The Cheltenham excitement is nearing ever closer with the the opening race the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Don’t forget if you are not at the races there are plenty of other options to watch a free Cheltenham bets and take in the action from Prestbury Park.
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Steps to Freedom has a cracking chance at a touch of value looking odds with Betfred in the Supreme Novices Hurdle as jockey Jessica Harrington has indicated that the horse is much stronger to cope with the Prestbury Park track this time around.
Despite the distance of the Supreme being the minimum two miles, recent trends suggest that speedier horses with a history on the Flat have found the race tough going, while the National Hunt-bred animals, whose future lies over further and fences, prosper.
Last season’s saw the first four places filled by chasers of the future, backing up the previous two seasons, where on both occasions the 1-2-3-4-5 swung in favour of the National Hunt horses. Of the market leaders Galileos Choice and Cinders Ashes, both bred for Flat racing, have it all to do.
Stamina is a key ability to look for in a horse for this race, although class is certainly needed in equal measure. Being the first race of the Festival jockeys seem to get excited, urged on by the Cheltenham roar, and go hell for leather in early stages.
This plays against the speedier types of horse, who naturally will go with the early pace and find their engine has run out when they meet the rising Cheltenham ground on the hill.
As was with the case with Al Ferof’s defeat of classy strong travelling hurdlers like Cue Card and Sprinter Sacre last season. Realistically, you need a horse who is willing to battle up the hill as just travelling strongly will never be enough a race of this calibre. This is a negative to the chances of Darlan.
Nicky Henderson is the trainer of Darlan, but has a rotten recent record in the race, with the last 22 he sent to the race all being beaten.
A flaw in Steps To Freedom chances lies in the amount of time he has had off the track. Bar Captain Cee Bee in 2008 every other winner bar French Ballerina (off for 68 days) since 1993 had an outing within the previous 45 days. Jessica Harrington’s charge has been off since November 11.