Every week until the Cheltenham Festival in March 2021, I will take a look at one of the 28 races that we are counting down to at the festival. At each weekend now, we will recieve more and more clues as to who to look out for. I will try to keep you ahead of the game and up-to-date with which horses to track and the ones who could be there at the finishing line.
I am going to kick off this new feature with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which is about two miles and half a furlong and arguably provided the most dramatic conclusion of this year’s festival.
As they turned the corner for home, many contenders had been eliminated after Asterion Forlonge’s antics, but Shishkin overcame trouble to incredibly get up and beat Abacadabras on the nod.
Abacadabras and jockey Davy Russell looked poised to win as they surged through the field up until the final flight, before Shishkin appeared on the scene.
A gutsy ride from Nico de Boinville was rewarded with a tight victory and one that has earned Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old strong favouritism in the upcoming Arkle Chase at the 2021 festival.
It is always tough to talk about horses, dates and intended runs as things chop and change a lot in racing.
However I will begin with the Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow, a young horse who has beaten many of its big rivals already during his short career.
The Willie Mullins-trained horse was simply too quick for Appreciate It when running up the home straight in the showpiece flat race at this year’s festival, having been ridden patiently by Paul Townend.
Mullins has had four out of Ireland’s five wins in the last eight renewals of the Supreme race, however Champion Bumper form may not be the best indicator.
Since the race’s inception at the festival in 1992, only two horses have gone on to win the Supreme the following year.
At five years old, Ferny Hollow has won two out of its four races in its competitive career and has already beaten the likes of Appreciate It, Queen’s Brook and Third Time Lucki.
Many of these horses are beginning to make their seasonal reappearances, Ferny Hollow could make his long-awaited return and hurdle debut at Gowran Park on Friday.
Like Ferny Hollow, Ballyadam is another impressive young horse that belongs to Cheveley Park Stud that is making waves in the sport.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, Ballyadam won on its hurdling debut at Down Royal in October and has an entry at Fairyhouse in the Grade-One BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle on 29th November alongside Eric Bloodaxe, Eskylane and Cask Mate.
The five-year-old has won two out of its three rules races, the only blemish came on heavy ground at Navan in February and the two horses who finished ahead of him have proven to be impressive runners themselves.
Jamie Codd, who rode Ballyadam on the flat, and trainer Gordon Elliott have sung the praises of yet another young Irish prospect for the Supreme.
Having been a victim to Ferny Hollow’s excellence, Appreciate It could give Mullins another victory in this race, should he choose to go in it.
Appreciate It gave Miss M. Masterson two of her six wins in last season’s Irish jumps calendar, as Carefully Selected notched up three victories.
This six-year-old is a bigger horse than his stablemate Ferny Hollow and has previously won over two miles and four furlongs at Leopardstown, which was one of the horse’s two victories at the course last season.
Although this impressive flat horse is near the top of the market, Mullins has previously said the Albert Bartlett Novice’s Hurdle, which is over two miles and seven furlongs, is the likely choice for the festival.
Another Irish raider whom racing fans are waiting to return is Bob Olinger, who has only had one run under rules and has had a victory over three miles in a point-to-point race.
We will need to see more of Henry De Bromhead’s lightly-raced five-year old, who won his only rules race in a bumper by 10 lengths at Gowran Park in March.
Bob Olinger is entered in the same race as Ferny Hollow on Friday, we’ll be hopeful that these entries remain so we can watch these young superstars battle it out.
In terms of the the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle, the next few months will be decisive. But keep an eye out as De Bromhead could have a horse that belongs at the top of your tracker.
Sprinter Sacre is a horse that undoubtedly lives in the hearts of many horseracing fans, so I hope this season can be the start of an equally illustrious career for his brother.
Flinteur Sacre won last time out at Kempton in February on much better ground than its first appearance under rules at Newbury in January.
Barry Geraghty loves this horse, having ridden it on both his course appearances. The win at Kempton was stylish and if he takes to hurdles this season, Flinteur Sacre could light up the festival in March.
Henderson has spoken of the horse’s enthusiasm at home and his jumping has been good. The heart could rule the head on this one, but it would be great if Flinteur Sacre made it back-to-back wins in the Supreme for the Seven Barrows trainer.
Dusart is another hope for Henderson in this race, who has recently emerged as a great talent off the back of a victory at Newbury on 5th November.
A lot of attention surrounded this horse when it overcame Soaring Glory at Newbury, but also as it is the half-brother of Simonsig, the dual Grade-One winner at the Cheltenham festival.
The horse was bought for €85,000 in the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale in 2018, and now owner Ronnie Bartlett could have a superstar on his hands.
It would be a bold call to say ‘Dusart will win the Supreme’ after one win under rules, we will need to see progress before judgement is passed and bets are placed.
A horse with more experience under its belt is Third Time Lucki, who is trained by Dan Skelton and owned by Mike and Eileen Newbould.
Ever since its debut at an Ascot bumper in November 2019, Third Time Lucki has been a great horse for the Skelton’s and is a tough one to beat.
The five-year-old came second at the weekend to For Pleasure in the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle trial at Cheltenham, having won its previous two races.
He came fourth behind Ferny Hollow in the Champion Bumper at this year’s festival, only six lengths adrift which is by no means disappointing.
Skelton clearly thinks that activity is the tonic for this horse, having run three times in the last month which is three more times than horses such as Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It have appeared since March.
The horse that beat Third Time Lucki, For Pleasure, is another interesting prospect for trainer Alex Hales who has caught the eye this season.
For Pleasure is a horse that has taken a while to find top form, it won a handicap hurdle at Stratford in July which was its first win since May 2018.
This has proven to be a turning point, as the five-year-old has won three times in four races since that day at Stratford.
It produced a phenomenal front-running display to beat Third Time Lucki to land the Grade-Two Supreme Novice’s Hurdle trial and, in doing so, has now thrown another hat in the ring for the festival curtain-raiser.
Although the Premier Plastering Limited-owned gelding took victory at the weekend, he did jump markedly left over some of his hurdles and wandered in the home straight, which could be an issue if it is to go a step further in landing Grade-One honours.
There is an abundance of horses that could line up in this race in March that are all talented and carry fine form, you could speak all day about horses that I haven’t even mentioned.
My early feelings are for Flinteur Sacre who looks a lovely horse, but it seems it would depend on the ground.
Ferny Hollow showed glimpses of Envoi Allen at last year’s festival, and Ballyadam is capable of dismantling the field.
Flinteur Sacre’s next course appearance will be an intriguing occasion and one that I suspect will not disappoint, he travels beautifully and I think it will have the class for the big day.