We've got two horses against Douvan and the rest of the field for the opening race of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival
Douvan only needs to turn up at Cheltenham in March to be called the winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, if the latest betting can be believed.
Willie Mullins’ five-year-old is no bigger than 9/4 (888sport) for the festival opener and is as short as 6/4 in several places. Anyone contemplating a bet at that price needs to take a step back as, while the gelding has looked the real deal in landing both his hurdle starts since coming over from France, he will surely be a bigger price on the day. Furthermore, there’s still a small chance he could be rerouted to the Neptune Novices’, meaning we won’t even get a run for our money. Mullins is likely to make his mind up a few days before the race and let’s face it he has several other entries who could make their presence felt, including 10/1 chance Nichols Canyon. He too, though, has the Neptune option and, given he wasn’t stopping over 2m2f when winning the Deloitte, I suspect he will end up in the longer race.
Working out which horses will run where is half the battle when it comes to ante post betting and with no bookmakers offering “non-runner no-bet” at the time of writing, we’re taking a risk by going in now. For that reason, I’d prefer to swerve the market leaders and put a couple up at bigger odds to small stakes in the knowledge we won’t incur too much damage if they don’t run. Once confirmed as definite runners we can always go in again, albeit at likely shorter odds.
Bearing that in mind, I’m going to suggest taking the 33/1 on Warren Greatrex’s SEEDLING. The six-year-old is also entered up in the Neptune and could go down the handicap route (either Coral Cup or County Hurdle) but his trainer is definitely leaning towards the Supreme, saying: “I think he has all the attributes for the Supreme as he travels well, stays very well a decent and has a turn of foot.” That’s exactly the type of horse you need to win this and, irresistibly, he also some Cheltenham form in the book, having landed a hat-trick there in December. Both the second and third, Some Plan and Padge, have come out and won since, giving the form a solid look, and the race has some illustrious winners on its roll-call, including Noland, Tidal Bay, Melodic Rendezvous and Darlan.
The latter horse was beaten just over a length in the 2012 Supreme under Tony McCoy, who it’s safe to say hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck in the festival opener. He won it once on Hors La Loi III back in 1999 but he’s endured several near misses since and, having announced his retirement at the end of the season, he will only get one more stab at it. That’s most likely to come on JOLLYALLAN for his boss JP McManus and the Harry Fry-trained six-year-old is the other horse to back at this stage at 12/1.
For starters, the McCoy factor will ensure he will go off a lot shorter on the day and he’d be a shorter price now if he were trained by one of the bigger stables. He was just touched off by Garde La Victoire at Sandown last time, with the useful Bristol De Mai in third, and would surely have won that day but for a mistake two out and the bottomless ground. Given a faster surface to run on and a faster pace to run at – almost a given in the Supreme – he will be seen to much better effect and, more importantly, the race is his sole target.
Of the rest, L’Ami has impressed in rattling off a hat-trick of wins this term, including the Grade 1 Tolworth last time, but bookmakers are taking no chances with him at just 4/1. I’ll be amazed if he’s not bigger on the day and, besides, he is unproven on anything faster than soft ground. Last year’s Champion Bumper runner-up Shaneshill came under consideration at 16/1 as he will be suited by a fast-run 2m on better ground, while John Ferguson’s recent Newbury scorer Qewy is respected, though I see him as more of an Aintree horse given his flat speed.