Exciting clash in store on informative Exeter card
VICTORY for either of the two young stars in the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle would come as no surprise, but a month before they even travel to Cheltenham they must first face what seems sure to be the stiffest examination of their careers so far.
At face value Melodic Rendezvous would be the one to beat, having already struck at Grade 1 level in Sandown's 32Red Tolworth Hurdle, but it is Puffin Billy, a hard-held Grade 2 winner on his most recent outing at Ascot, who carries a clear advantage on official figures and Racing Post Ratings into today's 2m1f Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices' Hurdle.
Moreover, he trades at 12-1 for the Supreme with the sponsor, two points shorter than the general quote about his chief rival.
Puffin Billy will have his Supreme credentials tested in a seven runner Listed contest won by Noland en route to his triumph in the same Cheltenham championship seven years ago.
Oliver Sherwood, who rates Puffin Billy the best he has trained since 1990s hurdling heavyweight Large Action, said: "I've the utmost respect for Melodic Rendezvous and this looks a proper trial, but my fellow is in great order and hasn't missed a beat since Ascot. He goes into the race fit, although he'll be sharper for the run.
"The going doesn't bother me as he has won well in deep ground. I'm certainly leaning to the Supreme at Cheltenham, but we'll know more tomorrow."
The only other meeting on Sunday comes from Southwell on the all-weather after the card at Naas was abandoned due to waterlogging.
Southwell Standard to slow