In the latest instalment of GG’s Cheltenham Festival tips and previews, Ryan Summerfield (@RyanOTHx) takes a look at the Cheltenham Festival’s opening race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
There’s something very unique about the Supreme, the roar, the hope of a successful punting week and the anticipation of so many great clashes. The last ten years or so has been simple for the once-a-year bettors with a glance at the racecard and a big tick next to Ruby Walsh. However, this year things will have to change after Ruby’s retirement, and hopefully I can find you the winner regardless.
It may seem obvious but you want a 145-plus rated novice with a recent win and form in Graded company. Eleven of the last winners were aged 5 or 6, which most of the entries are, and ten of 12 won last time out.
Five of the last 12 had a previous run at Cheltenham but, more importantly, of the five English-trained winners, four of them had a previous run at the course.
All of the last 12 winners had two wins at the 2m trip and ten had previously ran in a Graded race. Quite a few of those stats are negatives for the current favourite Shishkin.
When you take into account the main trends and filter them out you’re left with the following horses - Asterion Forlonge, Abacadabras, Envoi Allen and Fiddlerontheroof. Horses that hit most of the trends but miss out for certain reasons are Edwardstone, Shishkin, Captain Guinness, Chantry House, Sporting John, Master Debonair and the rest of the outsiders.
I don’t really understand the current price of Shiskin. He’s been impressive and there is no doubt that he’ll be a Grade 1 horse in the future, but he’s a Listed winner against horses with solid Grade 1 form.
He’s come from a race and track with a bad Cheltenham strike-rate, with Huntingdon being 0/128 as a prep for the festival. On top of that, horses behind Shishkin are 0/39 since facing him, so he’s received no form boosts whatsoever.
As a comparison with Shiskin, Envoi Allen has had 30 winners in behind him and they include two future Grade 1 winners and two Grade 1 seconds.
Envoi Allen is unlikely to turn up here, so Gordon Elliott’s best chance will be Abacadabras. He hits every trend and has proven Grade 1 ability chasing home Envoi Allen before winning himself by eight lengths. The winners from that Leopardstown race have never won the Supreme but Sizing John finished third to Douvan and Jezki placed third behind Champagne Fever and My Tent Or Yours.
Colin Tizzard has Master Debonair and Fiddlerontheroof prominent in the betting but it’s the latter that I strongly fancy. He won the Tolworth Hurdle and that race has produced some strong Cheltenham performers with Yorkhill and Summerville Boy going on to win novice races at the Festival, while L’Ami Serge finished fourth in the Supreme and Elixir de Nutz was strong in the market before injury forced him to miss the race.
Fiddlerontheroof started this season chasing home Thyme Hill and that’s some of the strongest novice form in Britain this year. He’s since gone 2/2 at Sandown and earned himself a rating of 154 after his demolition job last time out. The last 5 winners of the Supreme were rated 154, 150, 144, 155 and 155, which puts Fiddlerontheroof bang there in terms of ability.
Owner Joe Donnelly has gone close to winning the race before with Melon and aside from Shiskin, he has another strong chance with Asterion Forlonge.
In the last eight years, trainer Willie Mullins has a phenomenal record in the race with his number one chances finishing 1112201, so he’s clearly the man to train you a Supreme horse.
I have no doubt that Asterion Forlonge will end up a top-class chaser and he will go close in March, but I’m suspicious about the value of the form from his Grade 1 win. He won impressively but the runner-up Easywork didn’t enjoy the ground or the trip and there was plenty of non-runners leading up to the race which would have made the race more competitive.
Fiddlerontheroof has form that ties in with the best novices around and he stays strongly. He’s improved with every race so far this season and I think he’s being underestimated.
Edwardstone would be of interest at bigger prices as his form ties in with Fiddlerontheroof and Grade 2 winner Harry Senior, but I’d have liked him to put the race to bed at Haydock last time. A bigger field and stronger pace should suit him at Cheltenham though
I’m against Shiskin purely because of how he’s been campaigned. He’s not been tested at the top level yet and he’s priced as if he’s a Grade 1 winner already. Abacadabras and Asterion Forlonge won’t be far away but I think Fiddlerontheroof will prove too strong late on.
Ryan Summerfield’s best bet