Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Odds: Can Facile Vega Bounce Back in the Festival Curtain Raiser?
Facile Vega appeared to have the world at his feet. Unbeaten in six career starts - three at Grade 1 level, and the apple of his master trainer’s eye but the 2023 Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) was a big moment in this six-year-old’s career.
Facile Vega was sent off 4/9 with betting sites for the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle, where everyone expected the red-hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite to dispatch his five rivals with ease.
However, this is sport and horses are not machines for all that the really good ones are often referred to as just that.
Facile Vega proved that day that he is not unbeatable and is as vulnerable to an ‘off day’ as any other horse. He is clearly still a high-class animal but is he as good as we thought going into the DRF?
And can he still win the Cheltenham Festival’s opening contest despite now being two times the price he was before that Leopardstown defeat?
So let's take a closer look at Facile Vega's festival credentials and assess if he is worth using your Cheltenham offers on in the curtain raiser.
DRF Performance Too Bad To Be True?
Let’s start with the performance itself. Racing Post Ratings suggest Facile Vega ran just over a stone (16lb, to be precise) below the level of his four-length success in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
That sharp dip can partly be explained by the fact that Facile Vega was ridden a little more forcefully than ideal in the opening stages of the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle.
Although, direct comparisons with the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Handicap Hurdle – both run on the same afternoon, are misleading because those races were run at very steady early tempos.
Facile Vega did do too much early on but not to the extent that he would have cut out in the manner in the way that he did at the business end.
Ultimately, that’s the issue for anyone considering backing Facile Vega for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle now.
No physical issues were found with Facile Vega in the aftermath of Leopardstown so ultimately, he’s just another horse that hasn’t run to his best for reasons that will probably never be known.
The upside is that Facile Vega is now a top-price 9/4 in the Cheltenham odds for the Supreme having been an odds-on chance before the DRF.
But, for all that he is a much bigger price now, those prices still indicate that Facile Vega is still more likely to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle than any other horse.
He’ll need to produce a career-best on the numbers to land the opening-day Grade 1 but, while that is the case for every horse that lines up on the day, this one needs to do so on the back of a sharp dip. Even for a genius like Willie Mullins, this looks a tall order.
Who Are The Biggest Dangers To Vega?
Mullins isn’t short on other viable Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winners should Facile Vega come up short on the day, indeed the Closutton handler currently has four horses in ante-post Supreme lists trading at 14/1 or shorter with betting apps.
Il Etait Temps, the horse to cash in on Facile Vega’s blow-out in the Leopardstown Grade 1, looks all over a Supreme contender despite the odd jumping error.
He’s such a smooth traveller that the strong tempo of Supreme would suit him down to the ground, while he also looks a stout stayer at the trip, so much so that connections also have him in the Ballymore.
Gaelic Warrior’s jumping has to be a major concern for all that he clearly possesses a big engine and the stable surely have better prospects of landing this race with hugely impressive Navan winner Hunters Yarn, who has no such kinks and he could still have a lot more to offer.
An on-song Facile Vega probably has the beating of all of his stablemates but whether he has the beating of Marine Nationale is another question entirely.
Barry Connell has made no secret of the regard he holds this horse and the numbers he posted in flashing home to win the Royal Bond are only a few pounds shy of anything Facile Vega has produced.
Marine Nationale has only seen a racecourse four times in his career so he’s open to stacks more improvement and connections are adamant that he will be an even better horse on some nice spring ground. He rates a huge player in the Supreme.
The home challenge would look a good deal stronger if Nicky Henderson decides to re-route Luccia from the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Luccia barely broke sweat to win a Listed contest at Exeter and the 7lb sex allowance that she would get against the boys would make her a very appealing proposition.
Connections may ultimately conclude that she is a certainty in the mares’ race and that would be the safest route to go down.
Supreme Novices Hurdle Verdict
There are now major doubts about Facile Vega’s ability to get the meeting off to a flyer for anyone on long-range ante-post slips at short odds.
Even if his master trainer gets him back to the peak of his powers, which is some task in just a month, he would still need to run bigger than he has at any point previously to land this Grade 1 prize.
No horse should be written off after just one bad run and Facile Vega might still turn out to be the best of the current crop of two-mile novices in the long term.
But, according to horse racing betting sites he looks up against it to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle now.
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