Saturday, 7 March 2009

Cheltenham Preview - Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The Cheltenham Festival is just days away and the famous roar that heralds the beginning of the celebrated meeting will soon be upon us. What better place to start my Cheltenham previews than at the very beginning, with the first event of the 2009 Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle?

From a punting perspective, the race can be a tricky one to nail down as there are no real trends to go on in terms of the market, with horses priced 6/1, 40/1 and 17/2 (Captain Cee Bee, left) taking down the last three renewals – anything can cross the line in first place. If you do like a longshot, you needn’t be too afraid to back your fancy at a generous price.

So what trends are there to consider, if the market isn’t such a great guide? One that immediately jumps out is last time out form, as twelve of the last thirteen winners of the Supreme Novices’ were last time out winners, a stat further boosted by the fact that 33 of the last 39 winners of Cheltenham Festival novice hurdle events were featured a 1 at the end of the form.

Lightly raced hurdlers do well in the event, with half of the last sixteen winners having run no more than twice over hurdles. Using these trends, the field can be reduced to Torphichen and Ruthenoise, both trained by Martin Pipe. With Ruthenoise widely quoted 50/1 (66/1 best price, Stan James) we should be safe to rule it out of contention. Although it is often worth punting on a longshot in the Supreme Novices’, a line needs to be drawn somewhere and it should be noted that only one horse has placed at odds of 50/1 or greater, since 1997.

Torphichen appears to be the choice of trends at first glance then, but another very important trend goes against the chestnut gelding – age. Only one horse aged four years old has won this race in the last 34 years, the vast majority of these winners being aged five or six. Binocular so nearly won this race last year aged four and the one horse that did take the event down recently was trained by the father of Torphichen’s trainer, so perhaps there is something for his supporters to hold onto there.

I think the way to go from here is to consider those horses to have run three times over hurdles, few enough to be considered lightly raced, which brings Kempes and Micheal Flips into the equation. It is well known that many horses simply don’t get on with Cheltenham and it’s inherent difficulties, horses for courses and all that, so I’d be inclined to side with Kempes, as the six year old has recent wins at Navan and Leopardstown (both left handed, galloping tracks like Cheltenham) as well as other wins on undulating courses such as Fairyhouse and Gowran Park. Micheal Flips has no such experience, allowing me to rule him out.

Another positive for Kempes is his trainer, Willie Mullins. The Irishman has trained the winner twice in the last thirteen years, including Ebaziyan (right) in 2007. The Irish raiders do have a good record in the race, with ten of the last seventeen and indeed six of the last nine winners, being trained in Ireland.

So what of the big favourite, Cousin Vinny? Also trained by Mullins, the gelding is ruled out on the major last time out trend, as he unseated his rider (plus he’s run seven times over hurdles) but it’s worth noting that he travelled very well and looked to have the eventual winner in his pocket, before the unseating of Mullins Junior (left). Last year’s Champion Bumper win shows he can take the course and the attributes to do well seem to be there, but at a generally available best price of 5/2, there is really no value at all, especially considering the trends that he does fall down on.

For me then, Torphichen must be a good each way bet at a current best price 7/1 (Sporting Bet) but Kempes looks best value of all at 12/1 with the sponsors. Sadly, this is the Racing Post’s Pricewise ante-post tip and most of the massive prices about the selection have gone, but it does seem to me, to be the most likely winner of what should be an intriguing Festival opener. Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Tuesday 10th March, 13:30
1 point e/w


The Kenster said...

Good posting. I will need your help for the final day on friday.

moDtheGod said...

Don't look at me, I'm at work!