When the ante post betting pandemonium of the weeks leading up to the Cheltenham festival is replaced by the anticipation of the first race, I am sure that each of us looks forward to the runners lining up for the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
If you have not attended the Cheltenham festival before, then listen out for the roar from the stands when the tape goes up and the horses’ gallop towards the first fence in the Novice Hurdle. There really is nothing like it in the racing world.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is classified as a grade 1 National Hunt Hurdle race.
In recent years the Supreme Novices Hurdle has had a start time of 13:30 on the first Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle is open to horses of 4 years and older, although those entering the race at 5 years plus must carry an extra 7lb.
The race is just over 2 miles long, at a total distance of 2 miles and half a furlong.
There was a total prize fund in 2011 of £100,000 and the winner will usually receive just over half of this amount.
There are 8 hurdles for the brave novices to conquer before completing the course!
- There has only been one four-year-old winner of the race since 1973, this was Hors La Loi III in 1999.
- Out of the past 14 winners, only 6 have started the race in the front two of the betting market.
- The average age of the winner over the past 10 years has been 6 years old.
- 15 horses out of the last 20 winners, have won on their previous start.
- Apart from Paul Nicholls, the past 10 running’s of the Supreme Novices Hurdle have all been won by different trainers.
- Favourites have an abysmal record in the race, with only 6 obliging for the backers over the past 31 years. Even more ominous for those of us thinking of betting on the favourite for the 2012 Supreme Novices Hurdle is the fact that no favourite has won the race for 6 years!
- Horses starting the race at a price of less than 3/1 have not rewarded punters in recent years. Out of 15 runners in this category, only 3 have managed to win the race, a strike rate of only 20%.
- 10 out of the last 11 winners of the race had all ran within the 45 days leading into the race.
- Irish trained horses have a fantastic record in recent years, with 8 of the previous 12 winners being trained in the Emerald Isle.
- 42% of past winners, or 8 out of 19, have had only one or two previous outings over hurdles. The race tends to reward those horses that are lightly raced over hurdles.
This race is very much the kick-start to the festival, however it is also a pretty challenging race for us punters to get right! Why you may ask? Well, the Supreme Novice Hurdle contains a large field for starters, so you are normally looking in the region of 15 to 20 runners. This is itself does not necessarily mean it is not a good race for betting on, however the horses entering the race are open to vast improvement and hence results can be somewhat unpredictable. The average SP for the winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle over the past 10 years has been a shade under 12/1, so it is not classed as a race that necessarily rewards punters for betting on favourites.
I personally look to take on (lay) any favourite at a price of less than 3/1, due to the poor record of short priced favourites in the Supreme Novices over recent years. Even if the favourite has no question marks over form and ability, the field is so competitive and there are so many improvers, that betting at a short price does not appeal to me.
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History Of The Race
In years gone by, even country gentlemen would not have known what the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival was. This is because the race was initially known as the Gloucestershire Novices Hurdle and was first raced way back in 1946. In 1974 the race was renamed after becoming sponsored by Lloyds Bank, to the Lloyds’ Bank Novices Hurdle. A change of sponsor, to Waterford Crystal, in 1978, saw the race name changed to what we now know as the Supreme Novices Hurdle. The race has flitted between sponsors since 1990, however the 2012 Supreme Novices Hurdle will be sponsored by the bookmaker, William Hill.
There has been little in the way of trainer or jockey domination in the Supreme Novices since 1972. The largest haul in terms of winning the race since this date has been two across both jockeys and trainers, with the most recent dual winner being Paul Nicholls with Noland in 2006 and also Al Ferof in the 2011 race. If we take it way back to the 1950s, then we can see that Vincent O’Brien recorded a whopping 10 victories in the race over a period of 8 years. Hats off to Mr O’Brien, I bet there are a few trainers who wish that they could produce a similar strike rate to his during the 1950s. In saying this, the race conditions were different 50 years ago and the contest was divided into three separate categories, so potentially he may have had more chances to win. In-spite of this, we at Sportsbook Guardian salute you Vincent O’Brien, good work Sir. If there was a trainer with the dominance of O’Brien in the past 10 years, it would make betting on the Supreme Novices Hurdle a hell of a-lot easier for us punters!