The Classic Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle race run over 2 miles and 56 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in late January. The race was inaugurated, over the slightly longer distance of 2 miles and 110 yards, in 2005 and initially run as the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices’ Hurdle. Sponsorship subsequently passed to Ballymore Properties, Neptune Investment Management and back to Ballymore in 2018.
Nicky Henderson, who was responsible for Aigle D’Or (2008), Bobs Worth (2011), Santini (2018) and Birchdale (2019), and Alan King, who was reponsible for Batonnier (2012), Ordo Ab Chao (2015), Yanworth (2016), and North Lodge (2022), are the leading trainers in the history of the Classic Novices’ Hurdle. Bobs Worth, of course, went on to complete a notable hat-trick at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Spa Novices’ Hurdle (2011), the RSA Chase (2012) and the Cheltenham Gold Gup (2013) in successive years.
The 2007 winner, Wichita Lineman, also won twice at subsequent Cheltenham Festivals, justifying favouritism in the Spa Novices’ Hurdle (2007) and the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase (2009); on the latter occasion, the King’s Theatre gelding was the subject of a memorable ride – later voted the greatest in the history of the Cheltenham Festival – by A.P. McCoy.
The 2023 renewal of the Classic Novices’ Hurdle is scheduled for Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 28. Horses that feature prominently in the ante-post betting for the Spa Novices’ Hurdle, a.k.a. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, are an obvious starting point, but punters might like to note that just two of the last ten favourites for the Classic Novices’ Hurdle have won. That said, eight of the last ten winners were in the first three in the betting, with the other two returned at 12/1 and 16/1 respectively.