Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Preview
Unfortunately, there will be no Cheltenham roar this year but I for one will still be cheering when the flag goes down for this year’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The best week of the year kicks off with the 2 mile novices tearing around Prestbury Park in what can develop into a test of stamina despite being over the minimum trip. Appreciate It heads the betting for Willie Mullins and has been the standout 2 miler throughout the season, even though many had him down as needing further. Metier heads the English challenge off the back of an impressive Tolworth Hurdle win and we cannot forget Ballyadam who came into the season with one of the biggest reputations in recent times.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 11/8
Last season’s Champion Bumper second, Appreciate It, will look to get favourite backers off to a flyer having taken to hurdles in ultra-impressive fashion this season. Visually a big staying chaser, I, like many, have been quite surprised to see Appreciate It demonstrate so many gears over the minimum trip and up to now he appears to be the star in a weak looking division. His hurdles debut yielded a smooth success and the runner up Master McShee went on to frank the form on a couple of occasions but the Supreme did not appear to be on the agenda until stable mate Ferny Hollow picked up an injury just before Christmas. If Appreciate It wasn’t deemed a Supreme horse pre-Christmas, he certainly was post-Christmas! The imposing son of Jeremy ran his rivals ragged from the front and kicked clear in impressive fashion up the Leopardstown run in, to record a Grade 1 success over the minimum trip. He backed this performance up with another Grade 1 success last time out, again making all. For all he looks the standout contender, and 2 miles round Cheltenham should play to his staying strengths, a few things do go against him. The last 25 renewals have seen 54 horses aged 7 or older run in the Supreme. Only two have won and horses have been beaten at odds of 4/5, 2/1, 9/2 and 15/2, so while there have not been too many fancied 7-year-olds, there have been a few. He does however come here undefeated this season just like Captain Cee Bee (2008) and Like-A-Butterfly (2002), the two horses to have won the Supreme aged 7 or above in the past 25 renewals. With all his form so far on a softer surface, Appreciate It may have question marks to answer should the ground come up on the quick side and it may play into the hands of a rival with a more potent turn of foot.
Trainer: Harry Fry
Current Odds: 13/2
Harry Fry’s impressive Tolworth winner, Metier, currently lies second in the betting at around 13/2. Formerly trained by Andrew Slattery on the flat in Ireland, Metier was switched to Harry Fry’s yard last January and had wind surgery last summer. He displayed a fair level of ability on the flat but has really kicked on over hurdles. He started the season with two impressive hurdle wins at Newton Abbot and Ascot before being pitched into Grade 1 company at Sandown for the Unibet Tolworth Novices Hurdle. Run on bottomless ground, Metier cruised through the mud and powered away up the Sandown hill to record a facile success. The overall time compared well to the other 2 mile hurdle races on the card. Metier was 6 seconds faster than the Juvenile Hurdle and 3 seconds faster than the Handicap Hurdle despite carrying around half a stone more than the respective winners. Metier, like Appreciate It, does however have question marks surrounding his versatility ground wise. All his form on the flat come on a softer surface and he is yet to encounter ground reading better than “soft” over hurdles. I wouldn’t be entirely convinced about his form either. His Tolworth win looked a poor Grade 1 and the runner up Shakem Up’Arry was comfortable beaten off 138 in the Betfair Hurdle. Metier did beat him comfortably though and we cannot be sure just how good he is.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 8/1
Ballyadam came into this season following some glowing statements from both Jamie Codd and his trainer, Gordon Elliott. I for one see both Jamie and Gordon as pretty straight talking fellas and despite always backing their horses they’re not often wrong when it comes to having a proper Grade 1 animal. Ballyadam started life off over hurdles with an easy success at Down Royal but his jumping was a tad fiddly to say the least. Pitched into Grade 1 company for the Royal Bond on his next start, Ballyadam, again, didn’t jump with great fluency but travelled extremely well and quickened away from his rivals on the back of a slowly run race. He disappointed over Christmas but the yard weren’t firing on all cylinders and he duly bounced back with a much-improved second to Appreciate It last time out. I thought he was an extremely eye-catching runner that day. Ballyadam raced wide and travelled like a dream. Coming down to the business end of the race, he had to sweep 4-wide round the bend and gave away plenty of ground to Appreciate It. He still came there swinging though and cruised into second. He ultimately could not close the gap and made a mess of the last before plugging on again for a clear second. Even though he has raced on soft or worse so far this season, I am convinced he will be seen to best effect on good spring ground and he may well possess a few more gears that his old enemy Appreciate It, despite failing in two attempts to beat him. He is one to keep onside should the ground be on the quick side.
Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill
Current Odds: 8/1
This years Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory quite literally soared into contention when wining Newbury’s Handicap Hurdle showpiece in commanding fashion. However, it is worth noting that Betfair Hurdle winners have a poor record when stepping into Grade 1 company on their next start. 11 Betfair Hurdle winners have attempted this and not one has gone on to win. Stats are there to be broken though and I can hardly say this is a vintage renewal. I do wonder how much more there is to come from Soaring Glory. He only just denied Bravemansgame on hurdles debut which may appear strong form but this came over 2 miles and I believe Bravemansgame won’t be seen to best effect until tackling three miles and a fence. He was then turned over by Dusart before falling when heavily odds-on on his next start. He then went on to run a good race, finishing third in a Supreme trial at Kempton. It is easy to say now, but 133 looked a seriously lenient mark and there’s no doubt Jonjo will have had him spot on to exploit that. Whether he can now improve again to win a Supreme, I’m not so sure, but he’s an each way price for those who are looking for some value.
Trainer: Ronan McNally
Current Odds: 16/1
The last contender I will look at is arguably one of the stories of the season. Ronan McNally’s Dreal Deal was rated a mere 84 on the 19th of September 2020 but 6 wins later, including 2 on the flat, he has seen his official rating rise to 145 and is now a Grade 2 winner. This Grade 2 success came in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown where they went a mad gallop from the off and Dreal Deal tucked in and sat last, miles off the pace. Turning for home, Dreal Deal made his move, powering past legless rivals, he jumped into the lead at the last and won going away at the line. The form of this race would not amount to much as it stands but the manor in which he won suggested to me he may be well suited by a strongly run 2 miles around Cheltenham. He’ll likely be able to tuck in behind a big field and cruise round for the majority of the race. He will have to be wary of losing ground coming down the hill but I can see Dreal Deal staying on strong and at his current price of 16/1, I’d say he represents a nice bit of each way value.
Willie Mullins is likely to throw a handful at this and Blue Lord may well be the best of his outsiders. A workmanlike debut over 2 miles prompted a step up in trip on his next start, when he ran extremely keenly throughout but still manged a good second to the very talented Bob Olinger. Dropped back to 2 miles on his next start, he finished second behind Appreciate It and Ballyadam but closing sectionals suggest he ran a good race from an uncompromising position. He is one to watch should the money start talking. Thedevilscoachman looks a horse on the up and seems to possess a serious turn of foot. An impressive winner on his last start he looks a nice price at 16/1 but rumours are he may stay in Ireland. Northern raider Bareback Jack defeated Third Time Lucki on his last start and will come into this unbeaten. He is not a guaranteed runner though and would have to improve significantly to scare the market leaders. Irascible looks a likely runner for Henry De Bromhead but has twice been beaten 9 lengths by Appreciate It and would have to take a big step forward to get involved.
Crunching the Numbers
- 21 of the past 25 winners were aged 5 or 6, including the last 12
- 21 of the last 25 winners won last time out
- 22 of the previous 25 winners were priced 7/2 or above. (11/25 were 10/1 or higher)
- 22 of the last 25 winners had finished in the top 3 on all completed starts that season, 10 of which were unbeaten
- 11 of the last 12 winners were rated 142+
Being a 7-year-old, and a very short-priced favourite, it is unsurprising to see Appreciate It score averagely on the trends fitting 3/5 boxes. As mentioned early though he matches the profile of Captain Cee Bee and Like-A-Butterfly, who both bucked the older horse trend. Second favourite Metier completes the full house alongside 16/1 shot Dreal Deal. Ballyadam misses out on two tends, having finished outside the top three this season and failing to win last time out. He does however have a valid excuse for finishing outside the top 3. At the time of writing I am unsure of Soaring Glory’s new mark but he could be another to score well on the trends should that be 142 or higher. Of the outsiders Bareback Jack scores well and Blue Lord fits a few of the trends but wouldn’t be your typical Willie Mullins Supreme winner.
There is no doubt Appreciate It will be a tough nut to crack, but I think the ground could play a huge part in this year’s Supreme. Should the sun shine over the next few weeks and we get good spring ground, I think he may be susceptible to a speedier type. I wouldn’t be convinced by the English challenge of Soaring Glory or Metier and don’t believe the pair are good enough to beat Appreciate It, regardless of the ground. I do however, believe Ballyadam has the talent to spring a surprise. The way he travels through his races visually strikes me as a horse who will love the frantic hustle and bustle of a Supreme. His jumping will be need be spot though as he cannot afford to bundle over 1 or 2 flights with Appreciate It going through the gears up front. I can see Appreciate It attempting to win in the style of Klassical Dream back in 2019 and turn this into a thorough test of stamina. On pedigree, Ballyadam, has a fair bit of stamina himself and I am convinced he possesses more natural speed than Appreciate It. Ballyadam can pounce late on coming up the hill.
As is the importance of the ground, I cannot see Ballyadam beating Appreciate It should the ground come up soft. Despite fancying Ballyadam for the upset, I am sat on Appreciate It at 11/1 any race so I’m undecided whether to bring out the rain dance or not! Of the outsiders I think Dreal Deal is the standout bet. I just think the race will be run to suit and he can come there with a wet sail late on and pick up the pieces.
My Idea of the Winner
- Ballyadam 8/1 on Good to Soft
- Appreciate 11/8 on Soft or worse
Each Way Play
- Dreal Deal 16/1
- Appreciate It
- Dreal Deal
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP