Should punters side with the Willie Mullins favourite in the Supreme or not?
The famous Cheltenham roar in normal times sends the runnerson their way for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race of the festival, and in recent yearsa key characteristic of the field is that it has included a Willie Mullins-trained hotpot.
The 14-time Irish champion trainer's dominance has extended to the festival as he has trained more winners at the meeting than anyone else (72), has been leading trainer seven times and won the modern Supreme (since 1972) a record-breakingsix times since he began training in 1988.
Yet for every Douvan or Vautour who bolt up, there is a Min or Getabird who does not. This year Mullins again has the favourite in Appreciate It, who is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles. But is he one to back or oppose?
Mullins' record in the Supreme Novices'
Mullins has had six Supreme winners from 42 runners for a 14 per cent strike-rate. He has run seven favourites in the race, only two of whom won, for a 29 per cent strike-rate.
They were the Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned pair Vautour (whoheaded the market alongside fellow 7-2 chance Irving) in 2014 and Douvan a year later at 2-1.
The five who were sent off favourite but failed were Cousin Vinny (9-4), Min (15-8), Melon (3-1 joint-favourite), Getabird (7-4) and last year Asterion Forlonge (9-4).
Of his other winners, the likes of Champagne Fever (5-1) and Klassical Dream (6-1) were both fancied and the stable number one on starting prices, but didn't start favourite.
Don't be alarmed if Mullins runs more than one horse in the race either, as hefielded three in Champagne Fever's race andran Aramon againstKlassical Dream in 2019.
Wicklow Brave and Valseur Lidowent up against Vautour, while the most he has ever run in a Supreme was four in 2017whenCilaos Emery, Bunk Off Early and Crack Mome followed home Melon.
Getabird is the onlyMullins favourite to be beaten by a stablemate. He finished only 11th in 2018 with Sharjah ahead in eighth.
Mullins has also triumphed with horses at bigger prices– his very first runner in the race was Tourist Attraction in 1995 and she duly won at 25-1. The grey Ebaziyan topped that when shocking at 40-1 in 2007, bringing theaverage price of the trainer's Supreme winners to 16-1.
What does this mean for Appreciate It?
He has already achieved far more than Tourist Attraction and Ebaziyan, who only had maiden hurdle wins over obstacles to their names before winning the race.
Like recent Supreme winners Champagne Fever, Vautour and Klassical Dream, Appreciate It won theChanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (formerly Deloitte), which is now run as part of the Dublin Racing Festival.
Others to win it prior to the Supreme were Like-A-Butterfly and Brave Inca, while Danoli, Istabraq and Samcro went on to win the Ballymore.
Asterion Forlonge is the only one of Mullins' Chanelle Pharma winners to run in the Supreme and not win.
Appreciate It also won the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in December, but surprisingly no horse has ever won that race and the Supreme. The likes of Joe Mac (second) Youlneverwalkalone (third) and more recently Abacadabras (second) have tried.
Mullins has only run one of his six Future Champions winners in the Supreme. That was Aramon and he could only manage sixth behind Klassical Dream in 2019.
Appreciate It is currently 7-4, the same price as Getabird when he finished 11th in the 2018 renewal.
On the basis of his most recent run,he stacks up favourably with Mullins' other winners on Racing Post Ratings.
He earned a mark of 150 (5lb lower than in December) at the Dublin Racing Festival – the same mark Champagne Fever and Vautour earned at Leopardstown and 5lb higher than Klassical Dream.
However, Cousin Vinny (154), Min (152), Getabird (153) and Asterion Forlonge (156) all boasted higher RPRs on their final starts before Cheltenham and were then beaten in the Supreme.
Age is also a key factor in assessing Appreciate It's claims given the last seven-year-old to win was Captain Cee Bee in 2008.
Like-A-Butterfly (2002) and Sondrio (1989) won as eight-year-olds, but that pair and Captain Cee Bee aside, only one horse has won aged older than six since 1971.
That horse was the mare Tourist Attraction, like Appreciate It trained by Willie Mullins and a seven-year-old.
The market suggests there is not a lot of depth in the current Supreme market, with Ballyadam and Metier next best in at 7-1.
Ballyadam will need to reverse Dublin Racing Festival form with Appreciate It, while Metier is the strongest of the British contingent on paper having won the Tolworth Hurdle. Summerville Boy was the last horse to win that race before taking the Supreme in 2018.
Mullins could also be represented by Ganapathi, who was beaten in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle won by Dreal Deal.The trainer has won that race seven times, notably with Supreme winners Vautour and Douvan.
Another option for the trainer is Blue Lord, who was keen behind Bob Olinger in the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle over 2m4f in January before finishing a respectable third to Appreciate It lasttime.
Thedevilscoachman, fifth to Appreciate It in December, andBetfair Hurdle hero Soaring Glory are other players.
Appreciate It's last win wasa step belowwhat he had shown earlier in the season and he races like a stayer as opposed to a speedster.
Ferny Hollow showed a superior turn of foot in the Champion Bumper last year, where Appreciate It didn't appear to have any excuses, while drying ground could also be a concern. Thebest ground he has raced on is yielding and that was back in his bumper days.
I want to take on Appreciate It, but time is running out for more meaningful opposition to emerge. He is the best of the Irish by a considerable margin and Metier's formis easy to pick holes in.
With concerns for the stable of Dreal Deal, the verdict goes to Soaring Glory.
No horse has ever won the Betfair Hurdle and the Supreme but Get Me Out Of Here (head second), My Tent Or Yours (half a length second) and Kalashnikov (neck second) have all gone mightily close in the last11 years. He is recommended each-way.
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