Supreme Novices' Hurdle
The first race of the week, and it looks set to be one of the best of the whole festival. There's been a lot of talk about the first 4 in the market, Constitution Hill, 2/1; Dysart Dynamo, 3/1; Sir Gerhard, 3/1 and Jonbon, 9/2. But even after those two you have last year's Champion Bumper second and Punchestown Bumper winner, Kilcruit, 9/1 and Grade One, Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle winner, Mighty Potter at 14/1. To have a grade one winner on his last start a best priced 14/1 shows how competitive this race really is. Amongst the first four in the betting, there has been talk about each of them at some point or other, potentially stepping up in trip to the Ballymore. You can also ignore quite a lot of the runners in the betting and with Willie Mullins having half of the horses below 100/1 in the market, you expect a few of them will be diverted to other races. In fact there's 3 or 4 you can take straight out, Allegorie De Vassy is running in the Mares' Novice, Pied Piper will run in the Triumph, and I Like To Move It and My Mate Mozzie are supposedly favouring a handicap over this race. That leaves you with 6 outside the top 6 in the betting. Of those 6, 3 are Mullins trained and will surely not all run. I expect we'll end up with maybe 10 runners, but it will be an extremely strong and competitive field.
Favourite for the race is Constitution Hill for Nicky Henderson, winner of both starts this year including the Grade One Tolworth. He has won his races by 14 lengths and then 12 lengths and is clearly a very good horse. He won his debut on good to soft ground and the Tolworth was on heavy ground, so he is versatile in that respect. He travels brilliantly and seems to relax well, before putting his races to bed with a turn of foot. My concern with him, is that the form of the Tolworth hasn't exactly worked out brilliantly. The second, Jetoile was a 40 length last in the Betfair hurdle, the third, Mr Glass was a well beaten 6th in a class three handicap next time out. The fourth is the only one who has in anyway enhanced the form, Shallwehaveonemore, bolted up by 20 lengths in calmer waters next time out. He's favourite for this weekends Grade Two Dovecote so could boost the form again. It's hard to take what Constitution Hill has done at face value, the Tolworth hasn't always worked out as the best trial for the Supreme, and the time wasn't spectacular, but you couldn't help but be visually impressed. There was talk he could step up in trip, because he does settle so well, but I think the Supreme is more likely.
Dysart Dynamo is 3/1 joint second favourite with Stablemate and last years' Champion Bumper winner, Sir Gerhard. Dysart Dynamo, similarly to Constitution Hill, has won both starts this year, bolting up in a maiden hurdle before a demolition of a decent field in the Grade Two Moscow Flyer. The form from his maiden has worked out okay with lots of the horses in behind placing again and going close, nothing spectacular, but he put them to bed by 19 lengths. It was the same winning margin when he bolted up in that Grade Two, making all. The two horses closest to him in the betting that day, were both pulled up so possibly crabs the form a little, but the second placed Gringo Daubrelle, is a horse that I like having previously placed in a grade one at Newbury. He is a free going sort and despite winning his first bumper over 2 miles 2 and being a lot of peoples idea of the Ballymore winner, I think him bowling out in front in the Supreme would be best for him. His stablemate, Sir Gerhard won last years Champion Bumper, and was the early Ante Post favourite for this race. Mullins then threw a spanner in the works for a lot of early season bets by saying he was more of a Ballymore horse and that Kilcruit, the early Ballymore favourite, would target this race. With Kilcruit well beaten on his first two starts, Sir Gerhard's connections mentioned this race as his target, but with Kilcruit looking back to himself on his last start, it may end up being the Ballymore for Sir Gerhard after all. He won his maiden hard held by 8 lengths with two subsequent winners in behind. His next start was in the Grade One over 2 miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, he won that race comfortably, despite not jumping fluently, beating Three Stripe Life and Colonel Mustard by 6 and 12 lengths respectively. They both have graded form and pulled over 40 lengths clear of the rest. Even going through the other runners, the fourth, My Mate Mozzie, was a Grade Three winner and Grade One second; the 5th, Farout, had been 3rd and 4th in two Grade Ones; and the 6th, Statuaire, was a Grade One winner on her last start. On paper this is the best form going into the Supreme, and I would personally have him as the favourite. The concern with him is that Mullins has so many entered in this race, he could feasibly go for the Ballymore, where I think he would have a great chance too.
Just after them we have Jonbon at 9/2. A full brother to superstar Douvan, with a huge price tag, people have been desperate to see this horse fail. So far he has gone unbeaten, racking up 5 straight wins including his point to point. I think he arguably has better form than Constitution Hill, his stablemate. His hurdling debut was a bit of a farce, nobody wanted to lead and the race was run at a real crawl, before developing into a sprint. He still won that by 6 lengths from Good Risk At All, who recently won a valuable handicap up against the non-novices. He was then upped to grade two class in the Kennel Gate Novices' where he beat a strong field by 2 and a half lengths. In second was Colonel Mustard, who was then third behind Sir Gerhard last time out. Taking the form literally that would leave Jonbon with around 10 lengths to find with Sir Gerhard, though Jonbon was eased down and the race was again slowly run. The third, Knappers Hill, was 6th in the Betfair hurdle with the fifth, I Like To Move It, a neck second in that big race, and the fourth, Elle Est Belle is now a dual listed winner and a single figure price for the Mares’ Novice. He has had an extra run over his stablemate, winning the Grade Two Rossington Main at Haydock. He was carrying a 5lbs penalty that day and did appear to briefly be in trouble after jumping so well at a hurdle that he practically landed on top of Donny Boy. He regathered his momentum and ended up winning fair comfortably in the end. It was a more workmanlike performance than we have seen from his market rivals; and he only beat Might I 4 lengths to CH's 14 lengths even accounting for the penalty that Jonbon was carrying, that would leave a bit to find. I do like how he overcame that adversity and still got the job done, a trait that can help in festival races, where you won't always get it your own way. 9/2 is a little big I think, especially if one of those ahead of him goes for the Ballymore.
The next horse in the market is Kilcruit at 9/1, closely matched on bumper form with Sir Gerhard, his hurdling campaign hasn't been such smooth sailing. Beaten 10 lengths at odds of 1/14 on debut, Mullins appeared to have no explanation. He was then upped in trip to 2 and a half miles, where he was outstayed by Journey With Me and Minella Crooner, short prices for the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett respectively. He then finally returned to some sort of form when dropped back to 2 miles again, making all to win by 21 lengths. There was rumours of colic in the off season, and injury after his second run. Whether he wins this or not it was good to see him back in the winners enclosure last time out. He's not running here to make up the numbers and would have a serious chance on his bumper form from last year. Particularly as an each way play now if Sir Gerhard or Dysart Dynamo were to go to the Ballymore.
Mighty Potter is next in the betting at 14/1, winning his only bumper start last year, he went a little under the radar. His first hurdles start he demolished a weak field by 29 lengths when looking mightily impressive. He then contested the Royal Bond Grade One; he was very green that day and looked well beaten but stayed on very well to take third behind Satuaire and My Mate Mozzie. Talks of the Ballymore were quickly quashed, and I think a strongly run two mile Supreme will see him to best effect, where he can hopefully stay on up the hill. His best piece of form was his most recent run, where he won the Grade One Future Champions Novices‘ Hurdle, travelling best of all he pulled away from the field beating Three Stripe Life into second. Again there’s reason to believe he could improve again as he looks very green and to be learning on each run. Sir Gerhard beat Three Stripe Life by further but its still strong form. I think 14/1 is a huge price for an improving Grade One winner, any other year with less superstars, and he’d be a 5/1 shot max. Outside of those main runners, Mullins also has State Man and El Fabiolo who both looked high class when winning their maidens, they lack experience but are unexposed and could both be very good. At 14/1 the pair, they could end up placing but this is a hot race and they’d have to be brilliant to trouble any of the top 6 and wouldn’t be for me as a betting prospect. Three Stripe Life at 16/1 has some good form in the book having chased home Sir Gerhard and Mighty Potter, but I can’t see any reason he would improve past them or reverse that form. With most of the rest likely to run elsewhere, there’s a couple at big prices that I expect will run here. Ha D’or would be one, at 66/1. After making a decent reappearance in second, he got his head in front winning comfortably at the end of January. He‘s entered this week in a Grade Two Novice and contested Graded races last season as a four year old so is clearly regarded fairly well. He’d be way down the Mullins pecking order here you’d imagine, though.
My Ante Post bets for this race have been hit and miss, as I imagine they have been for a few people with it looking such an open race.
Largy Debut - Supreme - 14/1 0.5pts each way (27/12/2021)
Grangeclare West - Supreme - 33/1 0.5pts each way (11/10/2021)
Ha D'Or - Supreme - 66/1 0.5pts each way (27/09/2021)
Sir Gerhard - Supreme 13/2 1pt win (05/07/2021)
Largy Debut beat Kilcruit on debut and then went off favourite for a grade one, he seemed to blow up and didn’t handle going left handed and has since been taken out of this race. Grangeclare West suffered an injury unfortunately. Ha D’Or may still run here, but would be an outsider. Sir Gerhard is a little shorter but may run in the Ballymore. So I could still have two runners here, or none. I haven’t got a strong opinion in terms of another bet for the race at the moment, but may nearer the time.