In the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Steps To Freedom can draw first blood for Ireland. Unlike many of the field Steps To Freedom has crucial course form having taken the Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at the Paddy Power Open in November. Prospect Wells was in the second that day and he he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations his subsequent Newbury win was impressive.
Trainer Jessica Harrington only sends horses to Festival if she thinks they are doing to win and she has a tremendous record over the years with both chasers and hurdlers. Both trainer and jockey Robbie Power thought that there was lots more to come following the Cheltenham run and the plan was always to put him away until March so the big freeze won’t have been a problem. Traditionally, this has been a strong race for the Irish with 8 winners since I moved to Cheltenham in 1997.
Yes, this is an open race but there’s plenty of weak contenders and a number of fancied horses will run elsewhere so perhaps not as open as a first look suggests. With Steps To Freedom we know that Festival opener has been his intended target since November.
Another encouraging sign is that he’s been strong in the market lately both on Betfair and with bookmakers. The 9/1 is fair price and if the Irish get behind him on the day he could well start at half those odds.
1pt ew Steps To Freedom in the Supreme Novices Hurdle – 9/1 Ladbrokes