Supreme Novices' Hurdle Ante-Post Tips: Blue to Lord it up

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Tips: Blue Lord is a leading contender for Willie Mullins.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle Tips: Blue Lord is a leading contender for Willie Mullins.

Steve Chambers takes a long range look at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and picks out his best bets for the Grade 1 event, which takes place on day one of the Cheltenham Festival...

We are a matter of weeks away from the legendary 'Cheltenham Roar' which echoes around Prestbury Park at the start of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and it's the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser that we turn our attentions to in our ante-post series, and it's all set to be another epic renewal of the 2m 87y opener.

Training four of the last eight winners of the race, Willie Mullins has become synonymous with the Grade 1 contest and the master of Closutton will unleash another strong battalion at the race on March 16, and it's his seven-year-old Appreciate It that dominates the betting, at the time of writing.

Touched off by Ferny Hollow in last season's Champion Bumper, Appreciate It has made an ultra-smooth switch to the hurdling sphere and he kicked off his career over obstacles with a facile victory at Cork in November. Sent into Grade 1 company on his next outing, Appreciate It produced a barnstorming display in the Grade 1 Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in late December, as he annihilated a classy field by nine lengths. Easing clear of some top notch rivals which included Irascible (25/1) and Ballyadam (16/1), Appreciate It won at a hack canter to show that all the pre-race hype was justified.

Ballyadam is certainly better than that bare form, as he just emptied in the final furlong and he will be seen to better effect at Cheltenham, but he does have an entry in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, so it will be interesting to see where Gordon Elliott sends that six-year-old. However, it's hard to see Ballyadam reversing that Leopardstown form at the Cheltenham Festival, and Appreciate It looks to be a rock-solid option, but at 5/2 it's hard to back him in the ante-post betting at this present stage, so it could be worth looking elsewhere for some value.

With a multitude of entries from the Mullins team, it's somewhat of a guessing game on who he will send to the Supreme and while French Aseel is a prominent figure in the betting (16/1), he is destined to take his chance in the Triumph Hurdle on day four of the Cheltenham Festival, while Gauloise (25/1), Fly Smart and Galapathi are another notable triumvirate that are entered for the contest.

One that makes significant appeal is Blue Lord, who is a very lightly-raced six-year-old that is open to significant improvement and at 20/1 is a fascinating contender. He kicked off his hurdling campaign with a win over two miles at Punchestown in November, but was then upped in trip for the 2m 4f Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle, where he was no match for leading Ballymore contender Bob Olinger. Blue Lord took a keen hold that day and Paul Townend tried his hardest to keep a lid on him, but he was unable to live with the classy Bob Olinger, who went on to win by over six lengths. 

Holding an entry for the Ballymore, Blue Lord could be seen in that event, but his keenness could hinder his chances in that 2m 5f contest, so a fiercely run two miles in the Supreme could play to his strengths, so hopefully Mullins opts for the Tuesday event, and at 20/1 he could look a huge price on the day. Available at 16/1 with Paddy Power, who are going Non Runner No Bet, Blue Lord could be worth backing with the Irish firm, but if he does take his chance in the Supreme then Blue Lord could put up a strong challenge to stablemate Appreciate It.

While the Irish contingent will be awash with talent there will be some top notch homegrown potential lining up and the British challenge will be spearheaded by the Harry Fry-trained Metier, who is unbeaten over hurdles and looks a really classy performer. Rated in the low 90s on the Flat for Andrew Slattery, Metier has blossomed since the switch to Fry's yard and has excelled over obstacles. Three wins out of three, Metier showed his potential when winning impressively at Ascot, but it was a 12-length demolition of his rivals in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown that catapulted him into the Supreme reckoning. Travelling strongly that day, Metier quickened in fine fashion to book his place in the Supreme, and with more improvement to come the 7/1 second favourite is a notable contender.

Cheltenham Festival Races

Fourth in last year's Champion Bumper, Third Time Lucki is another eye-catching home challenger and the Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old is worthy of his place in the line-up. A nine-length winner at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, Third Time Lucki showed significant ability that day, but he had previously been beaten by For Pleasure (50/1) in a Grade 2 novices' hurdle at Cheltenham, so it could be that he performs better on flatter tracks, so could be one to avoid.

Ronan McNally's Dreal Deal has been a winning machine this season and a shock success in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle has all-but booked his place in the Supreme, but the 20/1 chance will need to continue his progression to play any sort of role in the finish, while the likes of My Drogo (20/1) will add more depth to the Skelton team, along with the smartly bred Flinteur Sacre another of note, but he has disappointed over timber, so can't be backed at this stage in a fascinating affair.

Entitled to be at the head of the market, Appreciate It could prove to be a class above his rivals, but at prohibitive odds he is worth taking on at this stage and it's stablemate Blue Lord that looks a major contender, if taking this route, and he can duly hand Mullins another Supreme success in what is set to be an epic opening to the four-day National Hunt extravaganza.

Selections

Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 16th March - back Blue Lord at 16/1 (Paddy Power) NRNB

Supreme Novices' Hurdle - NRNB
Blue Lord silk

Blue Lord

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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