is run on the Old Course, over a distance of just over two miles, and has a habit of producing surprises. It typically attracts a larger than average number of entrants, and being the first race on the card, it also has the undivided attention of the boisterous race goers. Bearing all that in mind, experience counts for even more than you might think in this race.
Where to place your bets
Even the most experienced tipsters acknowledge that the Supreme Novices Hurdle is one of the toughest races to work out. The racing fanatics at Cheltenhamfestival.net have come up with some inside tips for the novice hurdle and say that the most important thing to keep in mind is the ground conditions. If the going is good, focus on the flat-bred runners, while if it is soft, they will be more likely to struggle. Past performances suggest this is an event to suit runners that have been lightly raced over recent months and that are proven performers in large fields.
Last year’s winner
2017 was a case in point in that it threw up one of the biggest surprises of the entire week. Labaik came from nowhere to romp home at 25/1, getting anyone who had amassed the courage to back him off to a profitable start. The horse went into the race with a reputation for refusing, but he seemed to revel in the unique Cheltenham atmosphere. Young jockey Jack Kennedy was beaming from ear to ear after the race, and described the win as a boyhood dream come true.
Sadly, Labaik has not raced since last April, when he suffered an injury at Leapordstown. Trainer Gordon Elliot says the injury could spell the end of his career, and with every week that passes, a return seems less likely.
Who are the favourites?
The list of entrants might look like a page from the telephone directory, but there are several horses that are really catching the eyes of the tipsters:
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is one in which the Irish entrants have typically performed well, and Willie Mullins will be hoping for great things from Getabird. The 3/1 bookmakers’ favourite has been unbeaten in his novice year, most recently winning the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Nicky Henderson will be aiming for more winners than ever this year, and this highly regarded novice could get his festival off to the perfect start. The horse has impressed everyone who has seen him in his fledgling hurdling career, with wins at both Newbury and Ascot against some strong competition. Henderson thinks this is a horse that could go all the way, and frankly, he ought to know. The bookmakers currently have Claimantakenforgan at 9/1.
3) Marias Benefit
The six year old mare has won her last five races, and while Cheltenham will be a major step up, trainer Stuart Edmunds thinks this could be the perfect race for her. She has speed and that all-important battle experience that counts for so much at Cheltenham. The bookmakers are offering 10/1, so Maria’s Benefit certainly represents a tempting each way bet.
4) If The Cap Fits
Nicky Henderson’s perennial bridesmaid, If The Cap Fits has had so many second places that he is becoming to racing what Jimmy White is to snooker. However, the horse clearly has speed, and is no stranger to the unique Cheltenham atmosphere. Another 10/1 shot that is well worth an each way bet.