Could Nicky Henderson have found his sixth winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham?

The nights may be drawing in and the winter winds beginning to blow but attention has already started to turn to the Cheltenham Festival in early spring. In particular, the conversation around the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has increased after Southoftheborder won by two and a half lengths at Sandown Park Racecourse during his two-meter maiden hurdle in mid-November. 

For those with a special interest in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, this was an especially interesting development as none other than Nicky Henderson trains Southoftheborder.

Henderson eyes up another win in Gloucestershire

Henderson has one of the best records of any trainer in this race’s history and speculation has now centered on whether Southoftheborder can defy his long odds to give the 72-year-old a sixth winner in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after going all the way at Sandown.

As things stand, Southoftheborder is somewhat of an outsider given that’s horse racing betting odds in the UK for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle list him at +2500 to win. Essentially, this price suggests that his chances of victory are remote. 

However, there is a growing feeling that the five-year-old could be a stronger contender than the odds currently imply on account of his prolific jumping ability which up until now, has gone under the radar. In fact, his trainer even said as much following his dominant victory at Sandown with Henderson remarking afterwards that Southoftheborder was on his way to becoming a ‘proper horse’ following his second win in as many starts.

This was a telling endorsement from a man who is not renowned for talking up the chances of his horses without good reason. In other words, if Henderson has seen enough to suggest that Southoftheborder could be in the running to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle then it’s certainly worth taking note of his prediction. 

To that end, Henderson’s quiet confidence will also be down to the talent of the jockey set to ride Southoftheborder in Gloucestershire. 

Nico de Boinville set to take the reins at Cheltenham 

Southoftheborder will, in all likelihood, be ridden by the immensely talented Nico de Boinville during the 2024 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and again, the omens are good as the jockey rode to victory in 2022 during this race. 

On that occasion, it was Constitution Hill who de Boinville won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with after the pair combined to deliver a performance few expected by breaking the track record that was initially held by Annie Power.

Admittedly, Constitution Hill was better priced at +225 in 2022 than Southoftheborder is at +2500 in the 2024 ante post market but it’s worth keeping in mind that those odds may drop with four months still to go before the Cheltenham Festival. 

Irrespective of the longer price, the wider point is that Southoftheborder will be ridden by a jockey who knows what it takes to win over the two miles and 87 yards that make up the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle course. 

Incredibly, de Boinville’s success in 2022 was his third win in this race since 2016. You can, all of a sudden, see why Southoftheborder is being tipped to enjoy a strong showing next year despite his long price given that he is managed by serial winners in the industry. 

A winter of intense preparation begins 

With Henderson and de Boinville set to spend the winter months at the Seven Barrows yard preparing Southoftheborder for the 2024 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, there is every chance that the new kid on the block will be ready to go all the way come mid-March.