Cheltenham Tips

Supreme Novices' Hurdle: Timeform's runner-by-runner guide

Racing at Cheltenham
The Supreme Novices' Hurdle kicks off day one of the Cheltenham Festival

"Marine Nationale made it four from four with more to spare than the winning margin implies in the Royal Bond having conceded first run..."

Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide and 1-2-3 verdict for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle
13:30 Cheltenham, Tuesday
Live on ITV

1. Chasing Fire (Olly Murphy/ Aidan Coleman)
Bought for £170,000 after winning his sole outing in points and looked a potential star when landing his sole bumper last term. Has done nothing to alter that view since sent hurdling, making it three from three with a dominant victory in a 6-runner event at Sandown 38 days ago, leading two out and keeping going well from there to win by six lengths. Making up into a smart prospect and seemingly well worth his place at this level.

2. Dark Raven (Willie Mullins/ Daryl Jacob)
Won both starts in bumpers in 2020/21 and belied a lengthy absence in the manner of a potentially smart novice on his Leopardstown hurdling debut in December. Far from disgraced when beaten around 10 lengths into third in the Grade 1 won by Il Etait Temps over the same C&D last time, likely to have finished closer still but for a few novicey mistakes. Open to more improvement if he can brush up on his jumping, though his stable has others with stronger claims.

3. Diverge (Willie Mullins/ Patrick Mullins)
Fairly useful performer on the level in France who left his hurdling debut form well behind when running out an emphatic winner of a 22-runner Punchestown maiden 43 days ago, drawing clear from three out to win by 23 lengths with any amount hand. This will be a whole different ball game, but he's clearly promising and open to further progress with a tongue strap added for the first time.

4. Doctor Bravo (Gordon Elliott/ Davy Russell)
Quickened up well to win his sole bumper and impressed with his attitude when making his second hurdle start a winning one at Down Royal in January. Far from disgraced for one so inexperienced when third in Grade 3 company at Gowran subsequently, passing the post just a length and a half length behind the winner despite having blundered two out. Will be suited by the going (raced only on soft or worse) and remains capable of better.

5. Facile Vega (Willie Mullins/ Paul Townend)
Won all four starts in bumpers last season, including the Champion Bumper at this meeting, and looked just as special over hurdles when running out a ready winner of the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, making all to beat Il Etait Temps by four lengths. Behind that rival when losing his unbeaten record in tame fashion back there last time, but that run is best forgiven under the circumstances (did too much too soon and reported to be lame afterwards). Remains one to be positive about and has the ability to play a leading role.

6. Fennor Cross (John McConnell/ Simon Torrens)
Fairly useful handicapper on the Flat who built on the promise of his hurdling debut when landing a C&D maiden in October. Progressed again when following up in a Grade 2 back here three weeks later, drawing clear late on to win by three and a half lengths. Clearly capable of useful form, but this demands more.

7. High Definition (Joseph O'Brien/ J. J. Slevin)
Very smart at up to 1½m on the Flat for Aidan O'Brien and overcame some novicey mistakes to hold off a listed bumper winner and one with a big reputation on his Leopardstown hurdling debut on Boxing Day. Upped in grade and let down by his jumping there last month, stumbling and unseating his rider at the fourth. Can't afford to make any errors in this company, but his jumping should improve as he gains in experience and he has a big engine judged on his Flat form alone.

8. Il Etait Temps (Willie Mullins/ Danny Mullins)
Much improved since being fitted with a hood, building on his Tramore maiden win returned to Grade 1 company when second to Facile Vega at Leopardstown over Christmas. Capitalised on that rival underperforming when resuming winning ways in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle over the same C&D last month, hitting the front before the last and quickly asserting to win by nine and a half lengths. Hard to fault the manner of that success and shouldn't be underestimated.

9. Inthepocket (Henry de Bromhead/ Rachael Blackmore)
Cost £290,000 after winning his sole point and impressed when landing Wexford maiden hurdle in October. Maintained his unbeaten record when also winning a Naas Grade 2 in December and wasn't far off that level despite meeting with his first defeat when runner-up (beaten around 10 lengths) in the Grade 1 won by Il Etait Temps at Leopardstown last time, just keeping on at the one pace having held every chance on the home turn. Still relatively unexposed and not without each-way hope.

10. Marine Nationale (Barry Connell/ Michael O'Sullivan)
Highly promising sort who landed a brace of bumpers in stylish fashion and maintained his unbeaten record with a smart performance on just his second hurdling start in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, only winning by a head but looking value for extra given how things developed (conceded first run to the second and also made a mistake at the last). Given a break since and the feeling remains that we've only scratched the surface of his potential. Exciting prospect.

11. Palace Boy (Fergal O'Brien/ Paddy Brennan)
Flat winner in Germany and made a successful start in this sphere following a lengthy absence in a Chepstow novice in October. Built on that at the second attempt when chasing home the highly promising Luccia (favourite for Dawn Run) at Exeter last time, ultimately proving no match for that rival (beaten 11 lengths) but pulling clear of the rest. Has his work cut out at this level.

12. Rare Edition (Charlie Longsdon/ Sam Twiston-Davies)
Successful on his only outing in bumpers and again looked a good prospect in winning his first three starts over hurdles, particularly when seeing off a subsequent Grade 2 winner at Kempton on Boxing Day, keeping on well on the run-in to win by seven lengths. Disappointed when stepped up in grade at Huntingdon subsequently, but he had a valid excuse (reportedly scoped dirty afterwards) and is worth another chance to confirm his earlier promise.

13. Strong Leader (Olly Murphy/ Sean Bowen)
Looked highly promising in bumpers and impressively made it three from three in this sphere in a Southwell novice 44 days ago, quickening clear under just hands-and-heels riding to land the spoils by 15 lengths. This will be by far this toughest test yet, but he's created a fine impression so far and shouldn't be overlooked.

14. Tahmuras (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)
Successful pointer who hasn't looked back since finding only one too good on his Rules bow, winning a Wincanton bumper and all three starts over hurdles to date. Ran out a decisive winner of the the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown last time, making mistakes at the final two flights but never looking in any danger of defeat as he drew clear to win by two and a half lengths. That form is proving strong and he's open to more progress having still looked far from the finished article at Sandown.

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Timeform Analyst's Verdict:

Marine Nationale made it four from four with more to spare than the winning margin implies in the Royal Bond having conceded first run and, although that form is perhaps not quite as strong as some of the other principals, he has the hallmarks of a potential star and is taken to confirm that view. Facile Vega surrendered his unbeaten record in tame fashion last time but will be a big threat if proving that running all wrong. Diverge is interesting up in grade, with Il Etait Temps also respected.

1. Marine Nationale
2. Facile Vega
3. Diverge


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