The Supreme Novices Hurdle kicks off the annual Cheltenham Festival and is traditionally greeted by the ‘Cheltenham Roar’, created by the crowd as the four-day event officially begins. The 2 mile 110 yard hurdle race is open to four-year-olds and above but is restricted to novice hurdlers.
SkyBet are the current sponsors of the race, which began in 1946, and as with all big races there are plenty of winning trends that you should carefully consider before you place a bet on any potential winner. We have listed the top five tips below to hopefully help to guide you towards a winner this March.
5. Focus on Form
Previous form really does count it seems when it comes to picking a winner in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Looking through the records, 12 of the past 14 winners all arrived at Cheltenham with a victory last time out, including last year’s 7/2 joint-favourite and winner Vantour who made it five wins from five career starts with victory in the Festival’s curtain raiser last March. And the Willie Mullins trained French-bred five-year-old also made it 17 from the last 20 winners who had headed into the race having previously competed in the 45 days prior to Cheltenham.
4. Favourites have Failed
Another trend over the past decade has seen the favourites struggle, winning just two of the past 12 races. Just three of the last 19 winners started with odds of 3/1 of less. Last year’s winner Vantour was the first favourite since Brave Inca in 2004 to hold his nerve and deliver a victory and he was joint-favourite alongside Irving, not the clear outright favourite.
3. Stick with Six-and-under
Nine of the past 10 winners were all aged six or under, with the exception being 2007 winner Captain Cee Bee. 2002 winner Like a Butterfly was the last eight-year-old winner while the last four-year-old to claim a victory was Hors La Loi III in 1999. While nine of the last 13 winners have been Irish trained, including the past two winners Vantour and Champagne Fever.
2. Winning Willie
Trainer Willie Mullins enjoys a superb record in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, winning four times between 1995 and 2014. The former jockey trained seven-year-old Tourist Attraction to victory in 1995 and enjoyed his second victory 12-years later as six-year-old Ebaziyan pulled off a shock victory after heading into the race with a starting price of 40/1. And Ruby Walsh was in the saddle as Mullins’ produced back-to-back winners in 2013 and 2014, with Champagne Fever and Vantour.
1. Ruby’s Record
Ruby Walsh has a fantastic record in the Cheltenham Festival opener, winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle four times in total, including three of the last four-years. The 35-year-old picked up his first victory with the five-year-old Noland in 2006 and guided the Paul Nicholls trained Al Ferof to victory in 2011. Should he compete this March, meanwhile, the Irishman will be aiming for a third successive win following back-to-back victories with Willie Mullins trained duo Champagne Fever and Vantour over the past two-years.