The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the race that jumps fans spend more time counting down to than any other.
As the curtain-raiser at the Cheltenham Festival, it is accompanied by the famous roar of the crowd and the signal that four days of red-hot National Hunt racing are under way.
The runners are set to go off at 1.30 on Tuesday afternoon with ground conditions soft as the action in the Cotswolds begins.
Our racing expert has a selection and next best for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Cheltenham 1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle tips
Enda McElhinney’s fancies for the big race are below. Scroll down to read the expert analysis behind them.
Odds correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.
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Facile Vega has history against him
The six-year-old gelding Facile Vega would have been many punters’ idea of a banker in this race had things not gone awry for him last month at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Trainer Willie Mullins felt his stable jockey Paul Townend rode the horse “like a machine” as they joined High Definition in setting a frantic early pace.
The Joseph O’Brien inmate unshipped JJ Slevin down the back straight, seemingly leaving Facile Vega to go on and win his race, but the exertions told in the run-in for home and he stopped abruptly, fading into a distant fifth.
The Mullins camp are adamant he can rebound under more patient tactics – but that was an alarming setback and history points to horses that did not finish first, second or third in their previous start having a damning record in this race.
For that reason the long-time ante-post favourite is overlooked with a heavy heart, having been a bona-fide Facile Vega fan for so long.
Il Etait Temps needs more credit than he got
While that race in Ireland last month was perhaps best recalled for Facile Vega’s implosion late on, as well as the testing early gallop he and High Definition set, forgotten amid it all was IL ETAIT TEMPS coming through to win by nearly 10 lengths from Inthepocket.
High Definition is likely to take them along at a fast clip again and, as Ruby Walsh suggested recently, the pace in this race is always quick as tensions are heightened among the riders waiting to get going in front of 65,000 excited racegoers.
A good stayer is needed – and Il Etait Temps was never stronger than after the last at Leopardstown when he pulled away under Danny Mullins.
He ran well in the Triumph Hurdle here last season and that can stand him in good stead now. He is making strides forward all the while and his three runs this season have been progressive. If Facile Vega does not rebound, he must have a massive claim.
Tip: Il Etait Temps @ 9/2 with Sky Bet
Dark Raven some value for Jacob
Royal Bond winner Marine Nationale is a key player for Barry Connell but there is just some worry that he has not had a run since his early December success at Fairyhouse. He remains unbeaten and could still be that way after this: it certainly would not be foolish to believe he can win.
But for some each-way potential in the race, DARK RAVEN is proposed.
He was third in that Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle five weeks ago on just his second start over obstacles, getting to within a half-length of Inthepocket despite a mistake mid-race and another at the final flight.
He is entitled to have learnt plenty in the heat of Grade 1 battle there – and with severe doubts about the English novices at this trip, it would not be a shock if he ran into the frame for Daryl Jacob in the colours of Isaac Suede and Simon Munir at a big price.
Tip: Dark Raven @ 25/1 with Sky Bet