Vautour tops Sky Bet Supreme entry
A total of 102 entries have been received for The Festival curtain raiser, the £120,000 Grade One Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle over an extended two miles on Champion Day, March 11.
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Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins, successful last year with Champagne Fever, has an amazing 22 contenders engaged including Sky Bet's 8/1 favourite Vautour, who is unbeaten in two starts in Ireland, Moyle Park (20/1 with Sky Bet) and Valseur Lido (16/1).
The 44 Irish entries also feature dual Grade One winner The Tullow Tank (10/1, Philip Fenton), eye-catching Fairyhouse scorer Lieutenant Colonel (20/1, Dessie Hughes) and the progressive Western Boy (16/1, Pat Fahy).
The Tullow Tank has, according to Fenton, thrived since his eight-length victory in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Fenton said: "He had an easy 10 days after the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle but he's back in full work now and really has blossomed.
"He's been absolutely fine and worked last Saturday morning. He's very well and I'm very happy with him since.
"I was impressed and very pleased with the Leopardstown run over the way in which he really excelled when he got in a battle and won that quite easily and then went away to the line.
"He's now on course for the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 9.
"I think the extra two furlongs there will be right up his alley and I've always thought that without a doubt it was obvious that he would get two miles and further."
Despite Fenton's belief that The Tullow Tank will stay a longer trip, the Supreme remains the conditional aim at the Festival.
The County Tipperary handler said: "At the moment it's the two-miler (Supreme) we're thinking of, but the other race (Neptune) will be under consideration as well.
"The ground will be a factor and we'll have to play it by ear and see closer to the time."
Paul Nicholls' trio are headed by German import Irving (10/1), who extended his unbeaten record to three in a Grade Two contest at Ascot in December, while Nicky Henderson's nine entries include Royal Boy (20/1) and Josses Hill (14/1), first and second in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 11.
Other notables include StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell' Arca (33/1, David Pipe), Ladbroke Hurdle victor Willow's Saviour (20/1, Dan Skelton) and Zamdy Man (25/1, Venetia Williams), who triumphed in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Haydock Park on January 18.
Michael Shinners of Sky Bet commented: "Sky Bet is delighted to be extending its support to the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the first time in 2014. Everything we expected to be entered is in there and we are all set for the perfect curtain-raiser to The Festival on Tuesday, March 11."
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Sky Bet bet: 8/1 Vautour; 10/1 Irving, The Tullow Tank; 12/1 Ivan Grozny; 14/1 Josses Hill; 16/1 Valseur Lido, West Wizard, Western Boy; 20/1 Ballyalton, Briar Hill, First Mohican, Moyle Park, Royal Boy, Golantilla, Red Sherlock, Lieutenant Colonel, Sure Reef, Willow's Saviour; 25/1 Bar