The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is one of the most popular races held at the Cheltenham Festival. Highly anticipated, it is the race that opens the Festival and while we may not hear the Cheltenham Roar in 2021, that will not dampen the spirits of connections who all want to bag the first race and get off to a flying start.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt race with eight hurdles to be jumped over a distance of two miles. The race is open to horses over four years old with the winner taking home just over £52K.
2021 Supreme Novices Favourites
For 2021 most of the pre-race talk had been all about Appreciate It, the 6/4 favourite. The Willie Mullins trained seven-year-old goes into the race on three back-to-back wins. Likely to be ridden by Paul Townend, his nearest competition, at least on the betting markets, comes from Metier.
Metier is trained by Harry Fry and like Appreciate It, heads to Cheltenham with three wins under his belt this season. The difference between the two is marginal. Appreciate It has made all his runs in Ireland, with metier taking to the British courses, over the same period of time.
Appreciate It has also won two Grade 1 novices hurdles, with Metier winning just one. As the two have never met, it’s going to be an interesting contest. Appreciate It may have faced and beaten better competitors on his way to Cheltenham which is why he is shorter in the odds but it would be foolish to write of Metier’s chances.
Likewise for Ballyadam, third in the betting market on odds of 7/1. Trained by Gordon Elliot, Ballyadam did win a Grade 1 back in November before being beaten last time out by Appreciate It at Leopardstown. Also in the mix is the Jonjo O’Neill trained Soaring Glory (8/1) who won at Newbury last time out. He also has a bit more experience than the others though doesn’t have the unbeaten run of his rivals.
One of the oldest races in the Festival, it was originally called the Gloucestershire Hurdle. It became known as the Lloyds Bank Champion Novices’ Hurdle in 1974, when Lloyds Bank began a brief period of sponsorship.
Waterford Crystal started to back the race in 1978 and changed its name to the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Their sponsorship continued until 1990, and since then the event has had several different sponsors.
Originally the race was split into three divisions. That practice stopped in 1971 and the first proper race as we know it today took place in 1972. Over that time numerous records have been set.
Jockey Ruby Walsh has notched up the most wins. Reigning victorious an incredible six times, he has Noland (2006), Al Ferof (2011), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015), and Klassical Dream (2019) to thank for the achievement.
Four of those wins were for Champion trainer Willie Mullins who has also won it six times with Tourist Attraction (1995), Ebaziyan (2007), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015), and Klassical Dream (2019).
Last year’s winner was Shishkin for trainer Nicky Henderson. However, he is unlikely to make it two in a row in 2021 as he only has two runners entered. Both are quite far down the pecking order with Pipesmoker at odds of 40/1 and Gypsey De Choisel at 50/1.
So who will the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival 2021? We will have to wait until 1.20pm on Tuesday, March 16th 2021 to find out!