Stan James Supreme Novices' Hurdle – Analysis
The Grade One Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle kicks off The Festival at 1.30pm on Tuesday, March 15, and the extended two-mile contest has attracted 86 fantastic entries, including 36 trained in Ireland.
Nicky Henderson saddled River Ceiriog (1986) and Flown (1992) to victory and has 14 entries, including impressive Grade One Tolworth Hurdle victor Minella Class, the unbeaten French Listed winner Spirit Son, classy bumper winner Sprinter Sacre and Gibb River, impressive when winning both his starts over hurdles.
Paul Nicholls’ eight entries includes the talented four-year-old Sam Winner, impressive when winning twice at Cheltenham in November and December but below that form on soft ground in a Chepstow Grade One on January 8, when fourth to the Brian Ellison-trained juvenile Marsh Warbler.
Nicholls’ Al Ferof was third to the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Backspin in the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December. Backspin lost his unbeaten tag when fourth to Bobs Worth on Festival Trials Day.
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins took the spoils with Tourist Attraction in 1995 and Ebaziyan in 2007 and has 11 entries headed by Zaidpour, winner of the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 15. Later that month, the five-year-old went down by a neck to the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Mullins contingent also includes dual Grade Two victor Gagewell Flyer who held stablemate Earlson Grey by a neck to win the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle on January 30, and recent Leopardstown maiden hurdle winner Day Of A Lifetime.
Hidden Universe won the Grade One Champion Bumper at Punchestown in April and Dermot Weld’s charge made an easy winning debut over hurdles at Leopardstown on December 30. The four-year-olds Tillahow from the Morris yard and Toner D’Oudairies from the Gordon Elliott stable have both landed Grade Three contests this term.
Another trainer with two Supreme Novices’ Hurdle wins is Edward O’Grady (1978 Golden Cygnet, 2003 Back In Front) whose five entries include Grade Two Bord Na Mona Fire Magic Juvenile Novice Hurdle winner Sailors Warn and unbeaten four-time winner The Real Article, while Noel Meade, also with two winners (2002 Sausalito Bay, 2009 Go Native), has engaged Dilshaan’s Prize and Prima Vista.
As well as Dunraven Storm, last season’s winning trainer Philip Hobbs has entered Dare Me, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, while Donald McCain could saddle Sedgefield winner Charminster and the useful Drill Sergeant and Alan King’s entries include Iolith, winner of his last two starts.
The Gary Moore-trained Megastar landed the Grade Two bumper at Aintree in April, made a wining debut over hurdles and has since been runner-up in two further starts, behind Rock On Ruby at Newbury and Minella Class in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle.
STAN JAMES SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE FACTS AND FIGURES
1. The Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was known as the Gloucestershire Hurdle until 1974. Capel Cure Sharp backed the contest in 2000 and the company, which became Gerrard Wealth Management, supported the race until 2003. Racecourse caterers Letheby & Christopher became the sixth sponsor since the initial backer Lloyds Bank in 1974 when supporting the event in 2004 and 2005, while Anglo Irish Bank was the sponsor from 2006 to 2008. Bookmaker William Hill sponsored the race in 2009 and in 2010 the backers were the Stewart Family, on behalf of the charity Spinal Research. Stan James sponsor take over the sponsorship in 2011.
2. The Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the only race at The Festival to have been divided. From 1946-1971 when known as the Gloucestershire Novices’ Hurdle, it divided on no less than 25 occasions. In 1963 and 1946 there were even three divisions.
3. The oldest horse to have won was 12-year-old Beau Caprice in 1966 (Div One). Three eight-year-olds have also been successful - Like-A-Butterfly in 2002, Sondrio in 1989 and Boys Hurrah in 1956 (Div One).
4. The 1993 winner, Montelado, holds a unique position in the history of The Festival at Cheltenham. He is the only horse to have won consecutive Festival races, landing the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 1992, the last race of that year’s meeting, and returning to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1993, the first race 12 months later.
5. The Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has thrown up one winner of the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and three Stan James Champion Hurdle heroes. L'Escargot won in 1968, before consecutive Gold Cup triumphs in 1970 and 1971. Bula scored in 1970, before Champion Hurdle victories in 1971 and 1972, the 2002 Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Hors La Loi III took the race in 1999, and Brave Inca took the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2006 having landed the novice event two years earlier.
6. The race has been won by Irish-trained raiders on no less than 38 occasions, and by the French once. Of the 16 divisions from 1952-59, Vincent O'Brien won an amazing 10. Ireland also kept a stranglehold on the race for seven years from 1977-83 and has won seven of the last 10 runnings, most recently with Go Native in 2009.
7. The smallest field was in 1950, with nine runners in Division 1, and the largest, 30 runners, for both Harry Hastings' win in 1985 and French Ballerina’s success in 1998. The maximum field allowed is now 24.
8. Since the race ceased to be divided, big-name jockeys have found the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle difficult to win. Tony McCoy, successful on Hors La Loi III in 1999, is the only one of the last four champion jockeys to have scored in this particular contest, and only Charlie Swan (1993 and 2002), Tommy Carmody (1980 and 1983) and Niall (Boots) Madden (1978 and 1981) have been successful twice.
9. The longest-priced winner was Arctic Kinsman at 50/1 in 1994, while the 2007 victor Ebaziyan is one of only two 40/1 shots to have scored. The shortest-priced winners at 4/9 were Tsaoko in 1950 and Flyingbolt in 1964. Favourites have been successful eight times in the 38 runnings since 1972, with three of the last nine winning.
10. The fastest time for the winning horse was achieved by Montelado in 1993 at 3m 50.6s. French Ballerina came close to that record in 1998 when her time was 3m 50.9s.
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