Racing / Cheltenham Festival: Barna Boy to pass Supreme initiation

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The Independent Online
APART from the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, the Festival races which generate the biggest betting turnover are the opening events on each of the three days. That says more about the timespan it takes punters to renew optimism and funds than about the races themselves, which are each for fresh recruits to hurdling.

Today's opener, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, also conforms to a pattern in that it will be contested by an Irish runner with a weighty reputation, Sound Man, who is likely to be a magnet to those punters who like to join in a heavyweight gamble. Statistics would once have supported such a venture, as the Irish won this race every year between 1977 and 1983, but the raiders are now vulnerable.

Best of the defence force may be Fatack and BARNA BOY (nap 2.15), who has been brought along steadily all season with this race in mind. His trainer, Nick Henderson, knows what it takes to win this event having already scored with River Ceiriog and Flown.

One of Henderson's two Arkle Trophy entries, Current Express, is a doubtful participant after knocking a joint in his leg yesterday. His other runner, Thumbs Up, does not look up to matching strides with Coonawara (2.50), who has barely been headed in establishing a winning sequence of nine races. His ever pessimistic trainer, Tim Forster, says the going will be too fast and the trip too short, but as he had the option of a longer, possibly easier, event on Thursday, his appearance in this richer race is probably significant.

Jenny Pitman has switched Ryde Again (4.05) from the Gold Cup to today's Ritz Club Chase and he should be able to take advantage of a turnaround in the weights with his recent Kempton conqueror Antonin. Her rival as top female trainer, Mary Reveley, could strike back with the consistent Brave Buccaneer (5.15) in the finale, while Martin Pipe could win the Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Chase with Tri Folene (4.40), who has shown some of her best form over this course.

Jamie Osborne, with a useful list of bookings including Travado in tomorrow's Champion Chase, could emerge as the meeting's leading rider and is worth a bet at around 6-1.