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  Fry mulling options as entries revealed for G1 novices’ hurdles at The Festival™  

ENTRIES are unveiled today for the three G1 novices’ hurdles at The Festival™ - the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – plus the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, which is restricted to four-year-olds.

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Day One, Tuesday, 16 March

The Festival™ gets underway with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which takes place over two miles as the first contest on day one.

There are 96 entries in 2021, with a record 59 of those trained in Ireland. Sponsor Sky Bet make one of the Irish-trained entries, Appreciate It (Willie Mullins), the clear 5/2 favourite. The seven-year-old was runner-up in the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The Festival™ in 2020 and has looked hugely talented when landing both his starts over hurdles this season, most recently sauntering to a nine-length victory in a G1 contest at Leopardstown on 27 December.

Sky Bet’s 7/1 second favourite is Metier (Harry Fry). Originally trained in Ireland by Andrew Slattery, five-year-old Metier has been a revelation since joining Dorset-based Harry Fry, taking novices’ hurdles at Newton Abbot and Ascot before recording a breath-taking 12-length victory in the G1 Unibet Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park on 2 January.

Giving an update on the son of Mastercraftsman, Fry reported: “Metier is a Tolworth winner and the Supreme is the much more likely of the two races [Metier is also entered in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle] but we will just keep our options open at this stage.

“He has got an entry in the Betfair Hurdle in just over a fortnight’s time but there is no definite decision yet. He has done everything right so far over hurdles and he is a very exciting novice that seems to be progressing into either Supreme or a Ballymore horse.

“There is a race at Exeter the day after in which he would only have a 5lb penalty but then if you are looking at that why not run in a Betfair?

“I would say that if he doesn’t run in the Betfair, he would go straight to Cheltenham though you can never say never.

“If the weather keeps as it is there is every chance he will line up in the Betfair Hurdle. I think a better race with an even stronger gallop will suit him better again. We were able to drop him in the last day in the Tolworth, but we would have still been happier if they had gone faster.

“Sean [Bowen] turned in with a double handful and he put plenty of distance between himself and his rivals, particularly after the last. Not many came up the hill that day in the manner he did. He has only just turned five so hopefully there is more to come.

“All his form is on slower ground and it would be interesting to see him on better ground. At some point, we will encounter it but good horses go on all ground.

“We would have to weigh up and decide the pros and cons whether going on better ground means we would have to step him up in trip.”

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