Wicklow Brave shaping up superbly for Supreme Novices Hurdle

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Pricewise’s Tom Segal fancies Wicklow Brave to have a big say in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and we’ve no reason to argue with him, as Willie Mullins’ progressive horse is a trend-spotters dream.

The Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser is always an intriguing race as stars of future festivals get uncovered when winning the 2m contest.

Ryanair Chase co-favourite Al Ferof is one good example, while 2013 winner Champagne Fever is now Mullins’ great hope for The Arkle, heading the betting there as well.

And in 5-year-old Wicklow Brave, Mullins may just be preparing the next Champagne Fever to come out of his County Carlow stable.

Another of the Irishman’s options, Vautour, also harbours strong claims of his own as the 5/2 second-favourite behind Irving (2/1), but at 6/1 Wicklow Brave ticks more than enough boxes at a far healthier price.

The fact that the last nine winners of the Supreme Novices Hurdle have gone off at a mark of 5/1 or higher, gives further reason to swerve the market principles.

The last five winners of the festival opener have all been aged five or six, as have 10 of the last 11, which bodes extremely well for five-year-old Wicklow Brave.

Crucially for Wicklow Brave’s claims, he’s taken to hurdling like the proverbial duck, having followed up a win on debut with a mightily impressive showing on heavy ground in his second appearance over hurdles at Punchestown last month.

On both occasions he showed impressive acceleration to pull clear and with much firmer ground beneath him it should bring out the best of Wicklow Brave at Cheltenham.

He’ll have to jump well in this company to stand a chance, but considering all of the last 10 winners had won at least 50% of their hurdle starts, he’s hitting the right notes there too.

Wicklow Brave also shares the same sire as 2012 winner Cinders And Ashes too and although not a veteran of the Champion Bumper, he still won three bumpers in a row over the summer in Ireland.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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