A cacophonous roar will echo around Prestbury Park at 1:30pm on Tuesday afternoon as the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle will ignite four days of phenomenal equine action and punters will be dreaming of getting off to the perfect start in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser, but not since 2004 has the favourite managed to land the coveted Grade One prize and it could fall down to the Paul Nicholls-trained Irving to try and hand the bookmakers a body blow in the first of 27 sensational races over four days.
Down the years there have been some red-hot favourites for the Supreme and the unbeaten Irving, who has bagged a hat-trick of wins in his fledgling career is at the forefront at the latest betting, with the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour just hovering behind him in a race that will see the British and Irish raiders lock horns in a mouth-watering contest.
However, favourite backers have often had their fingers burnt as they look to set the foundation for a profitable week at the Gloucestershire venue and many will instantly be drawn back to Irish hotpot Dunguib failing to find anything for pressure up the energy-sapping hill to be ousted by Menorah in the 2010 Supreme, when the Philip Fenton-trained 4/5 jolly could only finish third.
12 months later runaway 2010 Champion Bumper winner Cue Card was expected to land back-to-back festival wins when sent off a 7/4 market leader, but Colin Tizzard’s stable star was another hotshot to fluff his lines on the big stage, with Al Ferof handing the aforementioned Nicholls victory in the 2011 race.
My Tent Or Yours was the third heavily-backed favourite to have to settle for the minor honours in four years, as Champagne Fever outbattled Nicky Henderson’s 15/8 favourite in a real battle royale up the home straight to send bookmakers into raptures and punters nursing their wounds in the opening race once again.
Not since 2004 when 7/2 favourite Brave Inca edged out War Of Attrition by a head has the market leader bagged the opening Grade One of the meeting, so a decade on, all eyes will be on Irving and Vautour, who are sure to be the two luminaries fighting out for favouritism in what is set to be a cracking renewal with a stellar field of 18 runners declared for the first race of the week at GL50.
Punters will be desperate to get off to a winning start, but Paddy Power have a terrific Money Back Special for the 2014 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with them refunding stakes on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed horses in a fabulous safety net to open the meeting with.