Following an impressive Grade 1 success at Leopardstown over Christmas, ante-post favourite Appreciate It is among 96 initial entries for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
Third to the superstar of National Hunt racing Envoi Allen on his competitive bow in a Ballinaboola four-year-old maiden at Pat Doyle, the Jeremy gelding went on to open his account at Dromahane and since joining Willie Mullins has already come close to tasting Festival success when chasing home fellow point-to-point graduate Ferny Hollow in last year’s Champion Bumper.
With his stablemate and conqueror from that occasion forced to spend the remainder of the season on the sidelines, the now seven-year-old Appreciate It has become Mullins’ leading Supreme hope after a nine-length success at Leopardstown last month when also gaining his first success at the highest level.
A return to the Dublin venue looks to be on the cards for him for the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival before once again crossing the Irish Sea.
There is a record entry of Irish horses for the race, with 59 of the 96 entries representing Irish trainers, including another of this season’s Grade 1 winners in the shape of the ex-Colin McKeever-trained Portrush winner Ballyadam, who landed the Royal Bond for Gordon Elliott back in November.
It is another of McKeever’s former point-to-pointers, Boothill, that is one of the leading British challengers for the Supreme.
The Wilson Dennison-owned son of Presenting was forced to settle for second in both of his outings between the flags including when a well-back odds-on favourite at Loughanmore in October 2019 – the fixture that takes place on Dennison’s own land.
Now with Harry Fry the six-year-old landed a bumper at Kempton Park in February of 2020 and could not have been more impressive on his hurdling debut when scoring by nine and a half lengths at Taunton last month.
“Boothill had a splint flare up about 10 days after he won at Taunton and that just held us up for a few weeks,” said Fry.
“I had hoped to get him back for the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon [Listed, 11 February] but that is just going to come too soon. He could end up going to the Dovecote at the end of February.
“In the worst-case scenario, he might even end up going straight to Cheltenham but I would like to get another run into him between now and then but we will be guided by him.
“We are back pressing on again with him. Hopefully, we don’t get a recurrence of the splint injury and get a clear run with him. Certainly, on the manner of his debut win at Taunton, there looks to be lots to look forward to.
“Boothill is a proper chasing type who impresses in everything he does at home.”