Last season’s crop of bumper horses looked the strongest for a number of years, possibly a by-product of the revert in fashion back towards top stables and owners looking for talent in Irish points rather than leaning already experienced French youngsters, and therefore there’s a number of animals with tall reputations to put on the line before they’ve make a hurdling debut.
Day 1 featured races quick links:
13:20 Supreme Novices Hurdle
13:55 Arkle Trophy
15:05 Champion Hurdle
15:40 Mares Hurdle
Will the winner of the Supreme be one of these well-hyped prodigies, or is there something special lurking in a stable somewhere that none of us know about yet?
What are the Supreme Novices Hurdle
1. Appreciate It (6/4) (Paul Townend/Willie Mullins)
Leading bumper performer last season and was a fine second in the Champion Bumper. He’s been the leading novice hurdler this season as well, winning twice at Grade 1 level in the Future Champions and the Chanelle Pharma.
He’s not the paciest horse for a two-miler and I’d be confident he’d already stay well enough to get home over three, but he’s been able to travel well enough to get himself into winning positions and has powered away when asked to pick up on every occasion.
Several of his rivals here have already been beaten by him this season and he sets a very strong standard.
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2. Ballyadam (Jack Kennedy/Henry De Bromhead)
Cost Cheveley Park Stud £330,000 after winning his point-to-point and boasted a big reputation before he’d made his rules debut last season, though it took him two attempts to get off the mark in bumpers. Gained a Grade 1 victory in the Royal Bond on his second hurdles, though underperformed during a poor spell for the stable next time when fourth behind Appreciate It in the Future Champions. More like it last time when finishing second to that same rival in the Chanelle Pharma, and he has a solid chance of running into the places again.
3. Blue Lord (Daryl Jacob/Willie Mullins)
Look a smashing prospect when winning at Punchestown on his hurdles debut and shaped well again when runner up to Bob Olinger in a Naas Grade 1 over 2m4f on his second start, making life harder for himself by not settling. Looked more straightforward when dropped back to two miles when staying on into third in the Chanelle Pharma last time. Should be more to come from him, and the strong pace and stiff finish he will get here will suit.
4. For Pleasure (Harry Bannister/Alex Hales)
Won at Bangor and twice at Stratford during the summer before he produced a fantastic freewheeling victory from the front over course and distance in November. Will go at a frenetic pace, and definitely will provide a fascinating tactical aspect to the race, but he was put in his place in the Betfair Hurdle last time, though, and ranks an unlikely winner.
5. Grumpy Charley (Bryan Carver/Chris Honour)
Broke his maiden at Chepstow in January and has won at that track twice again since, last time winning a handicap from a mark of 132. That form would still be a notch below what should be required to play a part here, and he may well need bad ground and more of a trip to be seen to best effect.
6. Irascible (Rachael Blackmore/Henry De Bromhead)
Thrice-raced under rules, winning a Clonmel maiden hurdle on his debut before finishing a fine nine-length second to Appreciate It in the Future Champions at Christmas. The same distance that rival behind when fifth in the Chanelle Pharma, and he remains a nice prospect for the Henry De Bromhead team, he may be more a staying type in the long term. Doesn’t have to improve much to reach the placings, but hard to see him turning the tables with Appreciate It
7. Metier (Sean Bowen/Harry Fry)
Rated at a peak of 90 on the flat for Andrew Slattery and has surpassed that as a novice hurdler, winning all three starts, including in the Grade 1 Tolworth on heavy ground last time out. That wasn’t a strong race, but Metier was a hugely impressive winner and hasn’t really had a hard race in this sphere so far. Given his level of ability of the flat and the manner of victory last time, he ranks as the biggest danger to the favourite.
8. Soaring Glory (Jonjo O’Neill Jr/Jonjo O’Neill)
One of the top British bumper performers last season and made a winning start over hurdles when getting the better of Ballymore fancy Bravemansgame at Chepstow in October.
Met defeat at the hands of Nicky Henderson’s exciting Dusart and could only finish third in the Kennel Gate at Ascot on his next two completed starts, but looked right back to his best when bolting up from a lenient mark of 133.
Probably needs another step forward again to get past Appreciate It here, but his best form wouldn’t see him a mile away and he can’t be ruled out.
SUPREME NOVICES VERDICT
Appreciate It is a confident selection to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles.
There’s little between the likes of Ballyadam, Blue Lord, Metier and Soaring Glory and all would be viable candidates to chase him home, though perhaps the improving Blue Lord may be best suited to the way this race should pan out to complete a 1-2 for Mullins.