Although the Grand National at Aintree is the world's most famous steeplechase, the most prestigious National Hunt race meeting is the Cheltenham Festival, with 13 Grade 1 jump races carded over 4 days. An average of 50,000 fans come daily to watch the best jump races of the year. Since the Festival often coincides with St. Patrick's Day, half the crowd is from Ireland, in to cheer on their runners in a friendly head-to-head competition with the English-based horses. It is National Hunt's equivalent of the Breeders' Cup or Royal Ascot, while the Grand National is more like the Kentucky Derby.
Kicking off the Festival on Tuesday March 10 was the £120,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (G1). A field of 12 horses aged 4 and up contested this 2 1/16 mile trip over 8 hurdles. 25-1 Some Plane went to the lead to set the pace while pressed by 25-1 Sizing John and stalked by 9-1 Shaneshill. At the 3rd last Sizing John took over the lead but 2-1 favorite Douvan passed him at the last fence and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Shaneshill in 3:47.50 over the good to soft course. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Sizing John third.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh said, "He was plenty keen and I was probably in front soon enough but he kept going well and is a gorgeous horse. That's the first time he's had a race and you'd imagine he'll improve." Trainer WIllie Mullins added, "It was good to see everything (Douvan) has done at home there. He was free, I didn't expect him to be like that, as he's very relaxed at home."