Supreme Novices' Hurdle Ante-Post Preview: Two make appeal

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Master Debonair was a deeply impressive winner of a trial for this race at Ascot in December.
Master Debonair was a deeply impressive winner of a trial for this race at Ascot in December.

Following the release of the entries for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Alex Stearn has taken a look at the field and picked out his best bet at this stage…

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the curtain-raiser for the Cheltenham Festival, and given the roll of honour that comes with the race - the likes of Altior, Douvan and Vautour - it's fair to say that the winners normally go on to taste further Grade 1 glory. The roar when the tapes go across at the start of the contest is an atmosphere to savour, and hopefully we can kick start the week with a winner. 

Gordon Elliott appears to have a stranglehold on the current crop of Supreme hopefuls, with Envoi AllenAbacadabras and Easywork all under his tenure. However, the first-named looks set to head to the Ballymore, so don’t get too excited at the price on offer, and more confidence can placed in the Gigginstown pair to turn up. 

Abacadabras has strong claims given that he’s only even been beaten by Envoi Allen and has already won a Grade 1 at this trip to boot, but his jumping hasn’t always been foot perfect, even when he isn’t under pressure, and he could give away vital yards to slicker hurdlers as a consequence. Easywork has made each of his starts over obstacles look as his name suggests, having won over two-and-a-half miles last time out. He appears extremely versatile with regards to trip, too, quickening readily clear of Mt Leinster on his penultimate start over the Supreme trip. 

Colin Tizzard could end up being double-handed in his pursuit of a first Supreme to add to his ever-growing CV, with Tolworth winner Fiddlerontheroof and Master Debonair both receiving entries. The Dorset-based trainer has been vocal about the fact that Fiddlerontheroof’s target will be ground dependant, while the latterly-mentioned was a facile Grade 2 winner last time out at Ascot in a trial for this, and with all his form coming at two-miles, he looks certain to line up here and might be hard to keep out the frame.  

National Hunt fans will be familiar with the black and yellow checks of Mrs J Donnelley after the exploits of Melon over the last few years, but she has two new potential stars that could well go on to shine at the top of their game. The Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin is highly regarded, and made no mistake on his second effort over obstacles, when going readily clear of a useful yardstick at Newbury. Asterion Forlonge is arguably the headline of Mullins’ whopping 25 entries given he is unbeaten in three starts - with the latter coming over hurdles and being an incredibly impressive winning debut to boot. He has an obvious chance and all roads must lead to the Cheltenham Festival, although he has his choice of engagements to fulfil.  

Haydock hosted their trials day in the middle of January, and the first two home in their trial for this race, Stolen Silver and Edwardstone, both shaped as if the test that the Supreme offers will see them improve further. Both need a strong pace to help get them up in that famous hill as their stamina will be tested, but they’re brimming with talent and can’t be disregarded as each-way hopes.

Owner J.P. McManus has a string of nine to choose from, and the likes of unbeaten Chantry House and Sporting John must be at the top of the list. The first-named is one that Nicky Henderson has taken plenty of time with, but looks one worth waiting for considering he beat the aforementioned Stolen Silver on his hurdling debut at Cheltenham and shaped as if there was plenty more to come.

Sporting John is two from two over hurdles, with both those victories coming at Exeter, and he’s earned a shot in this class. His rating of 146 is more than enough to see him take his chance here, and although minor company at Exeter might not scream Supreme contender at you, the substance of the first of those two wins can’t be knocked and he could be a lively outsider.

Henry de Bromhead has the potential for an excellent week, with more and more stars coming out of his yard, and Captain Guinness could well be another. He only just lost his unbeaten record to the highly regarded Andy Dufrense – a notable absentee from the entries – and did look as if more would come with experience. A similar story applies to Soviet Pimpernel, who already has Cheltenham form to his name. He ran flat in the Royal Bond behind Envoi Allen in December, though he soon got back on his upward curve last time and his trainer has offered hope that he can improve again if the ground is on the quicker side come March. 

Unexposed is a word that is thrown around plenty in the build up to these races, and without stating the obvious, nearly all of the 86 entries can fit into that bracket, making ante-post betting a profitable endeavour if finding a diamond amongst the rough. Master Debonair looks certain to line up in this contest and has excellent form to his name, making him the one to side with at the moment. Both Chantry House and Asterion Forlonge are two inexperienced types that can go onto better things, particularly the latter, who made a mockery on a maiden hurdle and looks a big price at 33/1 – for all that he does also hold entries in the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett. 

Selection

Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 10th March 2020 - back Master Debonair at 14/1

Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 10th March 2020 - back Asterion Forlonge each-way at 20/1

Tip

Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Master Debonair silk

Master Debonair

Has improved with each of his three starts over hurdles so far, winning the last twice, including in a Grade 2 trial for this at Ascot in December by eight lengths. While stablemate Fiddlerontheroof is no certainty to take his chance, Master Debonair is tailor made for the Supreme, and it's difficult to see him finishing outside of the frame at the very least.

Tip

Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Asterion Forlonge silk

Asterion Forlonge (EW)

Represents powerful connections, and has done very little wrong in three runs so far, winning a point-to-point, a bumper and over hurdles at Naas last time out. He was impressive in the way he went about winning over timber last time, and there should be plenty more to come from this £290,000 purchase. Admittedly, he does also hold entries in the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett, but he's worth a small each-way play for this at 20/1.

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