The first of my Cheltenham Festival 2014 ante-post selections and where better to start than the curtain raiser to 4 days of action; the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
The Irish Challengers
Current ante-post favourite Briar Hill trades at between 8/1 and 12/1 and comes from the all conquering stable of Willie Mullins and so far is unbeaten under Rules. Won a 5 runner affair at Thurles in a slow time and went for the Cheltenham Bumper an unconsidered 25/1 shot, even with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. Yet he won in the style of a smart horse brushing aside a quality field with ease. Made his hurdles debut at Wexford over 2m2f and did it from the front showing some very fast fluent hurdling and coming home in splendid isolation in a below average time. Looks a smart type but with Willie having many contenders for each of the novice races it’s hard to tip him with confidence plus I’d be very surprised if he can emulate Champagne Fever.
Another Willie Mullins horse is Moyle Park who is also unbeaten, but after taking his debut bumper which was a good affair, he skipped Cheltenham and went for the Punchestown Land Rover Bumper which he landed after a protracted duel with Wraith Of Titans. Took his hurdles debut in fine style once again showing Wraith Of Titans a clean pair of heels. He looked a very smart prospect and showed a lot of speed at his obstacles and of the two Mullins’ horses I’d be leaning more towards this fella.
Vautour is yet another from Willie Mullins who made his debut this weekend after being picked up from France after 2 good efforts for Guilluame Macaire. Won in the style of a nice horse at Navan and could end up anywhere. 16/1 to 25/1 quotes seem fair but as usual I’ll be waiting to see where he runs next.
Golantilla was all the rage leading upto the Festival after his demolition job at Cork when coming home 13 lengths clear of the field and was already being touted as the Bumper horse even before this based on his point to point win at Avaune. Ran a respectable third for Tony Martin and looked a big chasing type for the future and as we have yet to see him over hurdles it’s hard to make a case for him, but he is a horse I have a lot of respect for.
The Liquidator is currently disputing favouritism and is quoted at 10/1 to 14/1. He has staked a very good claim already with a impressive win over course and distance at the International meeting following up from his win at Carlisle. 4th in the Cheltenham Bumper he went on to win one of Punchestown’s Festival Bumpers and is a high class animal who for me sets the standard and providing he isn’t rerouted to the Neptune he will be tough to beat.
West Wizard sits 4th in the betting for Nicky Henderson and his price seems to be based on potential than proven ability. His Bumper win at Kempton has been well advertised with The Skyfarmer winning his next 3 starts and The Pirate’s Queen running 5th in the Aintree bumper and coming a fair second in a Listed hurdle race at Newbury recently. Unfortunately, he didn’t do such a good job as those he’s beaten when getting turned over at long odds-on at Kempton by Sgt Reckless. For me, he looked more of a staying type and will need to up his game to justify his current position in the ante-posts market and represents little value currently.
Regal Encore is between 14/1 and 20/1 and deserves close attention. Only beaten twice from 5 starts, he went into the Cheltenham Bumper as favourite and finished a honourable second to Briar Hill. For me he was far too keen throughout the race and I was surprised he still had anything left as they entered the home straight. Went to Aintree for his hurdles debut and was brushed aside by Garde La Victoire but showed some promise and improved on this run when turning out at Plumpton and winning hard held quite cheekily. Sure to progress through the season and let’s hope he looses this headstrong style of running as this will see him winning more races.
Irving has been very impressive for Paul Nicholls since arriving from German trainer J Hirschberger where he won 4 of 6 starts on the Flat. Two from two over hurdles he took apart a Class 3 field on his debut looking a bright prospect and then followed up at Ascot in similar fashion. I’m very interested to see where he goes next and his price is half tempting with 14/1 to 25/1 freely available for a trainer who knows what’s required to win the Supreme.
Garde La Victoire is unbeaten under rules for the Hobbs team and is a horse I rate very highly. Won a junior bumper at Exeter and the yard couldn’t get a run into him due to the savage winter we endured and he then became ill so was left off until recently. Turned up at Aintree and for me he won as he liked beating Regal Encore who obviously has very strong form already. Followed that up with another impressive display at Warwick, looking even better than on debut. So we have another unbeaten runner who for me looks the real deal and would like to see him around Cheltenham as think he’ll love the hill as he looks a relentless galloper.
At the moment I believe these are the main challengers and of those mentioned I am most keen on The Liquidator and Garde La Victoire and would suggest a 1pt win on each at 14/1 and 16/1 to start off our ante-post portfolio.
The Liquidator – 1pt win 14/1 generally
Garde La Victoire – 1pt win 16/1 generally
Compliments of the season and wishing you a Very Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!
For more previews, tips and analysis for Cheltenham Festival 2014 visit my site at www.rogergreenracing.co.uk.