UK gaming operator Sky Betting and Gaming has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, with the company also backing two races on the Road to Cheltenham series leading up to the main event in March next year.

The deal sees the race, held on the opening day of the festival on March 11th, renamed the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Sky Bet's head of horse racing PR Michael Shinners commenting that the company was “delighted” to be backing the race.

“Being the first race of the most eagerly-awaited meeting of the season, means it has a special place in the hearts of racing fans,” Shinners explained. “It is a fantastic championship race and has been a stepping stone to greatness for many horses over the years.”

Sky Bet will also sponsor two Grade Two novices’ hurdles on the Road to Cheltenham, replacing electronics manufacturer Sharp as sponsor of the Supreme Novices' Trial Hurdle Race, due to be held at Cheltenham Racecourse on November 17th, and becoming headline sponsor of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Trial Hurdle, due to take place on January 18th at Merseyside’s Haydock Park.

The operator will also look to expand its sponsorship agreement ahead of the beginning of the festival in March.

Cheltenham Racecourse’s head of sponsorship Peter McNeile commented that considering the deal marked Sky Bet’s first major sponsorship arrangement for the festival, “to position it with such a prominent race in the Supreme Novices' is great.”

"Like a lot of the championship races that are run at The Festival, we have built the deal around some of the races that lead to the Supreme Novices', which will help to drive the narrative of the sponsorship,” McNeile explained. “I am already, like I'm sure the team at Sky Bet are as well, looking forward to the traditional roar from the crowd at the start of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' to signify the start of The Festival.”

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