Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey reveal antepost picks for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle opens the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

Ruby Walsh & Frank Hickey

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Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey have given their take on this year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

Speaking on the first episode of our special Countdown To Cheltenham podcast, the dynamic duo discussed the likely contenders for the curtain-raiser, for which Paddy Power are offering a FREE £/€5 bet.

You can listen to the full show BELOW.

Ruby Walsh

APPRECIATE IT looks to be Willie Mullins’ Supreme Novice horse and arguably the form of his win at Cork, against Master McShee in a maiden hurdle, is stronger than his win over Irascible at Leopardstown in a graded hurdle, who was Henry de Bromhead’s second string on the day.

Appreciate It has the pace to win at 2m and we know he stays further as he won a 2m4f bumper. He’s a good jumper and ticks all the right boxes. All you have to worry about really is whether you’ll back him at the price. Maybe he’ll be better value on the day.

He’s a seven-year-old now but stats are there to be broken and Captain Cee Bee is the only seven-year-old to do it in the last 24 years. That’s not really a concern though as he took a different route to his hurdling career, coming from point-to-points and then running in bumpers. He just started a little later than the likes of Champagne Fever, Al Ferof or Noland, who were all former bumper horses I rode to win the Supreme Novices Hurdle, whereas Vautour and Douvan didn’t start their careers in bumpers.

The Cheltenham Bumper can get a bad rap, but it depends on the race, doesn’t it? Appreciate It was second to Ferny Hollow last year when favourite. A lot of good horses run in the Champion Bumper, but there’s not going to be Champions produced every race, every year. Champions are quite rare.

Appreciate It has only had two runs and it’s more than likely we’ll see him at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on the first weekend of February and we’ll all have a better idea then. I don’t think Paul Townend will have a difficult decision to make among Willie’s other runners to see who he might ride in the Supreme Novices Hurdle on the opening day though. If I was still riding, that’s who I would be on.

Appreciate It Patrick Mullins Leopardstown February 1, 2020

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Frank Hickey

You’re not looking too far beyond the obvious in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The favourite is usually thereabouts and Appreciate It and we will want to be really competitively priced until we have a lot more information on all the runners about a the week before March 16.

You couldn’t knock METIER, who was very useful on the Flat for Andy Slattery and was rated 88. He’s now with Harry Fry and is three from three over hurdles. He won easily at Newton Abbott and Ascot then followed that up in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown. At Newton Abbott he beat Oneupmanship, who’s now rated 123 over hurdles and was second in a nice handicap at Wincanton last week. That’s useful form.

At Ascot, Metier conceded a penalty to Tile Tapper, who finished third in a nice Cheltenham bumper – during which My Drogo was seven lengths ahead of Tile Tapper in second. I don’t think the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown was a very strong renewal, but Metier won it well and the time compared very well to the other two hurdle races on the card.

If the ground came up good-to-soft there would be a small question mark over Metier, as all his wins have been on soft and heavy going. Sandown can be a little bit tricky when it comes to times because horses can run big times there, but don’t seem able to replicate it. Fiddlerontheroof  won last year’s Tolworth in a decent time, but couldn’t back it up at Cheltenham.

Metier looks to be going for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month. It would be a big ask to win that off his current mark, but if he did, he would nearly be challenging Appreciate It for favouritism in the Supreme Hurdle market. However, Metier isn’t one I am massively keen on.

Metier Sean Bowen Sandown January 2, 2021

THIRD TIME LUCKI is the best of the English bumper horses from last year, after finishing fourth in the Champion Bumper, where Appreciate It was second to Ferny Hollow who has been ruled out for the season. He won his first two hurdle starts at Uttoxeter and Wetherby relatively easily and was then beaten in second behind For Pleasure in the Grade 2 Supreme Trial at Cheltenham in November.

He was given an awful lot to do that day, held up way off the leader. That was heavy ground, which I don’t think is ideal for him, but he bolted up at Kempton at Christmas and he will have another run before Cheltenham. He looks like one that has been nicely brought along nicely and he has plenty of experience. They will be aiming for him to peak for the Supreme and I wouldn’t discount him.

You’ve then got BOOTHILL, a six-year-old, who was second in two point-to-points and was a very impressive winner of a bumper at Kempton. He travelled all over them, picked up nicely and won by four lengths. The second, Bothwell Bridge, won on his hurdles debut and was then third to Bravemansgame and is rated 130. The third at Kempton, Valleres, is rated 135, the fourth is rated 121 and even the fifth was rated 130 – and Boothill slammed them. It was a really good bumper and he was the best by miles.

He wasn’t seen again until winning his hurdles debut at Taunton, carrying 10st 12lb, in a time of 4:10.28. Atholl Street won the other division of the bumper carrying a 6lb penalty and was around three seconds slower. I would like to see Boothill again before Cheltenham, but he’s one to keep in mind, because he’s got loads of ability.

Boothill Sean Bowen Taunton December 10, 2020

More Cheltenham tips

MY DROGO has impressed me but is unlikely to go to Cheltenham if the ground is soft or worse. He made his debut in a bumper at Cheltenham last October, when second to I Am Maximus before winning his maiden hurdle at Newbury, beating Flinteur Sacre.

Flinteur Sacre had a massive reputation but was only fourth that day and that race has previously been a decent pointer for Cheltenham. He then won the Grade 2 Supreme Trial at Ascot, taking a bit of a tug most of the way around, but it was a strongly-run race and he was very strong in the finish. He was getting 5lbs from Llandinabo Lad but I really like the way he did it. He’s a big chasing-type with loads of ability and he might be one for the Marsh Chase next year. If the ground is testing on the opening day and he is running, I wouldn’t put a line through him at all. He’s still very unexposed.

As all Paddy Power’s Cheltenham Races are ‘Non-Runner, Money Back’ then I would pick My Drogo because if the ground isn’t suitable he won’t run – and you get your stake refunded. Another to mention is Irish raider KESKONRISK.

He will have his work cut out to turn his form around against Appreciate It from the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown, but at Christmas Joseph O’Brien’s runners were very badly out of form and I thought this one ran okay. He travelled well until the turn in when he was left flat-footed and he was beaten a long way, but he ran on to finish third and if he got a bit of better ground he could run well at a big price.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle bet summary – Tuesday, March 16

Ruby Walsh – Appreciate It

Frank Hickey – My Drogo

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