It begins with a roar and hopefully can end with one as punters begin the Cheltenham Festival battle against the bookmakers with the Supreme Novices Hurdle as the favourite Darlan is largest odds with Betfred to win for Nicky Henderson.
In contrast to recent years, the betting is wide open with no short price favourite heading the market. This gives punters a great opportunity latch onto a fancied runner at a working man’s price and start the Festival as they mean to go on.
There is a rather weak look to the top of the market anyway, with both Darlan and Steps To Freedom both look incredibly short considering the little they have achieved thus far in their careers.
This makes the current 8/1 regarding the chances of Cinders and Ashes too good to pass up.
Donald McCain’s five-year-old may have plenty to find judging by a couple of races last season, where he was beaten by Steps To Freedom and Montbazon in bumpers, but there is a strong argument to suggest that McCain’s charge has significantly improved from the transition from bumpers to fences.
Perhaps his most outstanding performance of the season came on his hurdling debut behind Broadbackbob at Ascot.
Despite nearly getting tailed off on the home turn after clouting a fence, he somehow travelled his way back to the front of the field with the look of a top class horse but couldn’t quite get past the Henderson runner in the final stages.
He has backed up the good feeling about that run with three subsequent wins at Aintree and twice at Haydock, where he has beat little but still looked mightily impressive.
The speedy nature of the Supreme will play to the strengths of the strong travelling McCain runner and hopefully he has enough in the tank to stay up the Cheltenham hill. He is by no means a certainty but at 8/1 he’s worth a small investment in the win-only market.