The Supreme Novices Hurdle entries have the two Willie Mulins trained horse Cousin Vinny and Hurricane Fly in the entries which were announced today. This race always provides a thrilling curtain-raiser to The Festival and this years contest looks as competitive as ever with 112 entries, including 38 from Ireland.
Leading contenders include last years Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Cousin Vinny and the hugely exciting Hurricane Fly, who are two of seven entries from Willie Mullins yard, while Nicky Hendersons Mad Max, unbeaten in four starts, looks one of the strongest contenders from the home-trained contingent.
The Grade One Supreme Novices Hurdle, run over an extended two miles, provides a thrilling commencement to four days of breathtaking sport at The Cheltenham Festival. The championship contest has attracted a 112-strong entry, with 38 of those being trained in Ireland.
County Carlow trainer Willie Mullins won this race with Tourist Attraction (1995) and Ebaziyan (2007) and leads the Irish assault with two of the current market leaders. Hurricane Fly has won four of five starts for Mullins since arriving from France last year, including a brace of Grade Ones this season. He defeated Donnas Palm and stablemate Cousin Vinny in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November before seeing off Go Native and Zarinava to win the paddypower.com Future Champion Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27. Last seasons Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero Cousin Vinny has won both his starts since that reversal. The Mullins-trained Mikael DHaguenet landed the Grade One Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial Novices Hurdle at Navan in December and added a Grade Two at Naas on January 4.
Numerically, Mullins seven-strong entry does not match that of compatriot Noel Meade who numbers Donnas Palm and Go Native among 10 entries. Edward OGrady saddled Back In Front to win the race in 2003 following on from Golden Cygnet in 1978. He has five horses engaged, notably Leopardstown maiden hurdle victor Alexander Severus, as well as fellow former Ballydoyle inmate Acapulco, who contested the Derby and St Leger in 2007.
Colm Murphy saddled subsequent Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle hero Brave Inca to win this race in 2004 and he has entered Voler La Vedette alongside Zaarito, third in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival in 2008 and successful over hurdles at Punchestown on January 12.
It is 17 years since Flown landed the spoils for Nicky Henderson, also successful with River Ceiriog in 1986, but the trainer leads a strong home defence with six entries topped by the unbeaten Mad Max, successful over hurdles at Ascot and Newbury this term, and Ainama, who made an impressive winning debut at Kempton on January 26. The Seven Barrows contingent also includes classy Flat racer Eradicate, a comfortable winner on debut at Taunton on January 15.
Alan Kings 10 entries include Karabak, second to Mad Max before winning novice events at Cheltenham and Ascot, Grade Two Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle winner Medermit, the hat-trick seeking Cosmea and Doncaster winner Enfant De Lune.
The giant Quwetwo, an easy winner at Doncaster on January 23, could bid to give County Durham trainer Howard Johnson a second victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle following Arcalis in 2005. The trainer also has classy Flat recruit Red Moloney among eight entries. Andy Turnell rode Beacon Light to victory in 1976 for his trainer father Bob and could saddle Micheal Flips after the five-year-old registered a seven-length triumph at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has five entries, the pick being Conflictofinterest, who could bid to follow the trainers Noland (2006) to victory in the race. Fellow West Country handler Philip Hobbs has entered a quartet that includes Copper Bleu and The Ladbroke runner-up Belcantista, while Golan Way, a course and distance winner at The Open in the Grade Two Sharp Novices Hurdle, could represent trainer Sheena West.
David Pipe has entered 10 horses including Master Of Arts, a prolific winner on the Flat for Sir Mark Prescott, and the former Ger Lyons-trained Dundalk winner Nice Style, a well as Ronaldo Des Mottes and Torphichen.
Grade Two Blue Square Novices Hurdle runner-up Son Of Flicka and third-placed McMurrough could represent trainers Donald McCain and Malcolm Jefferson, respectively.