Cheltenham Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2023 runners and riders: A horse-by-horse guide

·6-min read
Willie Mullins (L) - Cheltenham Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2023 runners and riders: A horse-by-horse guide - Getty Images/Pat Healy
Willie Mullins (L) - Cheltenham Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2023 runners and riders: A horse-by-horse guide - Getty Images/Pat Healy

The Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a race that is greeted by the traditional Cheltenham roar that heralds the start of another Festival.

Willie Mullins has won this race more times – seven – than any other trainer, and it provided him with his maiden success at the meeting when Tourist Attraction triumphed in 1995.

This year he saddles Facile Vega, who remains the 6/4 favourite despite a first career defeat in the Grade 1 Ireland Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival last month. Stablemates Il Etait Temps and Gaelic Warrior are also in the mix for Mullins.

The unbeaten Marine Nationale is an exciting contender for Barry Connell, while winner Tahmuras at 10/1 is the shortest-priced home contender for Paul Nicholls.

Classy performers such as Vautour, Douvan, Altior and Shishkin are on the recent honours list in this race, while in 2022 it went in blistering style to Constitution Hill for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville as he smashed the course record in a 22-length demolition job.

The extended two miles is an intense examination of the best young hurdlers in Britain and Ireland and, often it brings together the formlines from both nations for the first time and the outcome can serve as a pointer as to where the best novice form lies with a view to the remainder of the week.

Will it be another Mullins success in 2023 or can Nicholls follow the lead of Nicky Henderson from 12 months ago and get a blow in for the home team right from the off?

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When does the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle take place?

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle takes place at 1.30pm on Tuesday 14 March. It is the first race of the Cheltenham Festival.

Supreme Novices Hurdle: runners and riders

Final declarations are on Sunday, March 12. (Rating out of five in brackets)

1 Chasing Fire Aidan Coleman (T: Olly Murphy) 20/1 (**)
Easy winner of three hurdles races at Market Rasen and Sandown, has plenty to find on ratings up in class but unbeaten and hard to say how good he will be.

2 Dark Raven – Daryl Jacob (T: Willie Mullins) 25/1 (**)
Debut hurdles winner and placed third in Grade 1 company over this trip at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival last time out. This is tougher again if hoping for something similar.

3 Diverge – Mr P W Mullins (T: Willie Mullins) 14/1 (**)
French import, well held on the evidence of his hurdles bow at Leopardstown over Christmas. An easy winner in a big-field maiden at Punchestown since, he has to step up again.

4 Doctor Bravo – Davy Russell (T: Gordon Elliott) 16/1 (**)
Down Royal maiden winner in January and a fair third since in a Grade 3 contest against experienced rivals at Gowran Park, but much more is required now.

5 Facile Vega – Paul Townend (T: Willie Mullins) 7/4 (***)
Champion Bumper winner last year and hot favourite for this since his Grade 1 win at Leopardstown at Christmas, but last month’s flop at the same venue, when he went off too fast, has to be forgiven.

6 Fennor Cross – Simon Torrens (T: John McConnell) 40/1 (**)
Rallying winner of the Supreme trial over course and distance on good ground in November, but hasn’t been seen since, which is a negative, and has plenty more to find now.

7 High Definition – JJ Slevin (T: Joseph O’Brien) 10/1 (***)
High-class Flat performer who won on his hurdles debut at Christmas. Contributed to rapid pace in Facile Vega’s defeat at Leopardstown, where he unseated his rider. Dangerous if getting a solo run.

8 Il Etait Temps – Danny Mullins (T: Willie Mullins) 13/2 (*****)
Picked up the pieces when Facile Vega folded at Leopardstown and won quite stylishly. Trainer's winners of that race do well at this meeting. Underestimated.

9 Inthepocket – Rachael Blackmore (T: Henry de Bromhead) 20/1 (**)
Second behind Il Etait Temps at Leopardstown last month when a mistake at the penultimate hurdle was no help. Stamina will be an asset coming up the hill here.

10 Marine National – Michael O'Sullivan (T: Barry Connell) 7/2 (****)
Unbeaten after two bumpers and two hurdles. Most recently the determined winner of the Grade 1 Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December. A player who may improve again.

11 Palace Boy – Paddy Brennan (T: Fergal O’Brien) 200/1 (*)
Finished second, 11 lengths behind the smart mare Luccia, in a Listed event at Exeter last month. A 40/1 shot that day and lots to find on that evidence.

12 Rare Edition – Sam Twiston-Davies (T: Charlie Longsdon) 25/1 (**)
Won his first two over timber in good style and was second last time out in Listed company at Huntingdon (2m 3½f, good). Lots to find on ratings and down in trip.

13 Strong Leader – Sean Bowen (T: Olly Murphy) 33/1 (**)
Hasn’t needed more than third gear in recording three hurdles wins so far but will be challenged this time for sure and interesting to see what is under the bonnet.

14 Tahmuras – Harry Cobden (T: Paul Nicholls) 8/1 (****)
Three wins out of three over timber for Britain's champion trainer and travelled much the best in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January. Could trouble the Irish if coming into this late.

Why does the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle matter?

This is the premier Novice event at the Festival, coming as it does over the shortest trip. It brings together the very best and quickest young hurdlers from Britain and Ireland in a scrap for the most sought-after prize available to them during their first term of jumping.

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What happened in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year?

Last year was a spectacular renewal as Constitution Hill delivered a scintillating performance, defeating his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Jonbon by a whopping 22 lengths and smashing the track record in doing so. He marked himself down as a potential superstar that afternoon and nothing he has done since has suggested anything different.

Which horses lead the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle betting?

Facile Vega remains favourite at 6/4 for Mullins, despite a shock heavy defeat at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. He won the Champion Bumper here last season and is now bidding to follow his mother, Quevega, who won the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival six years in a row from 2009 to 2014.

Marine Nationale won the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December and is 7/2 for Connell, while Mullins’ other Dublin Racing Festival winners Il Etait Temps and Gaelic Warrior are at single-figure odds, just ahead of leading British contender Tahmuras at 10/1 for Nicholls.

Who should I bet on in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle?

Il Etait Temps was beaten by Facile Vega at Christmas when they met at Leopardstown but it was all change last month in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle when the Facile Vega was disappointingly last of the five finishers and Danny Mullins’ mount beat Inthepocket by nearly 10 lengths. With that win in mind, he might be the safest option at this stage.

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