BACKGROUND INFORMATION for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
The Sky Bet 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 putting their name to 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 supported the race in 2011 with William Hill taking over the sponsorship again in 2012 and 2013. Sky Bet became the backer in 2014.
The Sky Bet 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 both 1963 and 1946 there were even three divisions.
The smallest field was in 1950, with nine runners in Division 1, while the most runners was 30, seen for both Harry Hastings’ win in 1985 and French Ballerina’s success in 1998. The maximum field allowed is currently 22.
MOST SUCCESSFUL OWNER
Jim Joel and Susannah Ricci are the most successful owners, with three wins each. Joel saw his colours carried to victory by Beau Normand (1961, Division 1), Deetease (1963, Division 3) and Beacon Light (1976), while Ricci has taken the last three renewals of the race with Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINER
Before the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ceased to be divided, the most successful trainer was Vincent O’Brien, who landed an amazing 10 divisions between 1952 and 1959.
Willie Mullins is the most successful current trainer with five wins – Tourist Attraction (1995), Ebaziyan (2007), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).
MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEY
Before 1972, the most successful jockey was Tommy Burns, who landed seven divisions between 1955 and 1959.
Since the race ceased to be divided, Ruby Walsh leads the way with five wins (2006, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015). Paul Carberry, with two victories in 2000 and 2009, is the only other current jockey to succeed more than once.
The longest-priced winner was Arctic Kinsman at 50/1 in 1994, while the 2007 victor Ebaziyan is one of two 40/1 shots to have scored. The shortest-priced winners at 4/9 were Tsaoko in 1950 and Flyingbolt in 1964. Favourites and joint-favourites have been successful 10 times (23 per cent) in the 43 runnings since 1972.
The oldest horse by far to have won was 12-year-old Beau Caprice in 1966 (Div One). At the other end of the scale, 13 four-year-olds have been successful, although none since Hors La Loi in 1999. The overall breakdown by age since the race was run as single division in 1972 is as follows:
- 4yo – 2 wins
- 5yo – 18 wins
- 6yo – 19 wins
- 7yo – 2 wins
- 8yo – 2 wins
The fastest time for the winning horse was achieved by Vautour, who scored in 3m 46.40s in 2014.
The race has been won by Irish-trained raiders on no less than 41 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 10 of the last 15 runnings, most recently with Douvan in 2015.
DID YOU KNOW?
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 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1993, the first race 12 months later.
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has thrown up one winner of the Betfred 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 Champion Hurdle winner Hors La Loi III took the race in 1999, and Brave Inca captured the Champion Hurdle in 2006, having landed the novice event two years earlier.