Abacadabras has form in the book which suggests he is the value punt in the traditional curtain-raiser on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival this Tuesday, the 2m Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (13:30).
Trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott, this Gigginstown House Stud owned six-year-old ran a fine race at this meeting 12 months ago when a 5 3/4 lengths fourth of 14 to Envoi Allen in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper.
He looked far from the finished article, and appealed as the type that would come into his own once strengthened up and sent hurdling
That has proved to be the case this season with Abacadabras winning three of his four starts in the manner of a well-above average sort.
After scoring easily by five lengths in an 11-runner maiden hurdle at Gowran Park, the son of Davidoff took the step up into Grade 3 company in his stride when quickening smartly to easily beat Latest Exhibition by three lengths at Navan.
The runner-up is unbeaten in two subsequent outings, landing a Grade 2 at Navan and Grade 1 at Leopardstown, so to dispose of such a talented sort with the minimum fuss was impressive.
Abacadabras then lost little in defeat when a 1 1/2 lengths runner-up to Envoi Allen in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse, before resuming winnings ways last time out in at elite level around Leopardstown by eight lengths.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has been his target right from the beginning of the season, and Abacadabras is a strong traveller with a smart turn of foot.
Those are the ideal attributes for this test. Abacadabras is also versatile as regards ground, so – at 6/1 with BetVictor – he makes plenty of appeal in a cracking renewal.
Shishkin’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle odds unappealing
The betting is headed by Shishkin, a highly-regarded sort who hails from the yard of Nicky Henderson who has a good record in the race.
The Seven Barrows handler has won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle three times with, courtesy of River Ceiriog (1986), Flown (1992) and the mighty Altior in 2016.
Binocular, Spirit Son, Darlan, My Tent Or Yours and Josses Hill also hit the bar in second, while Henderson has also saddled seven thirds.
In Shishkin, he has a six-year-old who – after winning two of his three starts in Irish points – was sent off 4/6 favourite on debut for the yard in a 20-runner maiden hurdle at Newbury only to come to grief at the second flight.
He then made amends for that mishap with an impressive success at the same venue when easily beating Shakem Up’Arry by 11 lengths in a 14-runner novice contest.
Shishkin then took the step up into Listed company in his stride to land the 2m 3f Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon in stylish fashion when last seen in action.
After being produced to take up the running on the bridle two out, he cruised clear to slam Shan Blue by 11 lengths.
It was a performance which oozed class, but the runner-up is nothing special and it was a weak five-runner affair in truth, so this demands much more.
For all that Shishkin undoubtedly has bags of potential and could be something special, others in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle have proven form at the highest level and have achieved far more.
His form doesn’t justify him being favourite, so at odds of 11/4 with Coral, this is one market leader that may be worth taking on.
Chantry House another big player for Henderson
Henderson also saddles the hugely exciting Chantry House, a 7/1 shot with Ladbrokes, who booked his ticket for this with an impressive success in a 2m novices’ hurdle at Newbury last month.
The six-year-old, who carries the famous green and gold hoops of leading Irish owner JP McManus, followed-up on his debut triumph over hurdles here with a facile success under a penalty.
After travelling ominously well throughout under a confident Barry Geraghty, the 8/15 favourite cruised through to join long-time leader Manvers House after the last.
Geraghty then sat motionless for much of the run-in, but when he did finally push the button the response was instant and Chantry House quickend clear to win easily by 4 1/2 lengths.
It was a taking display, and one which suggested he had a talent to go right to the very top and needed keeping firmly onside.
The form of his previous win at this venue, where he quickened smartly to cosily beat Stolen River by 1 3/4 lengths, has also worked out well.
This is because the runner-up has gone on to a Grade 2 at Haydock, while the fourth home Pileon has won twice since.
It makes Chantry House, who won his second start in an Irish point and is unbeaten in three starts under Rules for Henderson having also won a Warwick bumper, look well worth a crack at this level.
McManus also loves to have a live contender in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, so at the odds on offer Chantry House makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Captain Guinness also holds each-way claims in Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Captain Guinness ran a blinder last time out when runner-up in a Grade 2 on just his second career start, so is another that appeals each-way at 16/1 with Paddy Power who are paying five places.
That came in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown, where the Henry De Bromhead trained five-year-old went down all guns blazing when beaten just three-quarters of a length by Andy Dufresne.
After racing keenly in the early stages, the Arakan gelding took up the running at the fourth and only got headed at the last when making a mistake.
It was therefore to his credit that Captain Guinness stuck to the task gamely, given his early exertions and the signs of inexperience that he showed during the contest.
Prior to that he had bolted up by seven lengths in a 23-runner maiden hurdle at Navan, so it was a huge run given how the race panned out.
Captain Guinness clearly has a huge engine and remains totally unexposed and open to any amount of improvement. He will also have learnt plenty from Punchestown.
So, providing he settles better in the early stages, it would be no surprise to see Captain Guinness outrun his odds and hit the frame at least.