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Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05

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The road to the winner’s enclosure

TUESDAY 1.20 SKY BET SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE

Anthony Ive

THE 2020 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looked a good one on paper – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. After two impressive victories over hurdles, including a nine-and-a-half-length success in the Grade 1 novice at the Dublin Racing Festival, Asterion Forlonge was the hot favourite. His tendency to jump right was a concern, but not for the punters who backed him into 9-4 on the day. Unfortunately for his supporters, Willie Mullins’ charge jumped right far too often, including when taking out strong-travelling stablemate Elixir D’ainay at the second-last. But with the favourite beaten it was another in owner Joe Donnelly’s colours who showed his class. Shishkin, sent off the 8-11 favourite, fell at the second flight on his hurdling debut at Newbury. His return to the Berkshire track a month later, in January 2020, proved more fruitful as he showed his class in an 11-length victory. Three weeks after that, at Huntingdon, the son of Sholokhov again won easily, this time over further and on better ground. On the big day Shishkin and Nico de Boinville had to overcome several challenges. Setting off in mid-division, De Boinville positioned his mount tight to the inner rail and it was not until after the fourth-last that Shishkin was manoeuvered across the back of the leading pack to take up a position on the outside as they jumped the third-last. The jumping of Asterion Forlonge was a concern as the leader continued to jump violently to his right, taking out his stablemate at the penultimate flight as well as hampering others, including Shishkin. De Boinville got him going again around the home turn, going from sixth to jumping the final hurdle upsides Abacadabras. As the two battled up the hill, leaving the rest in their wake, De Boinville and Shishkin outfought Abacadabras to take victory in a photo-finish.

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