Sky Bet Supreme: In profile
Ben Linfoot profiles every runner in the sponsors' betting for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
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West Wizard (Sky Bet odds - 8/1) - Cruised clear on his only start in a Kempton bumper last March for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty. That form has been franked by both the second, The Pirate's Queen, and third, The Skyfarmer, since, with both horses having won subsequently. Henderson introduces many of his smartest prospects at Kempton and this son of King's Theatre looks likely to be another useful tool over timber to come out of Seven Barrows.
Briar Hill (14/1) - Perhaps the most incredible aspect of his Weatherbys Champion Bumper win was the fact he was sent off at 25/1 despite representing the formidable Willie Mullins-Ruby Walsh double act. His SP suggests his win was a shock even to his connections, but the Graham Wylie-owned horse looks highly likely to make his mark over hurdles judging by his bumper form. David Pipe's The Liquidator, fourth at Cheltenham, franked the form by landing the Grade One bumper at Punchestown. Likely to get further in time, it's up in the air whether Briar Hill will take the route to the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' that stablemate Champagne Fever did. It's 14/1 about him emulating the Bumper/Supreme feat achieved by the talented grey.
Tiger Cliff (20/1) - Rapid improver on the Flat this year for the late Sir Henry Cecil. Won the Ebor for Lady Cecil off a mark of 98 and was raised to 104 on the back of that success; it proved beyond him in the Cesarewitch. Looks all about stamina on the level so there has to be a doubt whether he would be quick enough for a Supreme, but a very interesting recruit to the National Hunt game if he proves himself capable of jumping a hurdle.
First Mohican (20/1) - Just like Tiger Cliff he is owned by Henry Ponsonby and trained by Alan King, having formerly being in the care of the Cecils at Warren Place. He has a very similar Flat rating too - 106 as opposed to Tiger Cliff's 104 - so the similarities are obvious and it's easy to see why Sky Bet price them both up at 20s for the Supreme. This fellow is probably more equipped for the speed test given he was a 10-furlong horse on the Flat, but he too has to prove his appetite for the jumping game first and foremost.
Golantilla (20/1) - Barry Connell forked out €375,000 for this smart-looking son of Golan following an impressive 13-length victory in a Cork bumper last January. Sent off the 9/1 joint-third favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on the back of that, he travelled well but couldn't quicken when beaten seven lengths and two-and-a-quarter lengths by Briar Hill and Regal Encore in third. Looks a hugely exciting prospect and though his future looks certain to involve fences, it would be no surprise were he to develop into a serious novice hurdler for Tony Martin.
Moyle Park (20/1) - The second Willie Mullins-trained prospect in the list and the first to be owned by Rich and Susannah Ricci who also have Faugheen to go to war with in the two-mile novice hurdles (and further, presumably). This five-year-old son of Flemensfirth won a Leopardstown bumper by four lengths before being bought out of David Kelly's yard for £250,000, €58,999 of which was instantly recouped when he justified 7/4 favouritism in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival on his Mullins debut.
Regal Encore (20/1) - Very impressive in Chepstow bumper last October after which he was put away until the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, running second to Briar Hill. Made his seasonal reappearance when a never-nearer two-and-a-quarter length second to Philip Hobbs' Garde La Victoire at Aintree on October 26, held up in rear by AP McCoy and nursed into contest after some deliberate leaps. SP of 8/15 suggests a disappointing defeat, but it was actually a pleasing debut over timber and he could well still rank high in the novice-hurdle division come the season's end.
Minella Foru (25/1) - Point to point winner who travelled and quickened well to win on his debut under Rules for Edward Harty at Listowel on September 21. Got the better of the highly-touted Very Wood (see below) when winning a Grade 3 at Navan on November 10, shaping like a smart prospect. Interesting contender for connections who won the 2008 renewal with Captain Cee Bee.
Very Wood (25/1) - Impressive winner of 4-y-o bumper at Punchestown Festival when trained by Gordon Elliott last April, powering clear to win by almost five lengths. Switched yards to Noel Meade subsequently and won on debut for his new trainer when comfortably landing odds of 2/11 in the Corrib Oil Maiden Hurdle at Galway in October, making most from halfway after taking a lead for the first mile. Both of his wins have come in soft or heavy ground. Beaten by Minella Foru at Navan on November 10.
Faugheen (25/1) - Another Willie Mullins bumper horse and this once-raced son of Germany could hardly have been more impressive on his sole start for the king of County Carlow. Sent off as the 11/8 favourite for a Punchestown bumper last May, he routed the opposition by 22 lengths and is a fascinating recruit to the hurdling ranks.
Garde La Victoire (25/1) - Won Exeter bumper last October on sole start in 2012/13, with New Year's Day target at Cheltenham abandoned and then health problems keeping him off the track subsequently. Benefitted from positive ride when beating Regal Encore at Aintree and, though he's done nothing wrong in two starts, it would be no surprise if the above rival were able to reverse that Liverpool form should they meet again. Trainer Philip Hobbs is first targeting a small race under a penalty before stepping him up in grade.
Gone Too Far (25/1) - Was a highly-promising length second to Oscar Rock on debut in Newbury bumper when travelled strongly and duly landed odds of 4/6 at Kempton on his next start in May. Was sent off at the same price for hurdling debut at Wetherby on November 2, making fairly hard work of it to see off Paul Nicholls' Varom after racing keenly.
Volnay De Thaix (25/1) - Nicky Henderson introduced this French recruit in a novice hurdle at Kempton on November 4 and he impressed in an 11-length victory. Gave weight to everything and was eased down so could be interesting; we'll learn more when he's stepped up in class.
Noble Inn (25/1) - Won a maiden hurdle on his debut for Willie Mullins at Ballinrobe on September 24, keeping on well to beat subsequent winner Clarcam by almost three lengths. That victory was achieved on good ground, conditions his trainer has suggested could be his optimum.
Arctic Fire (25/1) - Yet another Willie Mullins inmate, and another impressive winner on his debut over hurdles. Always travelling well in a hood, he didn't have to be asked any questions to beat useful yardstick Enchanted Forest - a solid, if frustrating, 122-rated maiden with seven seconds and three thirds to his name after 20 starts over timber! Again, Mullins is wary of his effectiveness on deep, winter ground. But he does rate him highly saying "he could be one of our better hurdlers in the 2m division."
Oscar Rock (25/1) - To Oscar Rock himself, an impressive winner of two Newbury bumpers following on from his debut defeat at the hands of Urubu d'Irlande at Taunton. He looked particularly good in his February 9 victory and the form of that race could hardly have worked out better, with the fifth, Killyglass, and second, Vago Collonges, going on to finish first and second in the Champion Bumper at Aintree respectively. Has since switched from Harry Fry to Malcolm Jefferson and made his hurdling debut with a win at Wetherby. Looked very good bar a slight mistake at the last but was promoted to favouritism for the Neptune on the back of that win.
Union Dues (25/1) - The choice of Patrick Mullins in last year's Champion Bumper and consequently the shortest price horse at 9/1 from father Willie's triple assault on the contest. Had looked impressive at Killarney and Navan and his eighth at the Festival was no disgrace. Had a run on the Flat at Galway when winning a 1m4f maiden by six lengths as 11/10 favourite in July, but, despite that run, is one for the second half of the season according to his trainer.
The Liquidator (25/1) - Fourth in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for David Pipe before going on to Grade 1 success at the Punchestown Festival. Looks a smart prospect but possibly over further than the two miles of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' and we'll earn more when he runs in a 2m1f novices' hurdle at Carlisle on Wednesday.
Novirak (25/1) - A two-time winner on the Flat from 12 starts including a 1m4f handicap at Epsom off a mark of 75 (ridden by Denis O'Regan in the Jump Jockeys Derby Handicap!). Now rated 87 in that sphere - a career high - and though yet to jump a hurdle in public he is trained by a man who won the Champion Hurdle back in 2002 with Hors La Loi III - James Fanshawe.
Le Vent d'Antan (28/1) - This four-year-old's dam was an unraced daughter of 1,000 Guineas winner and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Pebbles and he looked to have inherited at least some of his granddam's ability when winning a Leopardstown bumper by six lengths in January. His only subsequent start came when seventh in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham when he travelled well for a long way. Trained by Elizabeth Doyle.
Urubu d'Irlande (33/1) - And just like buses... here's another Nicholls hopeful. This fellow won a maiden point in May 2012 before defeating Oscar Rock by three lengths despite showing signs of greenness in a Taunton bumper in October last year. That form was given a significant boost by the runner-up on a couple of occasions and it will be fascinating to see how he develops when faced with an assignment over hurdles.
Carriganog (33/1) - Represents JP McManus and Aidan O'Brien so going to be of obvious interest to those who fondly remember Istabraq. He's two from two over hurdles and won very easily - by 16 lengths - at Wexford last time.
Diamond King (33/1) - Diana Whateley owns Garde La Victoire and Diamond King as she bids to win a second Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle following on from Menorah's success in 2010. As good as Garde La Victoire looked at Aintree, Diamond King could well be the most exciting hurdling prospect to run in the owner's two-tone blue colours this winter. A wide-margin winner of two bumpers for Donald McCain in the second half of last season, he looked a horse of real potential and is likely to prove hard to beat in an ordinary novice hurdle in the north before testing the waters in better company.
Sea Lord (33/1) - Rattled up a six-timer over hurdles throughout the summer, looking particularly impressive when winning handicaps at Market Rasen and Perth off marks of 133 and 146 respectively. Looks sure to be given a break this winter given his busy schedule, but his vast experience could come in handy in the rough and tumble of a Supreme. Most of his winning has come on good ground or faster, though, so those sort of conditions could be a prerequisite for this Group Three winner on the Flat (rated 115 at his zenith).
Alonso (33/1) - Spanish bred as you might've guessed and he looked to have some of the acceleration that Fernando's Ferrari displays when he motored away with a maiden hurdle at Wexford on October 26. Another one for Briar Hill's connections - the Wylies and that man Mullins - Alonso was reported to have needed time last year but he looked full of himself on his Irish debut and will step up into novice company next time out.
Blackmail (33/1) - Like Arctic Fire earlier, this is another horse to have got the better of luckless maiden Enchanted Forest. Tony Martin's charge beat him on his hurdling debut at Galway in July and has subsequently won at Bellewstown over timber too, by 17 lengths at odds of 1/7.
Hologram (33/1) - Won a bumper for David Elsworth at Wincanton last May, before being sent to Gordon Elliott after being purchased by Gigginstown. Sent off at 16/1 when making debut for new connections in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown on October 16, falling when beginning to make progress two out.
Lac Fontana (33/1) - French recruit trained by Paul Nicholls. Good second to Nicky Henderson's Chatterbox on novice hurdle debut at Newbury in February, before running third in the Dovecote and then a 34-length eighth in Our Conor's Triumph. Rated 130 after those performances and put lesser-talented rivals in their place when making all for a routine success at Cheltenham's Showcase Meeting on October 18.
Tistory (33/1) - Nicky Henderson six-year-old who won two bumpers in France before winning another from Evan Williams' Court Minstrel at Ludlow on British debut in March 2012. Off the track 13 months and returned when sent off 2/1 favourite for the Champion Bumper at Aintree, travelling nicely before being given an easy time of things when his chance had gone. Easily won a four-runner novices' hurdle at Towcester in May and a very interesting prospect for the upcoming season.
Doctor Harper (33/1) - Won two bumpers before finishing 12th in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. Looked very good on hurdles debut at Exeter on November 5, justifying odds of 8/11 with an impressive eight-length victory. Trained by David Pipe.
Vautour (33/1) - Guillaume Macaire-trained four-year-old who was runner-up to Black River in the Prix Ventriloque at Auteuil in March.
Call The Cops (40/1) - Another Nicky Henderson hopeful. Won a Southwell bumper in May, but didn't jump well when finishing third to Key To The West and Cloud Creeper on hurdling debut at the same track on November 8.