Last year’s race
- Winner: Labaik
- Jockey: J W Kennedy
- Trainer: G Elliott
- Owner: Mr A J O'ryan
- Age: 6 Weight: 11st 7lb
- Starting Price: 25/1
- Season Form Figures: 11RR6
- Previous Best: 1st - Novice Hurdle (Grade 3), Navan (Nov 2016)
Being the opening race of the Festival it can be a good idea to keep an eye out for what are sure to be some superb on-the-day concessions from bookmakers on this race who are then hoping to then attract your business for the rest of the week.
The first place to start for many will be Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh who look set to supply the favourite in the Rich Ricci-owned Getabird. All three have combined to win the Supreme with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan in the last five years and their Min was only thwarted by the exceptional Altior. Getabird was a striking winner of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle beating Mengli Khan, as were three of the aforementioned quartet, so he will be many an Irish punters’ idea of a Festival Banker to get things immediately rolling.
A well-fancied Irish horse winning the Supreme unquestionably helps to create an immediate raucous atmosphere and we have certainly had plenty of that recently as the Irish have won 15 of the last 26 runnings, even with horses who refused to run on five of their previous seven starts! Labaik was one of their harder to find winners last season. This will be Getabird’s third start over hurdles. There have been plenty of Supreme winners that had only two starts over hurdles beforehand but it’s been a long time since Destriero and Flown both won off just one hurdles start in back-to-back years (1991 and 1992).
Altior was giving Nicky Henderson his first Supreme winner since Flown in 1992 when successful two years ago. For good measure he also saddled the third, Buveur D’Air, in that exceptional year. In addition, he had been responsible for as many as 11 second, third or fourth-place finishers in just the previous ten years alone. His main hope this season is Claimantakinforgan but he was only third in his trial at Musselburgh and only three of the last 21 winners were beaten last time out. In fact over two-thirds of Supreme winners going back to and including Indefence in 1996 had won their last two starts.
Four of the last 15 winners finished in the first five in the previous season’s Champion Bumper making it the best guide in recent seasons.
Since Montelado won in 1993, Captain Cee Bee and Altior had not run in the same calendar year so a fairly recent run has been preferable, though not essential. If The Cap Fits will be having his first outing since he won at Kempton on Boxing Day in the same race won by Menorah and Altior during their Supreme-winning seasons. Of those 23 winners, 18 had run in the previous 45 days.
Ratings-based arguments don’t do it for me in the Supreme, just like they don’t in other Grade 1 novice races, the early Classics on the Flat or indeed any race featuring young horses with stacks of potential. Ratings tend to be the base of most betting markets so where is the edge if you do anyway? Ten of the last 13 favourites to be sent off at 2/1 or shorter in the Supreme were beaten.
The Supreme is regularly won by as a stayer. In addition to four Gold Cup winners this century having finished placed two years earlier (Best Mate, Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John), looking at individual cases in recent seasons, Al Ferof outstayed the classier Sprinter Sacre in 2011 and, likewise, it was Champagne Fever’s extra stamina that won the day fighting back to deny My Tent Or Yours two years later. It says an awful lot with regards to how the Supreme has altered of late that the only three horses to finish in the first three in the last ten years who started their career on the Flat, especially as seven winners in just 11 years between 1996-2007 were converts from the Flat.
Four of the last 15 winners finished in the first five in the previous season’s Champion Bumper making it the best guide in recent seasons. Last season’s second and third, Debuchet and Claimantakinforgan, are likely to try and enhance that record.
It usually pays to race close to the pace in the Supreme. Labaik was an exception last season but it is not often a race in which the winner is held up. When Vautour made virtually all the running four years ago he was emulating Champagne Fever, Sausalito Bay, Indefence and Arctic Kinsman who also made all or virtually all. That’s a very healthy strike rate for a race that regularly features over 16 runners so should be of note to in-running punters.
Hors La Loi III was the last four-year-old to win with an age allowance back in 1999, though few of any great significance have tried since then. The most notable four-year-old to take his chance, and by a long chalk in the interim was also trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by J P McManus as Binocular was runner-up after he was re-routed from the Triumph Hurdle.
At a glance summary
- Trained in Ireland notably by Willie Mullins
- Won last two starts
- Trained by Nicky Henderson
- Three runs or more over hurdles
- Front runners
- Contested last season’s Champion Bumper
- Beaten last time out
- Ran on the Flat
- Not run during the last 45 days
- Likely to start at under 3-1