Our racing expert has looked ahead to the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, picking out one selection.
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Ante-PostSee All Odds
A race where the roll of honour speaks for itself, yet despite some of the greats of the game capturing this prize before going on to scale even bigger heights, the fact remains Paul Nicholls still doesn’t have his name etched on the trophy (came closest with Denman back in 2006), which has to be of some concern regarding this season’s ante-post favourite, Bravemansgame. Add in to the fact, no horse has won this Grade 1 contest after landing the Challow Hurdle at Newbury (a total of 16) and it all points to the son of Brave Mansonnien being a dodgy market leader at this stage despite being proven at the very highest level.
Willie Mullins, on the other hand, has an enviable record in the 2m5f affair, winning it four times since 2008 with Fiveforthree, Mikael D’Haguenet, Faugheen and Yorkhill and there’s every chance the Closutton handler will have plenty to say about this year’s renewal if GAILLARD DU MESNIL (best price 16-1) continues to progress in the manner he threatens to.
Despite being beaten by subsequent Navan Grade 2 flop Holymacapony on his Irish debut when looking as though he blew up after a bad mistake at the last, Willie Mullins’ gelding was still a warm order to justify the time figure from that contest at Punchestown a month earlier and he duly bolted up on his second start for current connections at the recent four-day Leopardstown Christmas meeting. The feature of the race at the Dublin venue was the strong pace right from the start and it was noticeable how easily the son of Saint Des Saints had lying up just in behind the speed. Once asked to go about his work rounding the home, the five-year-old quickened smartly to put distance between himself and his toiling rivals and his winning margin of nine lengths by no way flatters his superiority. Indeed, had he been extended all the way to the line, he may have run an even quicker time, but even as it stands, his overall figure still works out as the fastest time recorded from any novice either side of the Irish Sea according to our data at andyholdingspeedfigures.co.uk, which is testimony to his raw ability. Additionally, if you compare his work that day in isolation to the three-mile Grade 1 One won by Flooring Porter from touching down after the first flight to the winning line (roughly a circuit and a half), he comes out a staggering 14 seconds quicker than the top-class stayers (worth a look for yourself if you drag the two races up on your desktops).
Looking forward, one would imagine he will now head back to the same track to contest one of the Grade 1’s run at the Dublin racing festival in February and providing that project goes smoothly, all roads will lead to Cheltenham. Given the stable already have the hot favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in the shape of Appreciate It, the Ballymore over a trip he has already proven he stays well would seem the logical choice and if that does end up being the case, there is simply no way this potentially top-class prospect should be anywhere near his current price considering the seeming lack of strength in depth in this division currently. As discussed, Bravemansgame respected though he is, has the Challow Hurdle hoodoo to overcome and has yet to hit the ball out of the park on the speed figures, Metier looks likely to stay in the two-mile lane unless the ground were to dry out significantly nearer the time and even though Bob Olinger looked good when winning easily last time out, his time figure in doing so wasn’t anywhere near championship class (Percy Warner miles quicker in all departments in the two-mile maiden on the same card and 14 slower than Ashdale Bob who took the Grade 2 over the same C&D).
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If anything, he may end up having just as much to fear from Irascible, who seems to have been grossly underestimated by the layers despite chasing home Appreciate It in a Grade 1 at the same meeting on only just his second career start. Given how much ground Henry De Bromhead’s gelding gave away by novicey hurdling and racing wide, it was amazing he still had the quality and stamina to chase home the top-class winner and with an extra half a mile sure to play more into his strengths, the six-year-old grey deserves more than just a handful of quotes for this race by some bookmakers. He’s also likely to line up at Leopardstown in February.
As it stands though, with Galliard Du Mesnil appearing to be the best of the Willie Mullins-trained novices at this trip with the potential of more to come, he rates the value at this stage to add his name to the illustrious roll of honour.