Cheltenham Festival 2023: Is Facile Vega The Irish Banker Of The Meeting?

Cheltenham Festival 2023: Is Facile Vega The Irish Banker Of The Meeting?

It is no understatement to suggest that the battle between punter and bookmaker at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival hinges, to a large degree, on the outcome of the meeting’s very first race. 

Facile Vega, a general 4/5 favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, will be the first leg of thousands of festival multiples and for many of the travelling Irish contingent, he’s the banker of the entire meeting. 

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That’s some statement given Willie Mullins has a whole host of big-race favourites in his yard like Energumene, Allaho, Lossiemouth, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Galopin Des Champs. 

So let's take a closer look at Facile Vega's festival credentials and assess if he is worth using your Cheltenham offers on in the curtain raiser.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – A favourite’s Chance?

Facile Vega has been ante-post favourite with horse racing betting sites for the 2023 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ever since he scorched home in last season’s Champion Bumper 

He’s a shorter price for the festival curtain raiser than he’s been at any point this season, that’s because he’s won both hurdles starts in fine style, notably the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. 

Very few horses turn up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle having already won two Grade 1 races in their career but Facile Vega is clearly no ordinary horse. 



He’s also the apple of his trainer’s eye, which is hugely significant given the amount of top-class horses the trainer has in his yard. 

For a horse that clearly has the potential to stay further, it’s a little surprising that connections have been so fixated with running him in the Supreme from such a long way out. 

His dam, the top-class Quevega, was a multiple Grade 1 winner over three miles and Facile Vega has so far always been strong at the finish in his races.

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However, stamina is a major asset in the Supreme, a race that is nearly always run at a strong tempo, so the strong-travelling Facile Vega appears perfectly equipped to win his second Cheltenham Festival contest. 

Can he be beaten? Well, he was far from fluent at the final two hurdles at Leopardstown and, in stronger company, small details like that might just prove significant.



The strength of that form is hardly outstanding though, with the runner-up rated just 137 going into the race, and Facile Vega didn’t skip clear in the manner many expected.  

That form is only marginally better than his nearest rivals have achieved, so he’s almost certainly going to have to improve come March. 

Who Are The Biggest Dangers To Vega?

One of the biggest dangers to Facile Vega’s Supreme hopes could come from a horse in his own stable because Impaire Et Passe followed in the footsteps of superstars like Douvan and Vautour when powering clear in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. 

The issue with Impaire Et Passe is that Mullins is unlikely to want to pitch him in against Facile Vega, especially as he looks good enough to win the Ballymore. From this range, it looks more likely that he will run in the longer novice race. 

That’s one less rival to worry about, but this is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and there are some seriously smart rivals lurking, all of which are open to stacks of improvement, from both sides of the Irish Sea. 



The big Irish threat to Facile Vega is Marine Nationale, who is top-price 5/1 (second favourite) for the Grade 1 contest in ante-post lists with betting apps

Like the red-hot favourite, Marine Nationale is already a Grade 1 winner over hurdles having stormed home to nail Irish Point in the Royal Bond. 

The way Marine Nationale showed that day that he is a horse with a big engine, travelling strongest throughout before launching a devastating turn of foot after the last flight.  

Barry Connell has made no secret of how highly he rates this horse and the number he posted in winning the Royal Bond is only a few pounds shy of Facile Vega’s Future Champions success, also connections firmly believe that Marine Nationale will be an even better horse on spring ground. 

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At the time of writing, the home challenge is led by impressive Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle winner Tahmuras, who Paul Nicholls has compared to previous Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Noland. 

He too is a strong traveller who will be well-suited to the way the Supreme is run, whilst also shaping like a horse who wants further, but he’ll need to leave that Sandown form way behind (runner-up only rated 132) if he’s to trouble the best from Ireland. 



Tahmuras might be the best of the home challenge now, but if Rare Edition comes through a Supreme Trial with his unbeaten hurdles record intact, then he could easily become a big festival player despite the fact that he is trained by one of the smaller yards.

Rare Edition posted a huge Racing Post Rating of 144 in winning a novice contest at Kempton on Boxing Day, the same rating earned by Tahmuras in a Grade 1. 

Rare Edition is a young horse with sky-high potential and like Marine Nationale, some proper nice spring ground will be ideal for this horse. At this stage, he could be anything. 

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Supreme Novices Hurdle Verdict 

Facile Vega heads to Cheltenham burdened with huge expectations but he is going to have to be every bit as good as his trainer believes if he is to justify what are surely short enough odds with betting sites

It wouldn’t even be a surprise if he didn’t lead home the Irish challenge, given the quality of Marine Nationale, let alone see off the best of the home brigade. 

Can he win? Of course. Is he a banker? No. 

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