The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 216 yards at Sandown Park in January. The race is restricted to horses, aged four years and upwards, who start the season without a win over hurdles. The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle takes its name from Tolworth, Kingston upon Thames, which straddles the Kingston bypass, southeast of Surbiton and less than 19 minutes’ drive from Sandown Park.
The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle was established in 1976, but was not promoted to Grade 1 status until 1991. Since then, Nicky Henderson has saddled seven winners – namely New York Rainbow (1992), Minella Class (2011), Captain Conan (2012), Royal Boy (2014), L’Ami Serge (2015) and Constitution Hill (2022) – and is the leading trainer in the history of the race.
The hitherto unbeaten Constitution Hill, who won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival by 22 lengths, smashing the course record despite being eased down, could easily prove the best horse ever to win the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle. Prior to 2022, that distinction belonged to Desert Orchid who, as a five-year-old, in 1984, justified by odds-on favouritism with a convincing 8-length from Ihaventalight. ‘Dessie’ was subsequently sent off 7/1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle famously won by Dawn Run but, having matched strides with the illustrious racemare for much of the way, started to struggle approaching the third-last flight and faded out of contention.
The 2023 renewal of the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, scheduled for Saturday, January 7, is unlikely to feature anything as formidable as Constitution Hill, but the race has proved ‘punter-friendly’ in recent years. Look out for strongly-fancied horses, aged five or six, who have won at least once over hurdles, preferably last time out, and have raced within the last four weeks.